Communities around the globe are confronting unprecedented challenges and highly painful circumstances in the coronavirus pandemic. But in particular, the toll of the virus is unimaginable for older adults, the medically fragile, the economically vulnerable and the mentally ill.
As a result, The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore and its agencies and programs have been working overtime since the start of the crisis to meet the needs of constituents in new ways.
“It is during times of crisis, like the unprecedented one we are now experiencing, that The Associated stands ready, able and willing to help the Baltimore community,” said Marc B. Terrill, the federation’s president.
Here are some of the initiatives and resources recently put into action by Associated agencies.
Jewish Community Services
“JCS is the helpline for the community,” said Joan Grayson Cohen, executive director of the agency. “Our staff members are working remotely via phone or Zoom sessions to maintain contact and provide services for our clients.”
JCS staff members are also providing phone consultations for new clients and triage services for clients with mental health concerns and financial considerations.
Those who receive rent and utility subsidies through the agency have had their bills paid through April. People who receive food subsidies through JCS can pick up their food cards from security guards at the JCS building in Park Heights.
JCS is also offering a series of virtual community programs. Every day at 12:30 p.m., participants can hear experts discuss a variety of timely topics. The schedule for next week is as follows:
- Monday, Mar. 30, “Refresh Your Brand: Career Tips for Your Time at Home” with Sherrie Sacks, career coach
- Tuesday, Mar. 31, “Talking to Your Kids About COVID-19 and Social Distancing” with Stacey Meadows, manager of therapy services
- Wednesday, Apr. 1, “Keeping Your Cool When Your Whole Family is Stuck at Home” with therapist Tikvah Womack
- Thursday, Apr. 2, “Shifting Your Mindset and Emotions from Worry to Calm” with health educator Elizabeth Piper
- Friday, Apr. 3, “Supporting Your Staff as They Work Remotely from Home” with Darlene Wolff, director of human resources
The career services department at JCS is “booming with jobs that never were available before this,” said Cohen. “Jobs like home tutoring, catering, deliveries. … This week alone, we placed two clients by Tuesday!”
JCS runs nine group homes with staff on call 24/7. With day programs being closed, the staff is being creative in finding ways to keep group home clients occupied.
In addition, JCS is offering virtual classes for clients with special needs on topics like cooking and life skills, said Cohen.
For information, call 410-466-9200 or visit http://jcsbaltimore.org.
During this time, CHAI — Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc. — is primarily focused on older adults in the community. The agency’s 16 senior living properties are home to more than 1,600 residents, many of whom are low-income and medically vulnerable.
The fact that these residents live in close quarters makes social distancing challenging but vitally important.
In addition to keeping properties clean and safe, CHAI has set out rules designed to keep residents away from their neighbors.
“We have cut out activities, closed community rooms and stopped shuttle buses,” said Lisa K. Budlow, chief executive officer of CHAI. In addition, “we have strongly urged people not to go out.”
Visitors to the Weinberg senior buildings are limited to health practitioners and aides.
“On the heels of the health crisis is the isolation crisis,” said Budlow. Agency staff and volunteers are calling all seniors in the buildings, as well as those who live elsewhere in the community, to find out what they need and to provide resources.
One senior who received a call recently was Bob Fischer, 88, of Weinberg Village in Owings Mills.
“It felt so fantastic to know that someone cares and was checking on me,” said Fischer, who was also pleased that the Weinberg Village’s onsite store was stocked with extra items during this critical time.
“The staff printed out a sheet listing all of the items carried in the store and slipped it under residents’ doors,” Fischer said. “We just check off what we want, bring it down to the store and the store fills the order and delivers it to our apartment!”
CHAI is also servicing members of the Northwest Baltimore community who don’t live in the Weinberg buildings.
“They aren’t living in close quarters like the people in our buildings, but they are more isolated,” said Budlow.
Those community members are also facing challenges when it comes to accessing groceries, she said. “We are in the process of creating a grocery delivery service using our shuttles.”
CHAI manages the Edward A. Myerberg Center, which was forced to close on Mar. 13. “Right away, we went to work calling our 1,000 members to make sure they had what they needed,” said Budlow.
In addition, Myerberg instructors are providing online art, yoga and fitness classes, as well as online technology assistance. There will even be a virtual intergenerational seder on Apr. 6 for Myerberg members and students from Pikesville’s Krieger Schechter Day School.
To reach CHAI, call 410-500-5300 or visit http://chaibaltimore.org
Jewish Volunteer Connection
“JVC has committed ourselves to getting the word out about volunteer opportunities, both direct such as delivering meals and indirect like putting together toiletry kits, making fleece blankets, greeting cards, etc.” said JVC Executive Director Ashley Pressman. “The coronavirus pandemic has also created virtual volunteer opportunities that didn’t exist three weeks ago. A lot of these, like ‘friendly calling,’ are having to be created and they’ll probably be in place from now on. It’s amazing to see people step up.”
Due to the food scarcity caused by the pandemic, one of JVC’s biannual signature programs — the “Casserole Challenge” — was held on Monday, Mar. 30. Volunteers were asked to deliver meals to Art with a Heart and DRU/Mondawmin Healthy Families.
“We did the distribution on Monday and it was 48 casseroles to Art with a Heart and Dru/Mondawmin Healthy Families,” Pressman said. “It worked out really well for everyone and we well exceeded our goal, which was great considering we pulled it all off on less than a week’s notice!”
Pressman emphasized that casserole deliveries were contact-free. The organizations will take care of delivering food to needy clients.
To learn more and sign up, interested volunteers should visit jvcbaltimore.org/casserolecovid/.
Pressman said she has been inspired to see how the Jewish community has responded to the coronavirus crisis.
“Our first instinct is to take care of ourselves, but then people are saying ‘OK, I’m stable and I’m now looking outside to see what I can do for my neighbors,” she said. “Our system is built to be able to respond in times of need. We never want to see it working, but it’s beautiful when it does!”
To reach JVC, call 410-843-7490 or visit http://jvcbaltimore.org.
For information about additional Associated online resources and programs, https://associated.org/covid-19-updates/.