Giving Back When It Really Counts

Tags: Federation, Video, Volunteer

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To prevent social distancing from becoming social isolation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic – especially among the elderly in Jewish Cleveland – the Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s Jewish Volunteer Network (JVN) quickly mobilized to create a multi-pronged program designed to touch base with these vulnerable community members to make sure they knew they were not alone or forgotten in this unsettled time.

“It’s so impactful to be able to give my time to this community during this pandemic and beyond, and wonderful to be able to spend this time with our community members,” said JVN volunteer Ilana Isakov Katz.

JVN Chair Stephanie Wieder knew something had to be done to protect these community members from loneliness and fear. “This whole pandemic has put us in a world of unknowns,” Wieder said. “The feeling of being able give back was something that we were all craving.

JVN arranged many opportunities for all ages to volunteer, including making cards for residents of Montefiore and Menorah Park; delivering meals through Mandel JCC’s Lunch Plus Program; and making caring phone calls to elderly residents in our community.

“With a pandemic, we aren’t able to be hands-on so it was a challenge to find safe and socially-distant volunteer opportunities,” Wieder said.

“I have a list of people to call to see if they have any needs or if they’re doing ok, if they need prescriptions picked up or groceries they need,” said Katz. “It’s the reassurance they need. They’re astounded that people are reaching out just to check on them, and they’re happy to have a conversation with other people. And I’m so honored to be that person who can do that. It has been so rewarding.”

“We are so grateful,” said Myrna, a recipient of the caring calls. “Just to hear someone's voice on the other end of the phone and to know that there are people in this community who care about us, I am so appreciative for them to remember me.”

This crisis has actually turned into a reality check for some of the volunteers, as they realized we all need to lean on each other. “I hope we can all get through this together,” said Wieder, “and be even more grateful for what we have and how we can help one another.”

“It’s such a good feeling to be able to help,” said Joanie Berger, a JVN volunteer and past chair. “And any way we can help people, we have to make it work for long-term mental, emotional, and physical health for everyone."

To find out how you can volunteer through JVN, contact Susan Hyman at shyman@jcfcleve.org or 216-593-2887.

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