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The JCC’s JBuddies Program

The JCC is well known for its fitness center and youth programming, but did you know that a large part of the community consists of older adults? While everyone is feeling disconnected, many in this community, in a high risk category and often with few local relatives, may find themselves feeling particularly isolated. JBuddies is a program at the APJCC to help these people feel more connected.

Through JBuddies, a volunteer is paired with an older adult to help build a connection. Rather than worrying about a big Zoom meeting or other complex communication, JBuddies relies on a simple weekly phone call, just to check in. Founded by JCC board member Ruth Fletcher, and run by the JCC’s Adult Programs Director, Cherie Ravel, the program helps more than 40 seniors in our community stay connected.

The program is actually the result of an event that happened last November. “I was selected to make a fund-a-need pitch for the Older Adult program at the JCC gala,” said Ruth. “I had no idea that the older adults program is such a huge part of the community.” When the JCC shut down in March due to COVID-19, Ruth’s thoughts immediately turned back to this experience, “and I knew we needed to do something to support these folks.”

In the immediate hours following the shelter-in-place order, JCC staff members compiled a list of older adults to call and check in with. The initial plan was to organize JCC staff and volunteers to make a single call to each of the 900 people on the list, but it soon became clear that for many, a weekly call could be incredibly comforting and beneficial. Both the JBuddies and the volunteers began to look forward to these weekly conversations, and the program has continued into the summer.

According to Cherie Ravel (the Keeper of the JBuddies), “you never know how much a simple phone call can benefit someone.” Cherie makes the the pairings, finds volunteers, and provides a list of topics and talking points to help guide the conversations. JBuddies has been received incredibly well, and continues to grow and change.

Cherie has also been able to create a resource list and network should JBuddies need anything beyond what a volunteer can give in a phone call. This list includes connections to Jewish Family Services of Silicon Valley, food banks or packaging programs, and medication delivery services. While the volunteers aren’t obligated to shop for their buddies, they can always connect them to someone who will.

“The best part is bringing joy to other people,” according to Virginia Hess, a volunteer with JBuddies.

The program has led to new bonds and connections within our community. Cherie loves that, while this program was originally started to provide support in a crisis, it has turned into a way of fostering relationships, and is really showing “what a village we have,” Cherie said. “There will hopefully be a day in the future where JBuddies and volunteers can all get together, but for now we’ll have to rely on spreading virtual joy.”

-- Carley Gilbert, JCC Marketing Intern



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