By Deb Silverthorn
The CHAI residents at the Bauer, Levy 1, Levy 2, Miller 1, Miller 2, Toub, Todd and Yale homes are staying busy, entertained, socialized and enjoying themselves thanks to technology, their incredible staff, volunteers and the CHAI team as a whole.
“We’re so fortunate to have the residents, families, staff — really, our unsung heroes — and the board of directors that we do because we’re moving forward and giving our very best,” said CHAI CEO Lisa Brodsky. “There’s an underlying fear, because our population is so vulnerable, but we’re holding on together and all are well.”
Since March 16, the 29 residents have participated in puzzles, art, supervised walks, bingo, book clubs, sing-a-longs, dance parties, yoga, Seders and more. Like everyone, everywhere — they’re spending time together.
On April 8, CHAI residents enjoyed Zoom Seders. With many donations received, they enjoyed Seder plates and familiar holiday tastes catered by The Spice of Life Catering. Seders, with many CHAI family members participating, were led by Sandy and Mark Kaman; Judy and Jeff Kogutt; Zelene and Robert Lovitt and their grandson and CHAI resident, Devon; and Perry Zidow. CHAI staffers Michelle Bach, Patsy Goodman and Kathy Schneider, who educated the house staff on the holiday’s intricacies and traditions, also visited online.
“It was bittersweet and beautiful,” said Sandy Kaman, sorry to be separated from her brother Morris, a CHAI resident, for the first time, but grateful they could see each other. “I’m used to hosting many guests so it was unusual for just my husband and I to be home, but I loved that there were still the generations – such a big part of Passover – together through technology.”
The residents are not visiting the Aaron Family JCC, their work locations or anywhere, so bringing entertainment and activities inside has been important. CHAI’s administrative staff is working from home, providing support, supplies, training and guidance to the direct care staff on-site.
In addition to the already
strict Health and Human Services guidelines always observed, staff has trained beyond CDC requirements for cleaning, disinfecting, wearing of
safety gear and looking for symptoms of the residents and their team members.
Volunteers, key to CHAI’s success year-round, are still coming through. Daniel Weinstein, 13, first made friends with the residents after an event at Congregation Shearith Israel. Weinstein, who became very close to a resident, Ilaya, of blessed memory, built his mitzvah project around visiting and entertaining the residents.
More than a year later, the spirit of that mitzvah continues as he has hosted a Shabbat dinner and sent the residents, who have become his dear friends, postcards while away on vacation.
“I really enjoy being with the residents and I miss them a lot,” said Weinstein, who has been leading Zoom Bingo games. “It’s better to be together, and I can’t wait to be back, but we’re having fun seeing each other and playing online,” he added..
Jewish Family Service Director of Special Needs Partnership and Programs Lorraine Friedman and volunteers, Merle Rubin and David Weiss have brought CHAI’s book club online, via Zoom. Some residents, who finished reading “A Wrinkle in Time,” are watching that film, while others are reading from the Junie B. Jones series. The books are read with the residents, each of whom has their own copy, and discussions, art projects and more accompany each title.
The challenge, for as long as social distancing is required, is to continue the embrace that CHAI residents are used to getting, and giving, into their lives. In the spirit of “it takes a village,” community members with ideas for connecting can contact CHAI.
“Our team is incredible. They always have been. They’ve stepped up in a way that, doesn’t surprise me, and fills me with such pride and confidence,” said Brodsky. “The care and the love, our residents are getting is exceptional.”
Interested volunteers please email Kathy Schneider, CHAI community relations manager, at email@example.com.
By Deb Silverthorn