BY DEBORAH MOON
The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland has responded to the urgent need for support and developed a resource to match those in need with volunteers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
People in need of help fill out a form about the type of assistance needed and then receive a call from Wendy Kahn, who is coordinating the program with fellow JFGP staff members Caron Blau Rothstein and Nadine Menashe. “We have a conversation about their needs,” said Kahn, who then matches them with a volunteer or refers them to Jewish Family and Child Service for financial or mental health needs. Tavia Berrigan manages the JFCS Emergency Aid program.
As of April 13, about 90 volunteers are making reassurance calls to more than 1,500 households of our elders. An additional 29 requests for assistance have been assigned to 24 volunteers or referred to either JFCS or a secular resource. Volunteers have met requests for grocery or prescription pickup.
“It is such a relief,” one recipient told Kahn. “I had been worrying for about a week about how I was going to get my husband’s allergy medicine.”
Though those who request grocery or prescription pickup generally pay for their own supplies, Kahn said one volunteer insisted on both picking up and paying for one recipient’s groceries. “He just wanted to do both parts,” she said.
This is a constantly developing situation, so everything is subject to change. As people’s daily lives continue to evolve, the program will seek to meet those changing needs.
“We have made a pivot,” said Kahn. “This may not be what we (Federation) are known for, but this is part of the need that needed to be filled. We created the intake form and methodology to meet the need.”
“Everything is about taking care of people,” she added. “People’s lives have changed so drastically … it was important for us to facilitate (assistance), so that’s what we did.”
Healthy adults with low risk factors for getting COVID-19 can sign up to be paired with an elder or immunocompromised member of the community who could use assistance. The match may be for a one-time need, or it can be an ongoing pairin. Volunteers 21+ of any health level can make telephone reassurance calls and people of all ages can sign up to send cards and pictures to area elder care facilities.
To ask for assistance or to volunteer, visit jewishportland.org/jewish-portland-together. For questions, call 503-245-6219 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.