Pilot program pairing gift deliveries with senior visits a huge success

JFCS’ Hag Sameach program plans to expand this initiative in the future

By Mindy Teele • Hag Sameach Program Manager

JFCS’ Hag Sameach program ensures joyous holiday celebrations for families and individuals in need by providing them with gifts and ritual items during the winter holidays and Passover. One of the ways we continue to offer meaningful experiences for everyone involved in our program is by getting feedback from volunteers and our program recipients.

Following the 2023 winter holidays, we surveyed our program recipients to find new ways empower them in the referral process and to hear if the program is meeting their needs and expectations.

JFCS Senior Services hosted a training for JFCS staff about the current epidemic of loneliness, particularly in seniors as identified by the U.S. Surgeon General. This training spurred an internal conversation with Senior Services, Hag Sameach and Volunteer staff, wondering if we could strengthen the impact of the Hag Sameach program. We asked if recipients preferred our current method of having a volunteer drop off their gift packages or if they would enjoy having a delivery visitor who would spend some time with them. An overwhelming number of people stated that a visitor would mean so much to them. 

Based on this feedback, JFCS established a pilot project to offer delivery visitors as an option for our Passover program. For this trial, we had a limited number of visits so we could gain insight if it would be a meaningful addition to the program. The feedback from the recipients and volunteers was unanimous – everyone loved it.  

One visitor new to our program shared that, “It honestly was so incredible visiting – I think all three of us experienced a positive afternoon together.”

Another visitor reported a similar positive experience. “I just left the client’s house and we just clicked,” she said. This visitor had such a positive experience that she signed up to begin serving as an outreach visitor, which pairs members of the community with seniors for a chance to connect in person a couple times each month for outings and connection.

We know that isolation and loneliness often increase as people age and can be hard to overcome, due to a number of factors. One of the goals of this pilot was to test different ways to foster meaningful connection. We were pleased to see that this highly individualized, person-centered approach provided both clients and volunteers an increased sense of connectedness, and that they simply enjoyed their time together. 

This pilot project, a collaboration between the Hag Sameach program, Senior Services and Volunteer Engagement, was a wonderful success. Based on the meaningful impact it made for both the volunteer visitors and the recipients, we are excited to incorporate this addition into the Hag Sameach program to continue to find ways to be Here for all. Always.

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