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Dedham nonprofits join to provide opportunities for seniors, young adults

Posted by Natalie Feulner  October 19, 2011 10:00 AM

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Two Dedham-based nonprofit organizations have joined forces to bring volunteer opportunities to young adults with disabilities, and socialization and a sense of family to seniors.

The Jewish Family & Children’s Services CHAI Works program has partnered with Hebrew Senior Life in Dedham in the six-month-old partnership that expanded from a similar program in Roslindale.

More than 40 young adults, most in their 20s, rotate shifts four days a week spending time with the seniors and participating in HSL programs.

Staff at both CHAI and HSL hope the time spent will help the young adults feel important and needed in the community. Meanwhile, they hope the seniors gain a sense of companionship.

“A lot of participants need help in their own life, but it's really empowering for them to see that they can still help someone else," said Sue Stellick, director of day programs for Jewish Family & Children's Services. "Really, it builds so much self confidence."

Volunteers work Monday through Thursday and do everything from delivering newspapers to walking residents to physical therapy. Some volunteers work where staff at HSL feels there is a need, while others focus on starting their own programs.

“This is a busy place, and as in any type of health care environment sometimes there can be a wait,” Julie Wade, community life leader at HSL, said. “These volunteers allow us to let residents know that help is coming, and it’s been a nice support for us as well.”

All of the volunteers have some sort of physical disability, and though the severity of some first surprised the HSL staff, Wade said, now it helps the seniors feel needed.

“A lot of our residents have a sort of maternal or paternal role now,” she said, explaining that on many occasions residents will stop her in the hall and ask where the “kids” are.

“Working with the disabled young adults gives the seniors a chance to nurture someone else,” Wade said. “It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Natalie Feulner can be reached at natalie.feulner@gmail.com.

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