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Covid19_CaringDuringCrisis_web.jpg
March 31, 2020

Posted by JF&CS

***For the most up-to-date information on how you can help JF&CS and our clients, please visit our Volunteering page. 

Looking for a way to help at this critical time? JF&CS has a variety of meaningful volunteer opportunities to support our clients and their increased needs. Your caring can make a difference in our community.

JF&CS Family Table – Marblehead and Waltham

Deliver food to clients in need

Volunteers pack and deliver groceries to clients. Strict social distancing guidelines are in place.

If interested, please fill out a brief Family Table application by April 17 for Marblehead or April 27 for Waltham if you have not completed a volunteer application or CORI form previously. The Marblehead distribution will take place on April 26 and Waltham will take place on May 10. Lisa Katz, Family Table Volunteer Coordinator, will be in touch; you can also reach out to Lisa directly at lkatz@jfcsboston.org if you would like to volunteer.

Please note: Based on guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, we have determined that individuals may not attend next month’s distribution if any of the following apply:

  • You are 70 years of age or older.
  • You have an underlying health condition, such as moderate to severe asthma or serious heart conditions, or if you are immunocompromised.
  • You are feeling unwell.
  • You have recently come in contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or if you have been in close contact with someone who is ill and whose COVID-19 status is in question.

Card Making Project

Reach out to isolated older adults

Write personalized “Thinking of You” cards that we can send to our isolated older adult clients. In the past, this generation primarily communicated through handwritten notes and letters, so your personally written note will be particularly meaningful. If you are interested, contact Sue Spielman at sspielman@jfcsboston.org.

Social Media Engagement

Help individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

We are creating a library of activities for our clients who are at home, without structured daytime activities. Volunteers can record themselves on their phone doing an adaptive art project, dance, workout, yoga, song session, relaxation, or meditation. Clients will be able to access the videos on the JF&CS Youtube channel! To get involved, please contact Angie Waring at awaring@jfcsboston.org

Amazon Wish List

Provide basic needs for families with young children

Our Amazon Wish List highlights our greatest needs around providing diapers, wipes, and other essentials to our clients. You can purchase items directly from our Wish List or send us a gift card to help support our clients and their families.

We cannot care for all of our vulnerable clients with the support of our volunteers. Thank you!

Please contact Ava Harder, Volunteer Services Manager, at aharder@jfcsboston.org if you have any questions about the above opportunities.


Free Parent Coaching
March 31, 2020

Posted by Sara Freedman, Director of JF&CS CHAI Services

Free Parent Coaching

While everyone in our community has been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, the situation has been especially hard for parents of children with disabilities. Some of the common concerns we have heard from parents include:

  • My child is missing the structure of school and their normal routines.
  • Virtual learning has been difficult for my child, and I’m not sure how to talk to the school about accommodating my child’s needs.
  • My adult child usually goes to work or attends a day program, and now they are feeling bored and isolated.
  • My child is acting out, and I’m having a hard time managing these behaviors.

JF&CS CHAI Services is Here to Help


If any of the concerns listed above resonate with you, please get in touch with Jewish Family & Children’s Service! Our CHAI Services division has been supporting individuals of all abilities for over thirty years. With expertise in clinical, educational, and behavioral management, our staff supports people with disabilities through all of life’s transitions.

Please contact us to set up a FREE phone call or video meeting so we can help you put together a schedule for your loved one and troubleshoot any challenging behaviors they are exhibiting.

Contact us at drn@jfcsboston.org or 781-693-5640, and we will connect you with a staff member who can provide coaching and support during this crisis.


Two kids playing.jpg
March 25, 2020

Posted by JF&CS

With children home from school and our participants home from their day programs, it can be hard to find meaningful activities to keep them engaged. Here are some suggestions from our Director of Social and Behavioral Supports, Angela Waring.

Social Story – Coronavirus

  • Keshet Chicago has a social story explaining the virus in an easy to understand way.

Creative/Art

  • Jarrett Lerner, a local artist and author, has lots of fun activities on his web page like “finish this comic” and drawing prompts suitable for all ages.
  • Google has lots of fun coloring pages to print or complete on an iPad.

Active/Movement

  • GoNoodle has a wide range of interactive videos from burning energy, practicing mindfulness, stretching, dancing, etc. Tip: click on “Indoor Recess Mega Mixes for mashups of their most popular videos and select one with the length of time you want.
  • YouTube is an excellent resource as well. You can search for things like beginner yoga, zumba, dance videos for kids, or workout videos for kids and find a ton of great options. You can also find our own dance and movement videos on our YouTube channel.
  • Mini at-home workouts can use basic visuals to plan a workout at any level to burn some energy, such as ten jumping jacks, one minute of jump rope, ten lunges, bicep curls using household items, etc.

History/Geography

  • Here is a list of virtual tours of several famous museums.
  • National Geographic Kids is full of activities on geography and animals.
  • History for Kids has a wide variety of topics including videos, worksheets, and quizzes.

Stories/Reading/Writing

  • Storyline Online has some of your favorite stories read to you by movie stars.
  • Into the Book lets you go “into the book” to play games that practice reading strategies.
  • Fun Brain has activities to practice math and reading skills while playing games.
  • Squiggle Park provides reading and comprehension activities for all grade levels.
  • Typing Club has free beginner typing lessons to learn how to touch type.
  • Our Youtube channel has a variety of read aloud videos from our staff and volunteers.

General Web-based Academics:

  • Scholastic Learn-at-Home is well done and very comprehensive. There are a variety of lessons in all subjects, such as virtual field trips, games, videos, activities, work sheets, etc.
  • Brain Pop is similar to the Scholastic Learn-at-home with fun options on a wide-range of topics.

Science/Math

  • Switcheroo Zoo lets you watch, listen, and play games to learn all about animals.
  • Highlights Kids has activities to read, play games, and conduct cool science experiments.
  • ABC YA lets you practice math and reading skills all while playing fun games.


COVID-19 Update
March 20, 2020

Posted by JF&CS



***For the most up-to-date information on how you can get help from JF&CS, please visit our COVID-19 Resources page. 

Since March 1, the public health crisis has changed dramatically, upending our community emotionally, medically, logistically, and financially. We know that this is a challenging time for many of the people we serve as well as many others who have recently lost wages or been fired or laid off. In addition, social distancing has left many people feeling lonely and isolated.

Whether you are already a client of JF&CS or you find yourself in need of help due to the current situation, please let us know.

Helping aging individuals and their families

  • CJP SeniorDirect is the only call you need to make – we will direct you to services and resources to help you or your family member. Call us today at 800-980-1982.

Promoting community, housing, access, and independence for people of all abilities

  • If you are looking for support or services for a family member with a disability, call our Disability Resource Network today at 781-693-5640.

Serving individuals and families struggling with low income

  • We can help you get the assistance you need. Call the CJP Warmline at 800-CJP-9500.
  • Our current food pantry clients, over 500 households, will all receive their food on schedule, with some adaptations to ensure health and social distancing protocols.
  • Emergency groceries or grocery store gift cards are also available for individuals and families that qualify.
  • If you need emergency financial assistance, please call our intake line at 781-693-1388. You may qualify for a grant or interest-free loan.

Serving domestic abuse survivors and those who care about them

  • During the COVID19 crisis, being at home with a controlling or abusive partner can be especially unsafe and challenging. Journey to Safety, the JF&CS response to domestic abuse, is here to help.
  • Direct Services are available for survivors of domestic abuse by phone or video chat. We can provide support, safety planning, domestic abuse counseling, legal referrals and protective order assistance, emergency financial assistance, and access to resources.
  • Consultation Services are available for family members/friends or professionals. 
  • Call 781-647-JFCS (5327) during business hours and ask for the Journey to Safety Intake Line or email jts@jfcsboston.org.
  • All services are available in English and Russian.
  • For after-hours support, call, text, or chat online 24/7 with the National Domestic Violence Hotline or call Massachusetts SafeLink at (877) 785-2020.  

Supporting parents with young children

  • New parents can join support groups via Zoom to stay connected and address concerns associated with postpartum anxiety or depression.
  • If you are taking care of children of different ages, we can offer ideas to keep children busy as well as information on how to talk to children about COVID-19.
  • For new parents who receive home visits, many of our wonderful volunteers are connecting with our clients by phone or video chat.

Call us to learn more: 781-647-JFCS (5327)


Cyntia Barzelatto with reproductive justice posters at JF&CS.
March 12, 2020

Posted by JF&CS

Cyntia Barzelatto with reproductive justice posters at JF&CS.

“People’s reproductive health is directly linked to the conditions in their community,” shared Cyntia Barzelatto. As a Parent-Child Clinician for the Early Connections/Conexiones Tempranas program at JF&CS, Cyntia has seen the struggle for reproductive health access firsthand.

“Many of our clients, particularly women of color and other marginalized groups, experience systematic barriers to accessing contraception, comprehensive sex education around family planning, alternative birth options, and culturally sensitive healthcare and mental health services,” said Cyntia.

To help shine a spotlight on these pressing issues, Cyntia is educating herself and her colleagues at JF&CS about reproductive justice. Through Cyntia’s presentations and multimedia displays, our staff members are learning more about how reproductive oppression impacts our clients and how we can better support the families we serve.

Looking Through the Lens of Reproductive Justice


Through the Early Connections/Conexiones Tempranas program, Cyntia provides Child-Parent Psychotherapy to Spanish-speaking families with young children. Many EC/CT clients have experienced sexual trauma, rape, and community and intimate partner violence. “These experiences negatively affect their reproductive and emotional health and may become the prism through which they make decisions regarding their bodies and family planning,” explained Cyntia. “Additionally, these experiences often impact the quality of their relationship with their children.”

For Cyntia, the best way to understand the reproductive health issues and sexual trauma facing EC/CT clients is through the lens of reproductive justice. The term “reproductive justice” integrates the concepts of reproductive rights, social justice, and human rights. At the heart of the reproductive justice framework is the idea that reproductive injustices are the result of intersecting systems of oppression based on race, gender, immigration status, national origin, ability, sexuality, class, and other identities. “Reproductive justice centers the discussion around reproductive health and rights on the most marginalized populations and works towards the dismantling of structural injustices,” said Cyntia.

In addition to her work with EC/CT clients, Cyntia also delved into the concept of reproductive justice as part of the Infant Mental Health Fellowship she is working on through the Infant-Parent Training Institute at JF&CS. “After studying this topic and becoming increasingly aware of its relevance for the women we serve, I considered it important and timely to share with my colleagues what I had learned,” said Cyntia.

Sharing Knowledge with JF&CS Staff


In the past few months, Cyntia has organized two presentations about reproductive justice for her colleagues in the JF&CS Center for Early Relationship Support®. During the first session, Cyntia talked about the history and origins of reproductive justice, the core principles of reproductive justice, and how different communities experience different reproductive injustices. The presentation was followed by an insightful group discussion about the challenges women face in achieving autonomy over their reproductive health and how this affects maternal mental health and caregiver-child well-being.

For her second presentation, Cyntia curated a multimedia exhibition about reproductive justice and facilitated a group discussion with her CERS colleagues. The exhibition combined work created by artists, activists, advocates, international movements, and NGOs, among others. After the group discussion, JF&CS staff members from around the agency were invited to visit the exhibition. Cyntia also hung up a number of reproductive-justice related posters in the office, so staff and clients can educate themselves on the topic.

“I think having visual materials help us better register and remember the concepts,” said Cyntia. “In fact, I think part of the positive reception to the exhibition was due in great part to its graphic nature. People not only appreciated having graphic materials but having different types — graphic art, video, photographs — as everyone experiences learning differently.”

Cyntia Barzelatto standing in front of reproductive justice posters.Cyntia has found that her colleagues were very receptive to learning more about reproductive justice. She believes a reproductive justice lens may help her and her colleagues think about the struggles their clients face in new ways. “Adopting a reproductive justice lens requires a holistic understanding of the daily lives of our clients,” said Cyntia. “This includes considering the broader socio-cultural-historical context and becoming aware of the multiple systems of oppression that affect them every day.”

Cyntia’s presentations have kickstarted a conversation on these issues, and she looks forward to future discussions and collaborating with her colleagues to create and put into practice more actionable knowledge.   

Learn more about our Early Connections/Conexiones Tempranas program.


Fresh tomatoes on the vine at Family Table.
March 5, 2020

Posted by JF&CS

Fresh tomatoes on the vine at Family Table.

When Marilyn Piket and her family moved from New Jersey to Massachusetts, they did so with a strong sense of optimism. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, the Pikets had struggled financially. Marilyn and her husband were underemployed and on the verge of losing their home. However, things started to look up when the Pikets were presented with an exciting opportunity from the market research firm they both worked for. The company offered them the chance to transfer to their branch in Massachusetts, complete with relocation expenses, promotions, and higher salaries.

“It sounded great,” said Marilyn. “Our son was in his 20s, and our daughter was in her third year of college. It was really the ideal time to move.” Unfortunately, relocating to Massachusetts did not pan out as expected. After moving, Marilyn and her husband lost their new jobs at the market research firm. “I was very depressed,” shared Marilyn. “I felt like we had hit rock bottom. We were rootless. We didn’t know anyone out here.”  

Without the jobs they had been counting on, the Pikets couldn’t afford groceries. A friend from New Jersey suggested that Marilyn reach out to Jewish human services agencies in Massachusetts to see if any of them provide food assistance. “That’s how we discovered the Family Table food pantry at JF&CS,” said Marilyn. “It was such a blessing.”

Feeling Welcome at Family Table


Marilyn and her husband started going to the Family Table North Shore Marketplace at Temple Sinai in Marblehead. At Marketplace, those experiencing food insecurity can come and “shop” for groceries as if they were visiting a supermarket where all the food was free. Although Family Table is a food pantry, Marilyn was never made to feel like she was down on her luck. “The atmosphere at Marketplace was upbeat,” said Marilyn. “Everyone was so jovial and welcoming. They made us feel special.”

Marilyn recalls that the Family Table staff and volunteers went out of their way to please clients and make sure that they had what they needed. “They would hand out great recipes, and we would chat about which ones we had tried,” said Marilyn. The Pikets were also impressed with the high-quality, nutritious food they found at Marketplace. Marilyn’s husband was a fan of the frozen fruit, which he would use to make smoothies.

While Family Table provides groceries to people regardless of religious affiliation, the program serves the Jewish community by offering kosher food and Jewish ritual and holiday items. Marilyn identifies as a secular Jew, but she said that seeing Family Table in action made her proud to be Jewish. “I may not be observant, but I have a strong ethnic Jewish identity,” said Marilyn. “At Family Table, we never felt judged for not being religious. If we didn’t take the Shabbat candles, that was totally fine.” Although she isn’t observant, Marilyn did enjoy cooking some of her favorite Jewish meals with ingredients from Family Table, including matzah brei and her mother’s kosher chicken recipe.

Paying it Forward


After receiving help from Family Table for around two years, the Pikets found themselves in a financial position where they could afford their own groceries. Marilyn recalls that even when her husband found a new job, a staff member at Family Table suggested that they receive groceries for one more month, as a precaution. “It just showed how much they care,” said Marilyn. “They have such concern for their clients.”

Now, Marilyn works as a Program Manager at Operation ABLE, Inc., a nonprofit that provides job seekers with training programs and employment services. In this role, Marilyn works with clients who may be homeless or experiencing financial hardship. “When I’m with my clients, I try to foster the same welcoming atmosphere that I experienced at Family Table Marketplace,” said Marilyn.

Marilyn is proud that she is able to help people who are struggling with unemployment, and she plans on donating to Family Table when she is able. “It meant so much knowing that Family Table was there for us,” said Marilyn. “We look forward to paying it forward and helping others.”

Are you interested in supporting our food pantry? Learn how you can fundraise for Family Table!


Meryl Rich Photo.jpg
March 3, 2020

Posted by JF&CS

We sat down with Meryl Rich to hear about her experience as a volunteer with our Lauren & Mark Rubin Visiting Moms® program.

*Lauren & Mark Rubin Visiting Moms is currently looking for new volunteers! If you're interested, please fill out our registration form to begin the process. Please note that all visits are being conducted by phone or video chat during the COVID-19 crisis. 

How did you first get involved with the Rubin Visiting Moms program?

For several years, I had been hearing about the Rubin Visiting Moms program from a close friend who was a volunteer. Though intrigued, my responsibilities as a mother and as a classroom teacher at Epstein Hillel School (then Cohen Hillel Academy) took precedent over most other activities. Upon retiring four years ago, I knew that this was one of a few avenues of volunteerism that I wanted to pursue. Having been a new mom once upon a time, I clearly remember the plethora of feelings that I experienced — fears, frustrations, fatigue, loneliness, and inadequacies, to name a few. I wish that I could have had someone to lend support.

Why do you enjoy being a volunteer?

The universal sisterhood of motherhood can be intoxicating. Supporting a new mom who may be insecure and doubtful of her abilities, or even doubtful of the love for her infant, is challenging and so rewarding. Guiding her toward small successes and watching her develop into a woman with a one-year-old who has bonded and nurtured her child leaves me, most often, feeling that there is good in the world.

What is your favorite memory during your time as a volunteer?

There have been a few. One involves a new mom who was so unsure of her ability to parent that she felt as though she was merely a babysitter for her infant. I like to think that with our conversations and our brainstorming to problem-solve, along with support from those who love her, she came to realize that she has all that it takes to be a wonderful mother. She and her child became inseparable during that first year.

How do you feel your experience as a teacher has helped you in being a volunteer for the Rubin Visiting Moms program?

Without a doubt, my over forty years in the classroom has had a profound effect on all that I do. In particular, it is crystal clear to me that no two people are exactly alike, that almost all individuals deserve to be respected on her/his/their own merits, whether it be a child or an adult. Everyone has a story that has led them to the time and place in which we meet. For new mothers, each will have to find her own path, certainly with some commonalities. This holds true for children as well. It is so gratifying to watch a child or a mom navigate their way toward a direction that is comfortable for them.

What is your favorite children's book?

I have three. For babies and toddlers: Runaway Bunny. For older children: The Giving Tree and Wonder.

If you're interested in volunteering with Rubin Visiting Moms, please fill out our registration form!


Supported Housing residents at a weekly group dinner.jpg
February 27, 2020

Posted by JF&CS

Supported Housing residents at a weekly group dinner.

“What do we want our community to look like?” This was the question posed to residents in our CHAI Supported Housing program during their first group dinner of 2020. In the past, these weekly dinners for adults with disabilities did not grapple with such thought-provoking concepts. Typically, Supported Housing staff members would remind residents of upcoming social/educational events and check in with them about their week.

This January, however, the Supported Housing team decided to elevate the types of conversations residents have before dinner. “We were just at the start of the new year and we had a few new residents,” said Jacob Oppenheimer, a Service Coordinator for the Supported Housing program. “So, it was a great time for new beginnings.”

Residents have responded enthusiastically to the redesigned group dinners, and the discussions they have had are already having a positive impact on the Supported Housing program. Together, residents are enhancing connections with each other, improving their social skills, and thinking deeply and intentionally about creating the kind of community they would like to be a part of.  

Taking Every Opportunity to Teach

A Supported Housing resident at a community dinner.The idea for these more structured community dinners was born out of conversations between Jessica Goudreault, a Senior Residence Manager for the Supported Housing program, and Angela Waring, our Respite and Recreation Program Manager. In the fall of 2019, Angela had created a 100-page curriculum for facilitating social groups and dealing with conflict. Jessica and Angela realized that this curriculum wasn’t just applicable to the respite/recreation groups at JF&CS; it would also be a natural fit for the Supported Housing community dinners.

“Every opportunity we have to teach our participants social skills is so valuable,” said Angela. “And anything surrounding food is perfect because it naturally brings people together. These community dinners are a wonderful time to challenge residents and let them learn something.”

Angela was introduced to Jacob, who shares a similar interest in social group dynamics, and they collaborated on a plan to revamp the weekly Supported Housing dinners.

Defining Their Community

During the first group dinner of the new year, residents were tasked with defining the things they want from their community and determining how they can achieve these goals. The residents engaged in a lively brainstorming session, and one participant acted as a scribe, jotting down the numerous ideas that were generated. Ultimately, the residents decided on three maxims that should define their community:

1. Treat each other respectfully.
2. Appreciate each other’s differences.
3. Get to know new people.


“We were really impressed with the principles the residents came up with,” said Jacob. “They did an excellent job of identifying the values that make a community welcoming to everyone.”

Making a Motto

While Jacob led the first group dinner of 2020, the next session was led by Dana, a resident who had volunteered to take the reins. “What a wonderful confidence boost for her,” said Angela. “It is so great when our participants can take a leadership role.”
Residents enjoying a Supported Housing community dinner.
For this session, Jacob asked the residents to create a motto that encapsulates their community. Once again, the participants worked together to brainstorm and combine their diverse ideas into one shared vision.

As they worked on their motto, the residents were able to put the principles they had identified the previous week into practice. “Sometimes, the residents disagreed with each other about what should and shouldn’t be included in the motto,” said Jacob. “But they tried to do so in a respectful way, without interrupting or being overly negative.”

After much discussion, the residents finally agreed on the following motto: “Living together, thriving together. Independence is possible.” The participants took tremendous pride in coming up with this slogan, and the Supported Housing team is planning creative ways to weave it into the fabric of the program. “We would love to have the community expectations and motto hanging around the building in pieces of artwork,” said Jacob. “We’re also going to order T-shirts with the slogan.”

Independence is Possible

The goal of the Supported Housing program is for residents to live as independently as possible, and it is already clear that the restructured community dinners are furthering this mission. “Society often underestimates people with disabilities,” said Jacob. “Well-meaning people think they are helping by doing things for them. So, I think it means a lot for residents to take ownership of their experience.”

Having defined their own community expectations, the residents now have the language they need to remind each other to live up to their shared principles. Supported Housing staff members can be less involved if residents are prompting each other to be empathetic and respectful.

Supported Housing residents smiling together.The dinners themselves are a microcosm of society, where the residents can practice important skills that they can apply outside of the walls of their apartment complex. “The residents have always taken the lead with preparing the food for the community dinner,” said Jacob. “If, eventually, they could also run most of the meeting themselves, that would be an over-the-moon success.” As the community dinners evolve, Jacob and the rest of the Supported Housing team look forward to seeing how residents continue to grow and learn from these weekly discussions.    

Learn more about our Supported Housing program.


Judy and Abbe at the JF&CS Memory Memory Café.
February 25, 2020

Posted by Beth Soltzberg, Director of Alzheimer’s/Related Disorders Family Support Program
 
Judy and Abbe at the JF&CS Memory Memory Café.

Friends matter. They’re the people we have fun with; the people we can confide in and lean on when we need to. Research even shows that friends improve our health. When a dear friend develops dementia, however, it can test even the strongest relationships. What can you do when the activities you used to enjoy together don’t work out so well anymore? Many friends drift apart. In the 2019 World Alzheimer’s Report, over half of respondents in the Americas reported difficulty making or keeping friends. As one respondent said, “I call it the friendship divorce. I have lost a fair amount of people in my life that at one time I considered friends.”

Abbe and Judy’s Decades-Long Friendship

Abbe and Judy met thirty years ago when their daughters, Alissa and Becca, were just ten years old. Abbe needed someone to pick up Becca at Hebrew school and look after her until Abbe got home from work. Judy offered to help, and a wonderful family friendship was born. Over the years, the two families took trips to Martha’s Vineyard together, shared dinners, and attended a movie club that Judy created. Abbe’s husband David and Judy’s husband Gil, both musicians, became close friends and still play in a band together. To this day, Alissa and Becca are best friends.

In the midst of planning Alissa’s wedding, Judy shared some unexpected news. She told Abbe that she had been diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), which often leads to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. At first, Abbe couldn’t believe it, but over time the symptoms were undeniable. Judy had to retire from her career as a psychotherapist.

When a person develops dementia, friends may not know how to keep a conversation going, or how to enjoy time together. The person with dementia may find him or herself increasingly isolated, along with a spouse or another close family member, who may end up shouldering the entire responsibility of providing both care and human connection, more than one person can really do. This is where memory cafés can help. Memory cafés are social gatherings for people living with dementia, along with friends, family members, and professional caregivers. They are free of charge, and no one is asked if they have a diagnosis.

Making Memory Cafés a Monthly Routine

Concerned that Judy needed something social to do, Abbe’s daughter Becca had heard about the JF&CS Memory Café, and Abbe persuaded Judy to give it a try. On their first visit, musician Doug Schmolze was singing and playing guitar. “We were blown away,” said Abbe. “The lyrics were up on the screen at the front so everyone could be reminded of the words. I looked down the row of seats, and everyone was singing along.” Judy and Abbe have become regulars at the JF&CS Memory Café, have gotten to know other café guests, and have started inviting their friends to attend the café as well.

There are over 125 memory cafés in Massachusetts, and Abbe encourages others to make memory cafés part of their routine with a friend who lives with dementia. “I think many friends are nervous about the commitment,” Abbe said. “But it’s not hard to come to a program where there are kind people and a facilitated activity. It’s a 2- or 3-hour commitment once a month to be with your friend. And it’s so pleasant!”

There’s nothing like a good friend. The smiles on Judy’s and Abbe’s faces say it all.

Find a memory café near you in our Massachusetts Memory Café Directory!


Faye, Mitchell, Doris, and Steven Robbins.
February 21, 2020

Posted by JF&CS

Faye, Mitchell, Doris, and Steven Robbins.

Steven Robbins and his family are no strangers to philanthropy. Their father taught them the importance of giving back to their community. “My dad always said it was better to give than to receive. He was a big proponent of giving back,” shared Steven. When Steven’s father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, the Robbins family directed their passion for improving the lives of others to those who are affected by the disease.

The Robbins family was first introduced to the Charlotte & Richard Okonow Parkinson’s Family Support program at JF&CS through family friends. After visiting, they saw the unique services that exist to help those with Parkinson’s. Through therapeutic programming, such as chorus, dance, and family support groups, JF&CS provides unique and invaluable services that address day to day life with Parkinson’s. “This service really wasn’t available when my dad was diagnosed,” Steven said. “When we visited JF&CS for the first time, we felt so hopeful after seeing how happy and friendly all the participants were,” said Doris Robbins, Steven’s mother.

Social Connection and Family Support 

“Our program gives people a chance to be together without focusing on the disease,” said Anne Muskopf, Director of Okonow Parkinson’s Family Support. “The groups are therapeutic and designed to address symptoms, but the experience of simply having fun is more prominent.” Social connections are an important aspect of living full, meaningful lives with Parkinson’s, and participants can help their bodies while also enjoying the value of arts and music in a social setting.

The Okonow Parkinson's Family Support program provides support for the whole family. “JF&CS gave us a much better understanding of the disease through the educational programs that we participated in,” said Steven. “They helped us understand what was going on, and we want other families to have the same opportunity.” Through weekly support groups for care partners, family members can share their experiences with others who are in the same situation. “This group is my lifeline,” said a care partner attendee. There are also quarterly education and networking groups, where all family members are welcome to hear from expert speakers in the field of Parkinson’s disease.

“JF&CS is in a unique position. First, we offer programs for the whole family and, secondly, we are able to follow along with the progression of the disease because of the other resources we have within our agency,” added Anne. Participants can access the free advice of CJP SeniorDirect and the care management of Your Elder Experts, for example, as part of the surrounding support for the challenges that arise with Parkinson’s.

Supporting Parkinson's Outreach 

After seeing the unique service that JF&CS provides, the Robbins family was inspired to help make a difference. They decided to fund Parkinson’s outreach at JF&CS in order to leave their mark on the agency that inspired them. The Robbins want other families to experience the same support they have witnessed. “I always had this feeling of wishing my husband could have experienced that, but I’m so happy that I can help others in some small way,” said Doris.

In supporting Parkinson’s outreach, the Robbins are spreading awareness of the impact of the Okonow Parkinson’s Family Support program. With a focus on outreach, program staff are able to connect with providers and people living with Parkinson’s through individual meetings, presentations at symposia, and participation at community wellness fairs. “These programs are a true gem; we want to make sure they’re not a hidden gem,” said Anne.

To learn more about our resources for people living with Parkinson’s disease, visit our Charlotte & Richard Okonow Parkinson's Family Support program page.


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