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Serving Up Smiles at Maimonides
July 5, 2018
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JF&CS News Spring 2018

Lunchtime at the elementary school at Maimonides in Brookline was not always stress-free. Parent volunteers would help Maimonides staff serve lunch to the children, but parents were not always available to volunteer, and those who were available would sometimes have to cancel due to work commitments, family matters, or sudden emergencies. Additionally, only one parent would be scheduled to help out at a time. 

Deb Milgram, former JF&CS Board member and Maimonides parent, suggested that JF&CS could get involved with the lunch program in some capacity and contacted JF&CS CEO Rimma Zelfand. Rimma brought up the idea of volunteers from JF&CS CHAI Works Day Program for adults with disabilities assisting in serving lunches to the Maimonides elementary school. CHAI Works participants began helping with weekday lunch service. The program has been an enormous success since it started in September 2016. 

From Monday through Thursday, five or six CHAI Works participants and a supervisor go to Maimonides. They serve lunch directly to students in early childhood care, kindergarten, and first grade right in their classrooms. Students in grades two through five come to the cafeteria for lunch, where the CHAI Works participants plate the food, count out accurate numbers of fruits and vegetables for each plate, gather and set out juice boxes, and serve the lunches directly to the grade school students, collecting wristbands from the students when they receive their meals. After lunch, they assist with cleaning up. Point person for the Maimonides lunch program, LaShanta Freeman, prepares a daily list indicating what hot lunch item each student will receive, as well as the quantity. 

“Volunteering at Maimonides has been a rewarding experience for CHAI Works participants,” says Alex Tierney, CHAI Works Assistant Program Manager. “They’ve enjoyed having the opportunity to work on vocational skills, time management skills, and general professionalism, all while engaging with members of the Maimonides community who have welcomed us with open arms.” 

“They’ve been awesome. The servers have all been pleasant, consistent, and extremely helpful,” says Freeman. “We try to teach our students to understand our differences and to learn about people who have challenges in life. This is a super opportunity to have these servers come and share their stories while the kids learn that no matter what their differences, people should be treated the same.”

“At Maimonides, we are always seeking to make our school a place of inclusion,” says Naty Katz, the head of Maimonides school. “Programs with JF&CS really strengthen our community and we feel it really helps to build our students into the kind of adults we hope they will all become. It is my hope that the adults who come to serve here at Maimonides benefit from this program as much as our children and our school.”  

“It’s been wonderful having them here and we look forward to and have already asked for their help for next year. We couldn’t ask for anything more. It’s a win-win situation for both JF&CS and for Maimonides.”

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