COVID – 19 UPDATES

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From Generation to Generation, Internship Experiences to Take With You

It was 20 years ago last fall when I first step foot into JFCS as a Senior Service intern. 

I did not know what to expect or what impact this experience would have on me.  Reflecting back, I can honestly say this intern experience changed my life. One of my favorite aspects of being Coordinator of Teen Programs is working with interns.

I cannot thank enough what Wendy Cacacie did for me 2 decades ago. She has taught me unforgettable social work lessons that I still use to this day. My goal is to instill a meaningful experience to my interns as Wendy has done for me.

I have worked with close to 50 student interns throughout the years and continue to be amazed by their creativity and outside the box thinking with special projects.

This summer, Dana, one of my interns served on a College Perspectives Panel and talked about her college and gap year experiences. Rachel, another student, assisted in creating content and resources for the Summer Teen Programming Series. Her fresh perspectives and ideas enhanced these leadership seminars. Grace, my third intern, also created content for this summer’s programming series. She will also be helping with the Challah Bake through Challah for Hunger, a student run organization at the Center for Jewish Life at Princeton University.

These programs would not have been successful without the help and participation of these students. Working remotely has eliminated so many barriers of distance and transportation to connect with teens from all over the county. Working with Teen Programs is definitely a great filter to finding future interns.  Even though most of the students I work with have other interests, the skills learned during the internship are hard to be duplicated in other places. At JFCS, we teach our interns the ins and outs of our jobs, how to succeed in a non-profit environment, and how what we do fits into the overall agency and community as a whole. Interns walk away with an experience that they can discuss in any interview setting and transferrable work skills to include on their resume.

Celeste Albert, LCSW, Coordinator of Teen Programs

Meet Rachel!

The 2020 pandemic has had broad economic impact, so when approaching summer opportunities I knew it would be a challenge not only finding internships but also finding businesses with the bandwidth to take on interns in uncertain times. Internship opportunities for college students are very diverse, so gaining research and communication skills can be found in a range of work.

COVID-19 has shed new light on how people can transform their skills and knowledge into jobs or volunteer work that is not necessarily aligned with their career goals. In working with a nonprofit, I am gaining important skills that I will use for future intern opportunities and recognizing the benefit of being open to new experiences.

Zoom has become a common platform for communication, so even though we coult not talk or work on projects in person, weekly meetings were still comforting and informative. My weekly meetings kept me engaged in the work because it was a nice break to talk about the research instead of typing it all down in a shared document. Presenting your research to someone allows you to bounce their ideas off of yours and appreciate their satisfaction with the project that you share.

My research included mental health, educational inequalities and other politically and socially topical issues which kept me engaged in the work. I felt it was important to discuss these real world topic amongst peers to gain students’ perspectives.

In college, I study law, public policy and sociology, which all have similar themes and lessons taught within each department. As a research intern for JFCS, my projects varied, but one assignment that I found applicable to my course work focused on how students can be leaders in their communities. From organizing fundraisers, helping at a food pantry, or collecting backpacks for a school supply drive, we wanted to emphasize that students can easily be leaders and mentors in their community by inspiring others to complete acts of kindness. In my college studies, we often analyze lawyers, policymakers, local businesses, and other decision makers and how their collective acts of leadership and of kindness are inspiring others to change and do good in the world.

I am on a pre-law track in college, since I’ve always been intrigued by law school and the legal profession. Law school teaches students how to think, advocate, and analyze, and these skills can be applied to working at a law firm, a university, a hospital, or many other businesses. My internship work includes conducting research and planning lessons for the Zoom program participants. This work helped hone my research and presentation skills, skills I feel can always be practiced and improved, and skills that are critical to pursuing a legal profession.

Through my work with JFCS, I have gained awareness of the importance and impact of nonprofits in communities, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. This has inspired me to explore and reach out to other organizations to understand their mission and how people can support their work.

I have loved working with Celeste; her passion for each of the projects and assignments we’ve discussed makes her such a good leader and the students look up to her. I’ve lived in West Windsor for a long time, and have known of JFCS all my life, but contributing and volunteering with the JFCS team has been extremely rewarding. JFCS has accomplished so much with their food pantry, teen services, and counseling center, and I have been deeply impacted by this internship. I’ll always be thankful for this opportunity and the skills and connections I have found. I hope to remain involved with projects and volunteering in the future as part of JFCS.

Rachel Judson, Intern

Meet Grace!

I was originally supposed to go to Vienna for a summer class, but once that got cancelled, I was fortunate to have Princeton Hillel, Center for Jewish Life as a resource. The staff at CJL was able to connect me with JFCS for an internship opening.

This internship has exposed me to new websites and platforms and working with the unfamiliar technologies has been incredibly engaging. The work differs greatly from my studies, most often in literature and language, and allows me to explore new opportunities. Researching new topics has been exciting week after week.

I am not sure where my future plans will take me as I consider graduate work or moving into education. In any path I pursue, the experience with curriculum development, presentation, and connection with others will be valuable.

I had no idea the scope of social services in this community prior to this internship, and I am incredibly thankful to have learned more about the work done in Mercer County.

Grace Rosenberg, Intern

Meet Dana!

As a rising sophomore, yes I was extremely concerned about having limited opportunities due to the virus. All of my original plans for the summer consisted of physical work, so it was difficult for me to imagine the translation into a remote environment. Additionally, the ongoing challenges of the virus amde it difficult to imagine that summer interns would be a priority.

I have found that there are primarily two elements that have made the internship engaging: communication and meaningful work. Meeting with Celeste every week to plan and discuss ideas has been instrumental in helping me set goals and decide what work must be done. Week after week, the meaningful work that keeps me engaged.

From panel discussions to fundraising, all of the work that JFCS does is important, both for the development of the individual and the larger community. Recalling this as I work remotely motivates me, and contributes to my devotion to the projects. As a STEM major, my internship experience may not relate directly to my course work, but it does resonate with the values that are stressed by the community. Mentoring, volunteering, and service are the cornerstone of Princeton, and are taught in every discipline. My internship this summer plays on this message of service to the community.

After graduation, I intend to enter the medical or healthcare field. I am extremely thankful, as I know that everything that I have learned this summer will be applicable. Fundraising for causes, working with teenagers, or even simply planning events are all skills I have developed this summer and will continue to develop after I graduate and enter the professional sphere.  To date, the most impactful experience I have had through this position was preparing to speak to high school juniors and seniors on a panel. I remember how challenging the college process was for myself, and I can only imagine how much more stressful it must be now. I am thankful for the opportunity to speak with younger students and try to advise them the best way that I can. 

Dana Waitman, Intern

Internships: Adapting Opportunities For a Pandemic

JFCS has always prided itself on providing a variety of internship experiences to high school, college and graduate school students. The ability to offer educational opportunities is an important part of our mission. We were particularly committed to continuing this practice during COVID-19. Through a combination of creativity and flexibility, students are participating, on a modified basis, in the agency’s existing programs and services. As a result, they have gained an additional perspective on how agencies must adapt their programs and respond to client needs during this pandemic. We are so appreciative to have such motivated and dedicated students interning at JFCS this summer.  

Beverly Mishkin, LCSW, Director of Case Management & Senior Services

Meet Samantha!

My name is Samantha Goldfarb, and I am serving as an intern at JFCS this summer as a part of The College of New Jersey’s Summer Community Leaders program.

The summer is only halfway through and I have already recognized personal growth achieved through my new experiences. The COVID-19 pandemic has limited my scope of work, specifically face-to-face interactions with clients; yet, I have still been able to catch glimpses of the great community JFCS serves, from the friendliness of the Kosher Café attendees to the kind and good humored JFCS staff. Moments that have had the greatest impact include the look on our clients’ faces when they receive a bag of food and the excitement of community partners with whom we work to expand our outreach. If our community is this lively and connected now, I can only imagine how wonderful it is without social and spatial restrictions!

Where the altered programming has changed what I originally expected from an internship experience, I have also found it has afforded me unique opportunities I would not have had in a traditional internship placement. For example, I now have the opportunity to provide hands-on service work during a crisis while observing how a model organization can address the growing needs of its clients amid challenge and disorder.

My educational background is on disability rights and advocacy whereas the internship focuses on food security, nevertheless, my goal is to run a non-profit like JFCS one day, and any organization will have to be prepared to withstand any and all disasters that come its way. In this respect this modified internship is teaching me a lot about professional adaptability and how to best address problems as they arise. No organization could have been fully prepared for the demands of the pandemic, but this internship has shown me how a combination of flexible practices and a commitment to problem-solving allows an agency to stay on its feet and keep serving effectively.

I have seen the importance of helping employees connect with one another even if they have to be physically separated. I have seen an agency maintain its scope of service and level of impact by adapting programs to work within new limitations and focusing on building connections with other agencies to pool community resources.

While I regret missing out on some aspects of traditional service, I am very grateful for JFCS for teaching and modeling good practices for my work for years to come – and for still finding ways to sneak in moments with the community that make service so rewarding in the first place.

Samantha Goldfarb, Intern

Back-to-School School Supply Drive

NOW THROUGH AUGUST 14th!

Whether in school or at home, let’s continue to help children in need start the school year off right!

Our goal is to supply 150+ children with the supplies they need to look forward to beginning a successful school year. Items donated benefit the children of JFCS pantry and partner agency clients in the Greater Mercer community.

Help us by donating:

  • Sturdy backpacks for middle-school and high-school students
  • Notebooks (spiral, wide rule and marble)
  • Pencil cases/pouches
  • Binders 1″ and 2″
  • Pocket folders
  • #2 Pencils
  • Pens
  • Index Cards
  • Markers
  • Highlighters

3 Ways to Donate

  1. Contribute to our Amazon Registry.
  2. Order and ship supplies of your choice from Amazon / website of choice ship to 707 Alexander Rd, Suite 204 Princeton NJ 08540
  3. Drop off items in our donation bin outside of: 707 Alexander Road, Suite 102 AND Suite 204 Princeton NJ 08540

Thanks to our special sponsor of this event: Hill Wallack LLP

How will YOU serve your summer?

Now more than ever, there is a need for people to give back to others and community non-profits. It can sometimes be challenging and overwhelming to start. A lot of thoughts can go through your head. I am not familiar with local organizations in my community. Who do I help? How? Can my children and teens get involved? Here are some great tips to begin a meaningful summer of service.

Tip 1 Pick a cause, any cause…

There are many great ways to give back to your community.  It might be helpful to find out what causes speak to you and decide how you want to make a difference.  Here is a sample of causes to choose:

Older adults
Children/teens
Hunger
Education
Environment
Homelessness
Special needs
Advocacy
Veterans

Bullying
Animals
Domestic violence
Diversity
Poverty
Disabilities
Mental Health
Awareness

Tip 2 Decide which project you would like to conduct…

Are you interested in giving back virtually, collecting and donating items for others, hands-on community service or raising funds for non-profits?

Virtual Opportunities

With the advancement of technology, virtual community service experiences have gained popularity and you do not need to leave your house. 

Collections/Drives

Maybe you’ve been inspired to clean out unused items in your home.  Community organizations are collecting items for people in need.  Contact local social service agencies or visit their websites to see what items they are accepting.  You can also reach out to your network and let them know you are collecting items such as food, school supplies, paper products, feminine hygiene products or baby and children supplies.  An Amazon.com wish list is also another great and easy way to collect items in a contactless way.  Remember, before you collect, ask your selected agency about any specific needs or requirements for products they are currently accepting.

Hands-on Community Service Projects

 The best way to find out about these opportunities are to visit an agency’s website, contact the volunteer coordinator and follow non-profits on social media.  Due to COVID-19, these in-person opportunities can be limited, so check with the agency to see what opportunities are available.

Fundraisers
Fundraisers are another great way to support a non-profit organization while bringing awareness of the services they provide to your community. Here are some great fundraising ideas to include others in your mitzvah:

Bake sale
Bike ride
Book sale
Bowl-a-thon
Car wash
Dog walk
Dress down day at work
Garage sale
Golf tournament
Karaoke night
Lemonade Stand
Pancake breakfast
Zumbathon
Instead of hosting a party, ask for donations in honor of a milestone celebration – bar or bat mitzvah, birthday and/or anniversary

Tip 3 Seek resources to continue brainstorming ideas of fun and meaningful projects.

JFCS will be hosting two virtual service opportunities for teens in grades 6-12.

  • Sunday, July 26th, 1 PM – Come learn about school supply needs in our community and ways you can help others start the school year off right.
  • Sunday, August 9th, 1 PM – Create your own challah at home with Challah for Hunger at Princeton. Learn about food insecurity and the community organizations who are working to address it.

These programs are open to the community.  Registration is required, click to sign up now!

For more information, contact Celeste Albert at celestea@jfcsonline.org.

To learn more about other service project ideas, visit:

Good Deeds Day

Areyvut

Chai Mitzvah

Celeste Albert, LCSW (Teen Program Coordinator) & Dana Waitman (Intern)

Teens find Connection, Support and Service Hours while Distanced

June 22, 2020

On March 23, less than two weeks after the state-wide shutdown due to coronavirus, 20 members of Gesher LeKesher, a high school Jewish peer leadership program facilitated by Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County (JFCS), joined a Zoom call to come together and process their new reality. The call was initiated by Celeste Albert, Teen Program Coordinator at JFCS.

“It was clear from the early days of shutdown that teens would be deeply impacted by their new reality,” said Celeste Albert. “While our in-person meetings were cancelled and a majority of programming concluded for the school year, I knew that there would be this audience of teens seeking connection and community.”

The Gesher LeKesher Zoom call became a weekly meeting of 20 members of the program. Albert then expanded to Jewish Community Youth Foundation (JCYF), a Jewish youth philanthropy program for teens in grades 8 through 12. Two weekly JCYF calls were set up, one session for 8th and 9th graders and a second for 10th – 12th graders.

Each virtual gathering is a chance for teens to participate in a guided discussion, share about their experiences, and connect with each other. Initial discussions centered on helping the teens adjust to the new routines and responsibilities of remote learning and coping with distancing from peers. As the weeks continued, Albert pivoted the focus to providing engaging opportunities such as virtual service projects and virtual “field trips.”

 

“The teens definitely look to the weekly meetings as a chance to connect over their shared emotions surrounding the pandemic, but they were also looking for activities to fill their time,” said Albert. “Even as discussions shifted, every session ends with resources I have identified to support the mental health and emotional wellbeing of the participants.”

With the virtual school year ended, Albert recognized that teens would need additional opportunities to fill their time and connect with one another. Summer programming will be open to the broader community for all youth and teens. The JFCS Summer Teen Series focuses on service and personal development.

“Our virtual service days have received the highest engagement of any other program and teens are always asking about the next opportunity,” said Albert.

The “Summer Serve” sessions will offer three opportunities for youth and teens grades 6 – 12. The first will include a discussion of values and highlight a number of service projects from which participants can choose based on their giving values and interests. The second session will be focused on education and help support the annual JFCS School Supply Drive. Lastly, the third session will be held in partnership with Challah for Hunger Princeton.

Additionally, there will be three college and career focused discussions for 11th grade and above. Sessions will include a career exploration workshop, a panel discussion with college students to share their experiences and answer questions, and a resume and interviewing workshop where students will receive tips on building a resume and promoting their skills and experience.

Sessions & Dates

Summer Serve: For Grades 6-12 How Will You Serve? Sunday July 12, 1 PM Discover ways to customize your summer service experience.

Summer Serve: For Grades 6-12 School Supplies Drive Sunday July 26, 1 PM Kick off event for annual school supply drive, learn about needs in our community.

Summer Serve: For Grades 6-12 Challah Bake Sunday Aug 9, 1 PM Create your own challah at home for Challah for Hunger.

College & Career: For Grades 11+ Career Exploration Workshop Tuesday July 7, 7 PM If you don’t know what to do with your major, or are unsure what to study, join us!

College & Career: For Grades 11+ Colleges Perspectives Monday July 20, 7 PM A panel of college students discuss their experiences after high school.

College & Career: For Grades 11+ Promoting Yourself & Your Skill Set Monday Aug 3, 7 PM An interactive workshop to build your resume and develop talking points.

Registration Link for All Sessions.

Teen Summer Series

Where remote learning offered new challenges for all students, the upcoming summer, without the expected activities and opportunities to gather, is filled with new obstacles. JFCS is proud to be offering a TEEN SUMMER SERIES including service, engagement and development opportunities for youth and teens. All sessions are open to any youth or teen interested in attending, teens can sign up for all, some or one of the sessions per their needs and preference.

MUST REGISTER IN ADVANCE, CLICK TO REGISTER NOW!

College & Career: For Grades 11+ Career Exploration Workshop Tuesday July 7, 7 PM

If you don’t know what to do with your major, or are unsure what to study, join us!

Summer Serve: For Grades 6-12 How Will You Serve? Sunday July 12, 1 PM

Discover ways to customize your summer service experience.

College & Career: For Grades 11+ College Perspectives Monday July 20, 7 PM

A panel of college students discuss their experiences after high school.

Summer Serve: For Grades 6-12 School Supplies Drive Sunday July 26, 1 PM

Kick off event for annual school supply drive, learn about needs in our community.

College & Career: For Grades 11+ Promoting Yourself & Your Skill Set Monday Aug 3, 7 PM

An interactive workshop to build your resume and develop talking points.

Summer Serve: For Grades 6-12 Challah Bake Sunday Aug 9, 1 PM

Create your own challah at home for Challah for Hunger.

IN THE NEWS! Teens work together (virtually) through challenging times

June 15, 2020

On March 13, as schools started to close and after-school programs were being cancelled, Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JFCS) of Greater Mercer County implemented a multifaceted plan to make sure all of its constituents, including teens, would continue receiving services and participating in programs. 

Read the full story

Returning to Work During COVID-19

If you are returning to work after being on family medical leave during COVID and have not experienced working from home, you might experience different thoughts and feelings. How will it be to work virtually from home? How will I create home and work life balance? What if I don’t feel comfortable sending my infant or toddler back to daycare? How will I work fulltime from home while caring for an infant?

I personally am feeling overwhelmed, guilt, stress, anxiety, sadness, grief. These are all appropriate thoughts and feelings you may experience returning to work after being on medical leave during COVID and you are not alone.

Tips to help with the adjustment of returning to work during COVID.

  • Be patient with yourself. It may take some time to adjust going to work virtually when the last time you worked was before the pandemic.
  • Talk to your support system about how you are feeling, you do not have to go through this alone.
  • Identify the coping skills that work best for you and have them readily available before you start working.
  • Be kind to yourself without judgement.
  • Take a lunch break to fuel your body and rest.
  • Schedule time for a walk to move your body and get fresh air. Identify what self-care looks like for you.
  • Create daily routine.
  • Pick a time you will stop working. Turn on a timer and end work when the timer goes off.

If you continue to have a challenging time adjusting back to working during COVID, contact a professional for support. JFCS is offering daily Drop-In hours if you need a one-time consultation with one of our counselors. We are also accepting new clients for ongoing counseling, currently provided through teletherapy. Call us at 609-987-8100.

You do not have to go through this alone!

Mara Myerson, LCSW, LCADC

JFCS Reflects on Year of Service, Before and During a Pandemic

Each June, Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County (JFCS) convenes an Annual Meeting open to the greater Mercer County community. In light of coronavirus pandemic, JFCS has chosen instead to share a prepared video with the community documenting the agency’s service over the past year.

Video highlights include:

  • Reflection on the launch of the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry including the pop-up pantries that helped pave the way for distribution partners, the planning process to retrofit a food truck into a mobile pantry, and the first months in service, including an increased distribution schedule seen as result of COVID-19.
  • Recognition of the Senior Service team for their consistent support of older adults and commitment to addressing immediate concerns during the pandemic.
  • Acknowledgment of the Clinical (Mental Health Counseling) department for the service to the community prior to COVID-19 and expanded services in light of the pandemic. Expanded support includes Drop-In hours and webinars, virtual events, and blogs to share advice to the broader community.
  • Highlighting teen programs for providing an outlet for youth to connect, share experiences, and engage in community service projects during a difficult time when distanced from peers.

Parenting Post #5

Parenting Post #5: Quarantine Burnout – Parenting Edition

I will be honest, when thinking of what to address this week I felt I hit the metaphorical wall. It became one more task, one more check off the list for the week, and that thought was overwhelming. At this stage, many are struggling with quarantine burnout, “cabin fever,” or any other term one might have invented. And for parents, managing the day to day may seem like an increasingly insurmountable task. Remote learning certainly has positives, but right now, the negatives feel overwhelming – children are learning less than when at school, for young children most of the day is taken up with sorting out their video lessons, searching for emails and links to that one assignment you just can’t track down. It is exhausting, and you may find yourself more irritable managing these responsibilities. Adding to the mix now is summer break, what can usually be a time of relief and relaxation from the “everyday” stressors, now looms as yet another challenge.

What will you do with your children this summer? (see the links included below for a few options.) There are many recommendations and activities floating around the web, but few will carry you through an entire summer, a time usually filled with vacations, camps, and other organized activities, especially without the few hours of online learning that have kept children semi-occupied. The reality we are facing…Camp Mommy and Daddy. (I suggest giving yourself a moment to pause here and let that sink in.)

How do we manage the burnout, parenting, work and now camp counselor responsibilities?

One of the keys to mental health survival for parents during the pandemic is to not compare yourself to other parents, either personal friends or people on social media. You have you own parenting style, your own relationship with your children and you are doing the best you can. There may be the Instagram or Facebook posts of another parent weaving a swing set out of old t-shirts or baking countless seasonal treats – it is irrelevant to you. There is a strong chance those who look to be performing at peak, while still wearing makeup, have help and significant resources. Promise not to compare your pandemic performance to these standards! Holding yourself to these unattainable standards seen through filters will only have a negative impact on your mental health. If you are balancing work and distance learning, while attempting to keep a semblance of order in your home, have compassion for yourself, and only weave or bake when it is for you!

Another crucial key to survival is carving out time for yourself. If you do not take breaks, you will feel ever-worse. As noted in earlier posts, me-time is essential. Be kind to yourself and let go of the idea that you need to sacrifice your wellbeing on the altar of parenthood. Ultimately, this will negatively affect you and your children.  There is no shame in telling your partner that you need some time to yourself. Make sure that you are not using this time to clean or cook. Go for a walk, a run, meditate, bake for fun, garden, call a friend, or mindlessly scroll through your social media of choice (exercise caution as overindulgence in social media can increase stress.) Be open and talk to your partner and express your feelings of stress, exhaustion, burnout; chances are good that s/he is also experiencing something similar.

Do not pressure yourself to enjoy every moment with your children, because the reality is that these moments are not all “precious” but can be filled with demands. Yes, of course there are times that are beautiful and fulfilling, but to expect that you should enjoy all this extra time with your kids puts too much pressure on you and can lead to the kind of conflict that creates anxiety. For example, thinking: ‘I’m with my kids and should enjoy all this extra time before they are grown and don’t want to be with me,’ can lead to: ‘I can’t stand all the demands on my attention and time and feel I need to escape and join the circus!’

Find joy when it presents itself, and embrace it, but do not burden yourself with seeking it daily or hourly. It is unreasonable to expect constant joy and this notion can lead to feelings of guilt or underachievement. Ultimately, find some acceptance of the fact that you might shout occasionally and that you find lots of stuff tedious right now, but also allow yourself moments of grace. They will happen! Really.

For a deeper dive into the topics addressed above, watch my recent webinar “Pandemic Parenting: Tools for Now & After.”

Helpful links:

For how you feel about parenting in pandemic times:

  • Recommended writer, Jessica Grose—I read her recent article in New York Times and, three sentences in, actually said aloud: “hello, my new friend.” This writer gets it.

Burnt out on home schooling?

Mom-shaming ourselves

Camp Mommy/Daddy Planner – How to Host Your Family’s Own Personal Summer Camp

Parenting Posts presented by Claire Brown, LSW

What are the Parenting Posts?

In these uncertain times, when everyone was quickly forced to juggle work from home roles, remote learning responsibilities, heightened anxiety about keeping your family nourished and healthy, on top of personal fear of the unknown landscape of life during coronavirus, parenting challenges have been augmented. We are introducing weekly Parenting Posts which will provide helpful information, skills and support for those in parenting roles – during the global health crisis and beyond. The obstacles faced by someone in the parental role did not begin during coronavirus and will not end with the outbreak, and this weekly blog will provide long lasting skills.