COVID – 19 UPDATES

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Support Goes Virtual, JFCS Offers Counseling & Connection in Group Settings

July 10, 2020

Summer 2020 is bringing to light new challenges for all in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Where many programs are reduced in size or cancelled entirely in light of health and safety guidelines, all ages are left with more time filled with uncertainty, isolation, and stress.

Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County (JFCS) is expanding mental health services to meet the changing needs of the Mercer County community.

“For the past few months we have been focused on getting information out into the community,” said Michelle Napell, JFCS Executive Director. “Many people were facing unprecedented mental and emotional health concerns. And for those managing ongoing mental health conditions, the challenges were even greater. We knew at the time, the priority was broadcasting insights and advice from our counselors out to as many individuals as possible.”

Since late March, JFCS has provided free, weekly webinars open to the broader Mercer County community. Topics included dealing with anxiety, stress management skills, and issues tailored toward youth and teens such as coping with the loss of routines and other missed experiences. In addition, the counseling team has blogged about additional, topical mental health concerns.

“As time wore on, it was clear what people were needing most was connection,” continued Napell. “We are now combining our mental health care expertise with the desire for social interaction with the introduction of virtual support groups led by the counselors.”

JFCS already maintained a virtual Caregiver Support Group for older adults caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, or other chronic illness. The virtual model proved successful and was well received by Caregiver Support Group members which paved the way for the clinical department to develop new groups.

“We identified the target populations that would most benefit from support groups based on what our counselors were hearing from their clients and concerns expressed by community members on the Drop-In calls,” said Shirley Bellardo, LCSW, LCADC.

The first session of the Social Support Group, a group targeted for older adults and seniors who are feeling isolated, was held on Thursday, July 9. Seven local seniors joined in and had a positive conversation, sharing resources and support.

“One group member expressed dismay at missing weekly card games with friends, immediately another member offered to play cards online with this person,” said Bellardo. “Another member shared that she has ‘traveled the world’ with virtual tours offered online; two others from the session will be joining her on the next ‘trip.’ The connections and comradery were almost instantaneous and demonstrated how much this interaction is needed by seniors.”

The groups will run weekly or biweekly based on the response from the community. All groups are offered free of charge and on drop-in basis; there is no multi-session commitment required by attendees.

  • Youth Mindfulness Group: This group is designed for youth 6 – 10 years old. Participants will be guided through age-appropriate mindfulness discussions and techniques. Next session, Tuesday, July 14 at 5 PM. Register in advance.
  • Pandemic Parenting Group: This group will offer parents a chance to share their struggles, challenges and successes during the pandemic. Next session, Wednesday, July 15 at 3 PM. Register in advance.
  • Social Support Group: This group is targeted for older adults/seniors who are feeling the emotional and psychological impacts of isolation during COVID-19 restrictions. There is no formal structure, participants are invited to speak, listen, and learn. JFCS counselor will help facilitate and manage discussions within group. Every Thursday. Next session Thursday, July 16 at 9:30 AM. Register in advance, one link provided for all upcoming sessions.

For individuals who prefer to connect one on one, JFCS continues to offer Drop-In Hours. Drop-In Hours are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 10 AM – 12 PM and Tuesdays and Thursday 5 – 7 PM. Callers can reach a counselor at 609-987-8100 and Dial 0 to be connected to an available counselor.

For more information about program offerings, visit the JFCS website or call at 609-987-8100 Mon-Thurs 9 AM – 5 PM and Fridays 9 AM – 4 PM.

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.

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

IN THE NEWS! Kimberly-Clark donates 10,000 rolls of Cottonelle toilet paper to United Way of Greater Mercer County

June 13, 2020

Kimberly-Clark’s Cottonelle donated 10,000 rolls of toilet paper to United Way of Greater Mercer County (UWGMC), part of Cottonelle’s commitment to make sure toilet paper is accessible to the community throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Through partnerships with Mercer Street Friends and Jewish Family and Children’s Service (JFCS), UWGMC was able to move resources into the community. 

Read the full story

Mercer Community Network Makes Essentials Accessible to those in need

June 11, 2020

Kimberly-Clark’s Cottonelle, donated 10,000 rolls of toilet paper to United Way of Greater Mercer County (UWGMC). This is part of Cottonelle’s generous commitment to make sure toilet paper is accessible to the community. 

United Way is also making sure that basic needs are being met in the community. Therefore, the organization reached out to Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County (JFCS) to assist with the distribution of toilet paper. JFCS has been able to provide toilet paper to patrons of its brick-and-mortar, Yvette Sarah Clayman Kosher Food Pantry, and through the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry.  

The partnership ensures that individuals and families in East Windsor, Hightstown, West Windsor, Robbinsville, Trenton, Lawrenceville, and the broader Mercer region have access to toilet paper. 

“Despite the challenges that social service agencies have faced in light of the pandemic, the support and partnership of agencies here in Mercer County has provided a network of resources to those most severely impacted by COVID-19,” said Michelle Napell, JFCS Executive Director. “United Way has been a longtime partner of JFCS and we were grateful that they thought of us to help distribute the toilet paper into the community.”

The Mobile Food Pantry officially hit the road in January 2020, with a planned roll out of one stop per week during the first three months, then increasing to two stops per week through its first year on the road. The coronavirus expedited that timeline and the Mobile Food Pantry has been making 2 – 3 stops per week since mid-March, with demand growing.

The Yvette Sarah Clayman Kosher Food Pantry has steadily seen almost double the usual demand over the past three months.

Collectively, since March 16, over 3,800 individuals have benefitted from the on-site and mobile pantry efforts of JFCS. The on-site pantry serves any within the greater Mercer County area and the Mobile Food Pantry has made stops in Princeton, Lawrenceville, Trenton, Hightstown, East Windsor, West Windsor, Robbinsville, Hamilton, and Ewing. Mobile pantry stops include schools in the East Windsor Regional School District and West Windsor-Plainsboro School District, low-income senior housing, housing developments for individuals with disabilities, and housing developments for low-income families.

JFCS receives Emergency Funding for COVID-19 Hunger Relief

June 9, 2020

JFCS recently received a grant for $2,500 from BAPS Charities through their COVID-19 relief fund. The funding will directly support our services that help those most in need, from seniors to families in need of food to individuals in need of emotional support.

“Our ongoing and new partnerships in the broader Mercer community have enabled JFCS to expand our programs to meet the growing need due to the COVID19 pandemic. We are grateful to have been connected with BAPS Charities, at the recommendation of East Windsor Mayor Janice Mironov, a longtime supporter of our agency,” said Michelle Napell, Executive Director. “It is humbling to have new partners such as BAPS Charities recognize the impact we are making in our community and be inspired to provide funding support. The grant funding from BAPS Charities will be directed to our food programs supporting those most severely impacted by COVID19 – from low-income seniors, to adults with disabilities, to Title I Students in the East Windsor Regional School District.”

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.

Community Food Drive Through June 30th

June 3, 2020

Now through June 30th, JFCS invites the community to participate in our Food Drive! Download the flyer to share.

How to donate

  1. Order online from your website of choice and have items delivered to: JFCS 707 Alexander Road, Suite 204, Princeton NJ 08540.
  2. Order through Amazon* and have items delivered to:JFCS 707 Alexander Road, Suite 204, Princeton NJ 08540. 

    *Use Smile.Amazon.com and select Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County as your charity of choice and we will receive contributions for your purchases.

  3. Make purchases while you are shopping and drop off items in our donation bin outside of Suite 204 at 707 Alexander Road.

What to donate

JFCS maintains a Kosher on-site and Mobile Food Pantry. Please ensure any donated items have the appropriate Kosher symbols. Please check expiration dates.

  • Tuna in water
  • Shelf stable milk or almond milk
  • Hot and cold healthy cereals
  • Rice
  • Low sugar fruit cups
  • Applesauce
  • Peanut butter
  • Jelly
  • Pasta
  • Tomato sauce
  • Beans (any type)
  • Gluten free items
  • Healthy snacks

Questions about the food drive? Contact Beth Englezos at BethE@jfcsonline.org or 609-987-8100 Ext 126.