Let's delve into some of the latest and greatest programs that were funded by JCF Grants and have benefited Southern New Jersey in recent months.
Below are four lightly-edited recaps of JCF Grant-funded initiatives to share, we hope you enjoy hearing about them:
BBYO South Jersey Region
To engage local high school-aged boys, BBYO South Jersey Region utilized a JCF Grant for its Aleph (boys) Engagement initiative to establish a flag football league, with some participants pictured. Per BBYO's Sara Nussbaum, 115 high schoolers have participated in the league, stating that:
"We are currently running a flag football league open to Alephs (male-identifying teens) in order to capture the interests of a larger audience of teens. BBYO knows from past experience, both locally and nationally, that sports programming is widely successful in engaging male-identifying teens in BBYO. Once they are engaged, the brotherhood of AZA and opportunity for leadership keep teens involved in the program. BBYO is offering over two months of a flag football league hosted at the JCC, including a championship game that typically sees a larger turnout."
The JCC Camps at Medford had a bustling summer, and, according to Camp Director Sara Sideman, made great strides toward addressing the growing mental health crisis for children locally and across the country with help in part from a JCF Grant:
"JCC Camps at Medford’s Care Team is a vital initiative that has started the process of addressing our youth’s mental health crisis, driven by the pandemic, among approximately 1,600 campers and teen counselors. We envisioned this team during Summer 2021 with our Care Director, a JFCS clinician at the time. JFCS continues to consult on programming. The American Academy of Pediatrics, among other organizations, have declared a national children’s mental health emergency amid the pandemic.
"During the last two summers, the severe mental health issues of campers and staff (particularly teens) has significantly impacted our operations, causing extreme burnout amongst seasonal staff and campers to be sent home. Our goal is to improve mental health and decrease symptoms of campers and teenage counselors. To support the Care Director, we hired three mental health professionals and contracted a behavior specialist through a local behavioral support company. This team will implement mental, emotional and social health (MESH) activities, support camper and staff needs, and create a long-term strategic plan.
"The Care Team played a major role in training leadership staff and bunk counselors, and provided informal counseling, group support, behavioral guidance, and parent resources when needed. The Jewish Community Foundation’s generous grant supported crucial Care Team supplies for camper workshops and activities, and external summer staff trainings for mental, social, and emotional health; gender and sexuality; and diversity."
A long-standing tradition at the JCC Camps at Medford is to celebrate Shabbat on Fridays, but the Covid pandemic threw a wrench into those plans. But no worries, according to Assistant Camp Director Jared Kaufman, this was an opportunity to look at new ways to celebrate the holiday:
"As the JCC Camps at Medford welcomed campers back to camp in Summer 2021 after a summer away, camp was forced to make difficult decisions in the daily operation, schedule, and logistics of the daily camp program. The largest change was the need to avoid large group gatherings and avoid intermingling of camper cohorts. The biggest impact of that requirement was the need to completely reimagine the Shabbat experience at camp which once saw over 300 kids brought together in one small space. Moving away from an all-group gathering, in Summer 2021, we were able to bring Shabbat to our campers and staff in a whole new way through our Shabbat Lunch Experience. Campers brought in Shabbat together as if they were sitting around the Shabbat table at home. Each bunk was given their own Challah, Kiddush cups, and candles and brought in the holiday together using a newly created Shabbat song book. With singing, discussion and powerful moments with one another, the feeling of Shabbat was felt by all."
The Covid pandemic proved to be a challenging time for everybody, but the strains on individuals living with Parkinson's were certainly magnified. The Katz JCC's Parkinson's Connection Coordinator Megan Matis provided the following recap of the new Art for Parkinson's program to help local residents cope:
"This virtual art class helped participants explore their artistic abilities while also creating an engaging and safe virtual meeting place. Art is shown to reduce anxiety and depression for those living with Parkinson’s. During the COVID pandemic, it became vital to provide social and emotional outlets for those with compromised immunity. With our staff facilitator and a professional art teacher, we created a virtual class experience that served to entertain, enrich, and bring joy to dozens of individuals living with Parkinson’s.
"Our instructor enjoyed the class so much that she decided to make her time and expertise an in-kind donation to the Parkinson’s Connection Program. As she is a professional artist with a master’s degree in education for populations with special needs, this was an incredible gift. Mrs. Smith is uniquely qualified to work with this population and has an innate gift and love for the work she has donated.
"All four classes were offered for free to participants, which helps to offset the high costs of living with Parkinson’s disease. In addition, we provided participants with containers of free art supplies for the first two classes. We have continued to offer this new class beyond the grant period, and we are very grateful to the Jewish Community Foundation for helping us launch this initiative."
We hope you enjoyed these recaps, and perhaps you or someone you know even benefited from one or more of these initiatives. JCF Grants continue to reach thousands of community members each year, and we look forward to announcing more awards within the next month as we wrap up our Fall 2022 JCF Grants Cycle.
For questions or feedback, please contact the JCF at 856-673-2528 or firstname.lastname@example.org.