Teens Help Organizations Respond to COVID-19

Teen’s in JTConnect’s Teen Leadership and Philanthropy Initiative (TLPI) culminated their year by awarding three grants totalling $3,800 to local organizations.  Through TLPI, we have been learning about how to build community and create positive change by raising money and allocating grants to nonprofit organizations in the Greater Hartford Jewish community.”  said Zach Berkowitz (Hall ‘21) “We decided to pivot our focus by allocating to organizations in our community that are being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We will be funding meaningful projects that will enable our local Jewish organizations to respond to the evolving situation.”  

After publishing their RFP, the TLPI teens learned to analyze grant proposals, prioritize need and actually fund meaningful projects. This year TLPI chose to award grants to Hebrew Senior Care, the Jewish Association for Community Living and Voices of Hope.

Hebrew Senior Care provides highly personalized, quality care to more than 90 individuals at Hoffman Summerwood Senior Living Community while remaining vigilant in the assessment of their health and welfare.  Because of the COVID-19 Virus, isolation is a top concern as they attempt to have staff and residents stay connected, as well as residents and their family members.  Talia Greenspoon (Watkinson ‘21) agrees that isolation is a big concern and was a deciding factor on why she was passionate about supporting this project.  “I think it is important to give to Summerwood because during these hard times being connected to family can make a huge impact on a person’s happiness and well-being.”  Currently Hebrew Senior Care only has 2 IPADs and requested funds to purchase additional iPads.  Through the TLPI grant, Hebrew Senior Care will be able to purchase six iPads for their residents to connect more residents with family and friends during this time of isolation.  

The Jewish Association for Community Living (JCL) help persons with a developmental disability participate in community life as independently and safely as possible.  During COVID-19, JCL clients are remaining home with their staff to ensure their safety.  With more than 35 residents in their group homes, JCL requested funds to purchase Judaic crafts, books and DVDs to occupy their clients in a positive way and change this time of isolation into a time of meaningful activity. Ryan Howe (Hall ‘20) was “really impressed with JCL’s work to help out those in our community who struggle with developmental disabilities, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. I remember having so much fun going to a JCL home, and I loved building a sukkah and playing basketball with the residents there. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like if I were in their shoes right now, and I hope our grant can help the JCL residents stay occupied during these hard times and help them maintain their Jewish identity.”

Voices of Hope (VOH) raises social consciousness by connecting people to the inhumanity of the Holocaust and other genocides by providing quality educational and community programming in order to ensure future generations never forget.  When COVID-19 hit, VOH was actively creating a traveling version of the Hartford Remembers the Holocaust exhibit housed at the University of Hartford to provide schools and the community easier access to the content. However because schools will probably not be able to take field trips to the Holocaust exhibit at the University of Hartford or host visitors this fall, VOH plan to make the exhibit available in the Fall via an interactive website. The TLPI grant will help VOH build an interactive website that will provide schools and the community at large with the necessary tools to combat hatred and bigotry virtually. The website will have survivor testimony, curriculum for teachers, educational resources and activities for students.  Zachary Berkowitz (Hall ‘21) reflects that “being the grandson of a survivor, I feel that it is enormously important to educate others about the danger of hate and silence.  I hope that by helping Voices of Hope, other students in the greater Hartford community continue the message of ‘never again.’” 

Are you interested in creating real positive change?  TLPI is currently recruiting for next year’s cohort.  Through TLPI teens learn about leadership and philanthropy from a Jewish perspective, then by visiting organizations and seeing first-hand the many services they provide, learn about how our community is organized and supported.  They learn to analyze grant proposals, prioritize need and actually fund meaningful projects. TLPI teaches teens that they can make a tangible difference in the world, starting right now.  For more information about joining TLPI visit www.jtconnect.org/tlpi or contact Eric Maurer at eric@jtconnect.org.  

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