JCHAI Offers Resources, Empowers Community


JCHAI Jenna cookingThe COVID-19 pandemic has put an additional strain on local social service agencies working on the front lines. However, with support from the Jewish Federation, many of these groups are surviving in this difficult climate.

The Judith Creed Horizons for Achieving Independence (JCHAI) is one example of the power of harnessing resources to empower community.

The organization runs a variety of programs to support adults with disabilities in the Greater Philadelphia region. A major component supporting their mission is their residential programs, which provide housing, including room, board and access to social workers, so residents can have support while living independently in our community. Another is the JCHAI At Home program. Clients in this program live in their own homes or apartments and receive access to social workers and other care as needed.

In the initial days of the COVID-19 pandemic, JCHAI, like many organizations, immediately reached out to the Jewish Federation for support for basic needs, including food and nutrition services.

“One of the hallmarks of our program is getting adults out in the community in positive roles,” JCHAI Director Stacy Levitan said. “Seventy-seven percent of our clients are working in the community, but now many of them are social distancing in their homes and they need more food than ever before. This is where the Jewish Federation’s work to combat food insecurity was incredibly helpful.”

While JCHAI was able to secure the necessary food and meals, a new issue began to arise. Many of JCHAI’s clients are essential workers and are desperately needed at their places of employment, including grocery stores, hospitals, pharmacies, etc.

One of those necessary workers is Matthew Hollin, who works at Lankenau Hospital. His roommate Lior works at Whole Foods. The JCHAI staff must ensure that they both get to work and back home safely and have access to health resources to make sure they do not get sick.

Matthew’s parents Cristy and Mitch Hollin are delighted to see their son continue to work his five-day-a-week schedule at Lankenau: “Our family has so much pride that Matthew is still working and is considered essential. We are always grateful to JCHAI for providing our son and so many other individuals with a safe and extraordinary way of life. JCHAI is going to incredible lengths to support them during the pandemic and the family’s decision to keep their loved ones in their jobs and be able to be essential employees. We are thankful the Jewish Federation has stepped up and enabled this as well. It’s truly remarkable, and we could not be more grateful for all JCHAI is doing.”

To maintain high levels of safety, JCHAI needed access to health and safety supplies, including face masks, protective gloves and disinfectants. Knowing these resources were scarce, Levitan reached out to the Jewish Federation for guidance. The Jewish Federation assisted them in the purchase of N95 masks for the staff and helped them get creative when it came to other safety measures.

“The Jewish Federation really helped us think outside the box when it came to protective gear, such as buying available swim goggles to act as protective glasses and using paper bags for day-to-day storage,” Levitan said. “And by helping us with the high financial cost of purchasing the face masks, it was one less burden for us to worry about.”

JCHAI has also connected with the Jewish Federation for technical assistance to produce webinars and help with day-to-day client phone calls. Through JFNA’s Jewish Together program, JCHAI was given a lot of guidance about federally available funds.

For Levitan, the Jewish Federation’s support has been much more than financial assistance.

“The Jewish Federation has been an umbrella there to help us through the logistics,” she explained. “The money is obviously critical, and it’s amazing to see how they’ve been able to raise all the funds. On top of this, the psychological support has been so helpful. Someone is thinking about us and what we need and how we’ll keep delivering these services so we’re not out there on our own.”

In the days and weeks ahead, JCHAI will continue to focus on supporting its clients and its staff through a difficult period. But if there is one good thing to come out of this experience, Levitan hopes it will change how we talk about people in our community who live with disabilities.

“So many times, people see those with disabilities as just taking. But this crisis has shown that they play pivotal roles in our community,” she said. “I am grateful that the Jewish Federation recognizes this and is helping so our staff can continue to provide support for all our clients. They are essential, my staff is essential. Our entire community is relying on our work all the way around.”


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