During the COVID-19 pandemic, the East Valley Jewish Community Center has been meeting the community’s emergency needs such as providing food and small relief grants, thereby demonstrating Jewish values throughout the East Valley. Support and activities intended to reach as many people as possible began near the end of March, and will continue.

Recognizing the efforts of frontline responders, food was delivered to local hospitals, police and fire departments and city workers. Special awards were presented to local stores, thanking their workers for keeping stores open, clean and providing for the community. These are the people who help us maintain our daily lives during difficult periods.

More than 1,500 households were contacted at least twice, with some receiving more calls depending on their expressed needs. Assessments helped determine additional needs and the required actions to meet them. At present, 47 families are receiving financial assistance in the form of small relief grants to cover immediate rent/mortgage and utility expenses.

Counseling and support to at least 250 of the contacted households is ongoing. Rabbi Michael Beyo has provided counseling and chaplaincy services to more than 100 individuals.

Further, the number of families needing grocery supplies has increased. Currently, more than 75 homebound seniors are being assisted with groceries and deliveries of other necessary items. This is an increase over the previous 50 who have already received support. For the community-at-large, two food drive-thrus were held at the campus.

The hearts and minds of our community are assisted in other ways as well.

Over 700 online classes, story times and other forms of connection between students and teachers have reached more than 100 children, easing some of the effects of social isolation and cabin fever. When parents are stressed about finances and job uncertainty, these classes and contacts provide a modicum of normalcy, providing relief for both parents and children.

Hundreds of people logged on to view the EVJCC’s special virtual programs and took part in presentations and discussions about Jewish-themed programs shown on Netflix. One of the actors in Unorthodox participated in one discussion, and questions could be submitted to be answered during the presentations or at the conclusion.

Before Passover, classes on preparations and how to conduct a seder were held. Ongoing text-based open Beit Midrash classes are held every Thursday and have more than 125 adult logins.

All of this is made possible through careful planning by the CEO and staff, supported by funds carefully monitored and supplemented by contributions from members of the community, including board members, and two rounds of grants from Jewish Federation.

If you wish to help people in the East Valley, please visit evjcc.org and click on “COVID 19 Fund.” JN

Jane Wabnik is a business and public issues consultant and a member of the East Valley Jewish Community Center’s board of directors.

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