Jewish Family Service of MetroWest NJ launched Tessie’s Touch to bring joy and connection to isolated older adults by matching them with a caring volunteer. Together, they do activities and excursions in the community.
The program, an extension of JFS’s Friendly Visiting program, started in 2021 as a way for donor Monique Dorman, a Holocaust survivor, to pay tribute to her mother, Tessie. “I got connected to JFS via Café Europa in 2001, Ms. Dorman said. “Because of the wonderful connections I made there, when mom passed five years ago, we started this program for seniors to forget their worries and spend quality time with a volunteer. The future is growing the program in a way that as the agency grows, the organization will continue to grow Tessie’s Touch.”
“Many older adults continue to be isolated or only have their very basic needs met,” Stephanie Grove, the senior director of volunteer services at JFS, said. “Tessie’s Touch allows older adults to experience something they are passionate about. Whether it’s going to a museum, seeing a show, or just grabbing a hot meal with a new friend, our clients can choose the activity and not worry about the logistics or cost.”
Each senior is paired with a volunteer to facilitate a deeper connection through shared experiences and activities. JFS staff will work with the pair to find an activity that brings them joy, such as a trip to a botanical garden, seeing a show or movie, or sharing a meal at a local restaurant. Tessie’s Touch will cover the cost of the activities and transportation.
“We are so excited to expand Tessie’s Touch into Morris County,” Taylor Ruszczyk, JFS volunteer services coordinator, said. “During our time in Essex, this program has funded birthday celebrations, therapeutic animal visits, outings to museums, and so much more. These activities are personal and meaningful to the clients and help them forge deep connections with their volunteers. The program’s sole mission is to bring joy to older adults and we’re looking forward to reaching the Morris County community.”
If you or a loved one is interested in being paired with a volunteer to enjoy outings together or if you would like to volunteer, email Ms. Ruszczyk at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at (973) 637-1742. Volunteers must submit to a background check. The program commitment is one hour once a week and the schedule of meetings is flexible. Volunteers are expected to report their hours monthly through the JFS volunteer tracking system and give an online update of the visit to the program coordinator.