For more than a decade, a dedicated group of more than 40 friends has gathered at the Levy Senior Center each week to play Bingo, socialize and have fun. And while their regular in-person games were suspended with the stay-at-home order, some members of the Bingo group were able to stay connected online, thanks to a group of generous high school volunteers who have made a difference. Through a new volunteer program organized by the Levy Senior Center Foundation (LSCF) leadership the teens were able to provide support to older adults in this challenging time.
“This exciting partnerhip is mutually beneficial because it allows the students to provide valuable assistance to the older adults in our community while earning community service credit,” said Judy Newton, LSCF chairperson. “It’s truly special to see how generations can connect through joint activities, even in a virtual environment.”
Lindsey Jacobs, a rising junior at Evanston Township High School, is one of the students who volunteered to help bring the Bingo group online so the seniors could play. Here’s what she had to say about helping out:
“I had been thinking about how I was struggling with quarantine and the lock down all while I still had school and other activities running through Zoom. I thought about how much harder this has to be for seniors who have been even more locked down, don’t have activities to keep them busy, or maybe aren’t near any family and feel pretty alone in this. I heard about this program and was really eager to help make this time easier for the seniors through a Bingo game.”
Sydney TerMolen, another Bingo volunteer, says in talking with the players she realized how important Bingo is to the group and how hard it is has been to lose those social connections.
“When I found out that the Levy Senior Center was organizing Zoom bingo, I thought it was really cool,” TerMolen said. “Since school ended, I haven't been able to have natural social interactions, and I think it's important for people to connect. Because of the pandemic, a lot of people are losing touch with their friends, and haven't had an excuse to see people. “
Men’s Basketball Team Gets into Yoga
In addition to Zoom Bingo, two student volunteers (with parental help, too!) were also able to offer the Levy Senior Center men’s basketball program online assistance in the form of regular yoga lessons. Student volunteers Ascher and Noah Levin jumped in to help.
Men’s basketball team member Bob Swedlow participated in the Zoom yoga class, which was conducted by Adam Levin, Noah and Ascher’s dad. “It was very helpful for both mind and soul,” Swedlow said. “The poses were stimulating, and just as important was the ability to join with friends, even if only online. I enjoyed the experience so much that I'm disappointed that we only have one more session. Thanks to all involved for making this happen!”
“When the pandemic started, we were concerned about our grandparents being so isolated,” they said. “We knew they took many precautions because they were in a high risk category. We wanted to find a way to support and connect with seniors in our city during this time of isolation. We are both part of the ETHS basketball program and we thought it would be fun to work on yoga with the Levy Senior Center basketball team as a way to maintain flexibility. It has been a great experience working with these wonderful people to promote health while staying safe.”
Group Help in the Gardens
Help from local teen volunteers wasn’t limited to the web. In fact, another group of teens donated their time outside to help maintain the newly installed Levy Senior Center front gardens. Bennett Pascal, Chance Pape, Jacob Erhart and Elliott Sherman visited the Center numerous times with rakes in hand to help provide supplemental maintenance for the Levy Center entrance gardens.
“In this time when the community is struggling through a crisis, it feels nice to be able to give back, even in the littlest ways,” Jacob said.
Bennett added, “It has been immensely rewarding to not only give back to our community of seniors but our City as well during these times are hardships. The four of us are proud of what we have accomplished and are grateful for the opportunity to serve our community.”
Finally, the Levy Senior Center Foundation has also tapped some student volunteers to assist seniors with simple technology troubleshooting. For anyone who would like a Zoom lesson or who wants to learn how to text, this could be just a great fit. Anyone looking for help may contact the Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Story by Belinda Clarke. Originally published in the Evanston RoundTable Thursday, July 30, 2020.