The Life Affirming Work Continues

By Arlene Schragger

Thanks to the generosity of Southern Ocean County residents during this coronavirus pandemic, Interfaith Health & Support Services of Ocean County (IHSS) has been able to distribute food, gift cards and funds to local food pantries. This aid and the work of selfless IHSS volunteers who put themselves at risk to provide services during these unprecedented times have helped seniors immeasurably and is so appreciated.

Even at the height of the pandemic, IHSS’ doors remained open to the mission of providing services such as transportation to non-emergency doctor appointments, friendly visiting, shopping, phone reassurance calls and respite care to caregivers whose loved ones have Alzheimer’s. In fact, in the last year, IHSS’ food shopping and reassurance calls increased by more than 60%. Thanks to the support of the Causeway Family of Dealerships and the Ocean First Foundation, IHSS acquired a used twelve passenger van used to transport the elderly, isolated, and homebound to senior centers for a day of socialization and nutrition.

The brand-new Little Egg Harbor office now includes an area where seniors who are not able to physically get to the organizations that provide senior services can use IHSS computers and Zoom for a virtual visit to these sites. IHSS volunteers assist with the Zoom process so seniors can participate in programs and receive direct information from the State Health Insurance, Jersey Assistance for Community Caregiving, Pharmaceutical Assistance for the Aged and Disabled, Meals on Wheels, and many other programs. Volunteers in Little Egg Harbor and Manahawkin also visit the homebound, grocery shop, relieve a primary caregiver, drive seniors to a routine medical appointment, provide pet therapy, conduct arts and crafts programs, do in-home hair cutting, and reassurance calls.

Donated free medical equipment is also available at both locations: Walkers, wheelchairs, and more are just a phone call away. A new program, in partnership with the Ocean County Library and thanks to the generous support of the Causeway Family of Dealerships and the Ocean First Foundation, will enable IHSS to transport care receivers to the library for senior events as well as the opportunity for them to sign out materials. For residents who are unable to physically enjoy the library setting, IHSS will act as the bridge between the library and the care receivers, assisting them in signing up for a library card, signing out, and delivering materials including audio books available on Playways. The library will supply Playways. IHSS will supply headphones and batteries.

Upcoming events for 2021 include the Annual Designer Bag Bingo on September 24 at St. Mary’s Parish Center. The Volunteer Recognition Dinner is scheduled for October 1. An exciting first time Statewide Caregiver & Volunteer Conference is scheduled for October 23 at St. Mary’s Parish Center.

If you can volunteer, make a donation, have questions or know of someone who could use IHSS’ help, please call 609-879-5590 in Little Egg Harbor or 609-978-3839 in Manahawkin.

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