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THE SUNSHINE GIRLS VISITING PROGRAM

By: Frieda Schweky



Brightening Up Seniors’ Lives One Visit at a Time

The SBH Tawil Family Jersey Branch recently launched their newest initiative, The SunshineGirls Visiting Program. This volunteer-based program will add to the hesed opportunities available in the growing Jersey Shore community.

The Sunshine Girls mission is to visit senior and homebound community members living on the Jersey Shore on a regular basis.

Volunteers Mari Gindi and Stacey Gindi worked with Loren Hakim, Director of Volunteers and Programs at SBH, to organize and develop this program. Mari said, “We’re bringing back the grassroots part of SBH, the bikur holim, visiting the sick, the foundation of our community hesed.”

While many people visit regularly in their free time, this program offers a more organized structure, with the hopes of engaging more volunteers and ensuring more weekly visits.

The program is structured in small groups led by head volunteers who coordinate between six and eight volunteers to visit two or more seniors. With over 80 volunteers, currently there are ten groups assigned to 25 seniors. Not only do the seniors benefit from the program, but the visits become a social opportunity for the volunteers. Their buddy system requires at least two people to visit together, so it encourages social interactions and friendships. 

Kick-off for the Program

May 8th, 2019 marked the official launch of The Sunshine Girls at the Sephardic Social Center in West Deal. The event was a tremendous success. Over 100 women attended. It was a beautiful day, filled with uplifting speeches and practical information about visiting.

Laurie Mizrachi, Co-Chairperson of the SBH Jersey Branch, welcomed the crowd and introduced a video featuring community members sharing their experiences and talking about the inspiration they received while visiting.

Mozelle Safdieh, the keynote speaker, shared her own experiences interacting with seniors, and spoke about how those experiences have impacted her life. Mrs. Safdieh’s words were personal and inspiring. She recounted incredible stories told to her by former World War II veterans about the challenges they faced and the memories they held. 

Mrs. Safdieh offered valuable insight about how to communicate with seniors, and she explained why she felt they should be treated like royalty. Mrs. Safdieh stressed that our community elders paved the way for us to walk. Her words were truly inspirational, and left their mark on the audience.

Tips for Volunteers

Mari Gindi shared her excitement about the program and explained how it works. She reassured the women that while visiting is a worthwhile endeavor, it can be intimidating for those that have not done this before. She stressed that the goal is for the visits to be an enjoyable experience for both the volunteer and the person being visited. To that end, SBH will be there to support the volunteers and to make sure everyone feels comfortable.

Victoria Sutton, Director of SBH Senior Services in Brooklyn, offered practical advice for visiting by presenting mock cases so the audience could imagine how a visit would go. Mrs. Sutton gave realistic tips, like calling before a visit, announcing yourself when you arrive, and coming prepared with topics to talk about. She also advised the participants not to be afraid of awkward silences and pauses in conversation, and stressed that the volunteer’s main goal is to connect and to listen.

Mrs. Sutton also mentioned that science has proven that one’s health and the amount one socializes are interconnected. Seniors who are isolated and rarely visited are more at risk for depression than are more social individuals.

The day was a real success, inspiring many women to join the program and bring some sunshine into others’ lives. To volunteer or to suggest a person who would benefit from visits, please contact either Mari Gindi at 732-558-8350 or Loren Hakim at Loren@sbhonline.org.