(Courtesy of JFS MetroWest) Jewish Family Service of MetroWest New Jersey (JFS) launched Tessie’s Touch to bring joy and connection to isolated older adults by matching them with a caring volunteer. Together, they can do activities and excursions in the community. Tessie’s Touch is an extension of JFS’ traditional Friendly Visiting program and allows them to go above and beyond for their seniors.
The program started in 2021 as a way for donor and Holocaust survivor Monique Dorman to pay tribute to her mother, Tessie. “I got connected to JFS via Café Europa in 2001. Because of the wonderful connections I made there, when mom passed away 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.” stated Dorman, who provided the seed money to launch Tessie’s Touch.
“Many older adults continue to be isolated or only have their very basic needs met. 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,” said Stephanie Grove, LCSW, senior director of volunteer services at JFS.
Each senior is paired one-on-one 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, attending a show or movie they had been looking forward to seeing 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. 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.” stated Taylor Ruszczyk, MSW, LSW, JFS volunteer services coordinator.
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 with Tessie’s Touch, contact Ruszczyk at [email protected] or 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 submit an update of the visit to the program coordinator online.
Background Story of Tessie’s Touch
Having experienced antisemitism in Czechoslovakia, Tessie’s family fled to Paris, where she soon met her future husband, Jonnie. During World War II, the young family went into hiding. Tessie had brought along a small piece of bread for nourishment. When a stranger mentioned she was hungry, Tessie broke off a piece for her to have. This act became symbolic of the person Tessie was: someone always ready to help others. Her kindness in that moment was rewarded in so many ways; the entire family survived poverty, hunger and fear through the help of friends, nuns who hid them in their convent and the kindness of strangers.
After the War ended, Tessie, Jonnie, and their daughter, Monique, moved to New York City seeking the freedoms of America. Tessie is remembered for her generosity and her sense of humor. To celebrate her memory, Tessie’s daughter, Monique, and son-in-law, Lucas, created Tessie’s Touch, a program designed to provide joy and connection for seniors as they age.
Financial support for Tessie’s Touch has been provided in part by the Morris County Board of Commissioners. For more information, please call (973)765-9050 or visit www.jfsmetrowest.org