Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Despite the restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, Friendship Circle is still running a variety of virtual programming to keep its participants, parents and volunteers busy and engaged.

Sunday Hebrew school now takes place over Zoom, where teachers are planning Shavuot and Lag B’Omer lessons and crafts, the materials for which will be delivered to each family’s doorstep.

Friends at Home is happening digitally as well. Volunteers connect with members over Zoom or FaceTime in order to socialize. Volunteers have begun to do birthday and check-in drive-bys, complete with music and decorative signs, toys and games in order to connect and help celebrate birthdays as closely as they can during this pandemic.

Zeesy Grossbaum, the director of Friendship Circle in Bergen County, has extended the age of eligibility for Friends at Home members, and has seen an increase in attendees since the program went digital.

Friendship Circle groups throughout the nation are also pooling their resources to provide a daily schedule of activities. Mornings usually start at 7 or 8 and include music, karate, zumba, art and much more. Afternoon and evening activities include dance, tai chi and meditation, and bedtime story reading.

Mothers also get to participate in a variety of interactive “Moms’ Night Out” activities. They can tune in for yoga sessions, spa nights, baking sessions and flower arranging classes in time for Shavuot. Friendship Circle also mailed out Mothers Day gifts to show appreciation for all they do.

“We have also reached out to mothers to see if there is anything we can do to help them,” said Grossbaum. “Even if it’s something small, if we can help, we will.”

In addition to the time spent with Friendship Circle members, volunteers can also bond with each other by participating in Friendship Circle’s Kahoot games.

“The volunteers have been so proactive during this time,” Grossbaum said. “They created their own tutorial videos for members showing them different ways to play with playdough. Everyone has been so great about sharing their resources.”

Friendship Circle in Livingston, New Jersey offered a special event this past weekend for families. It hosted a car parade on Sunday, May 10, through the Township of West Orange, to visit children with special needs who are at home because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The car parade included members of the West Orange Police Department, West Orange Fire Department and dedicated Friendship Circle teen volunteers.

“As hard as social isolation is for most of us during this pandemic, it is impossibly difficult for people with special needs. Our parents report this has been devastating to their children, and that their behavioral challenges are greatly exacerbated by social isolation and disruption to their daily routine,” said Friendship Circle CEO Zalman Grossbaum. “What better way to ‘visit’ our families while ensuring social distancing than through a car parade with some of our local volunteers and law enforcement heroes!”

All schedules and updates can be found on the group’s Facebook page, FC Goes Virtual. For more information on Friendship Circle’s programming in your area, please visit www.bcfriendship.com, www.FCNJ.com or www.LifeTown.com.

By Elizabeth Zakaim