Helene Goldberg and her husband Morton are getting ready to celebrate 70 years of marriage on June 4. But at age 92 and 96 respectively, the Leisure World couple don’t get out of the house, especially with the coronavirus situation.
Before the pandemic, the Goldbergs would occasionally spend their Wednesdays having lunch at the Alpert Jewish Community Center. The JCC has been hosting the lunches for more than a dozen years, offering local seniors companionship and a low-cost hot meal.
Now, the Alpert JCC is partnering with The Grand of Long Beach to create ready-made meals that volunteers pick up from the JCC and deliver — for free — to seniors without any contact. More than 80 meals were delivered two weeks ago and requests grew to more than 200 last week, according to Jeffrey Rips, the center’s executive director.
“Our goal is to keep our seniors connected and cared for,” Rips said. "We want them to know that they are not abandoned during this time and that we care about them. We want to continue offering services that provide support for their physical, social, and mental health.”
Helene Goldberg said she is grateful for the effort the JCC is putting forth because her husband is wheelchair-bound and she is dependent on a walker.
“The lunch delivery is something that is above and beyond,” she said. “It’s just wonderful. They come to the door and they just hand us the meal. Last week, they gave us linguini and a cookie and a bottle of water. It was very kind of them to think of people who can’t get out.”
Rips said the JCC’s next-door neighbor, The Grand, has been a huge help in producing the meals.
“They have been amazing for us,” he said. “We could not do this without them. The Grand only charges us $5 per hot meal. The Grand is an awesome partner.”
Volunteers have been the backbone for this lunch program. The JCC sponsors a senior volunteer program, but center members have pitched in as well.
“People want to reach out and help,” Rips said. “Seniors say they love the lunch, but they love the relationships that are being built as well.”
Danielle Van Divort is a volunteer and her parents are participants in the lunch program. When the program started three weeks ago, she and her son Simon, 15, delivered lunches to just a few houses. Last week, they delivered 18 lunches to people who live in Leisure World.
“To get out of the house once a week and to just see how happy this makes some people is really cool,” she said. “Some people have tears in their eyes because they are happy to interact.”
Simon, who goes to Wilson High School, is happy to volunteer; he’s just been trying to find things to do.
“Most of the people are really happy and have big smiles,” he said. “Just a little bit of socializing with them makes their day. A lot of them tell us to have a nice day. I’m just happy I can give back.”
The Alpert JCC, 3801 E. Willow St., depends on donations and asks the community for its assistance in continuing the Senior Lunch Delivery Program by donating directly to alpertjcc.org.