Grantee Highlight: DOROT
Alone but Not Forgotten: Alleviating Social Isolation for NYC Elders.
The Sephardic Home for the Aged began a new chapter in 2015 when it transformed into a private grantmaking foundation now known as The Sephardic Foundation on Aging (SFOA). One year later it made its first grant to DOROT. Located a few blocks from Central Park, DOROT is dedicated to easing the isolation that burdens so many Jewish elders in New York City. SFOA contributed a total of $245,000 in grants over four years, expanding DOROT’s flagship Door to Door program and keeping its services reliable during the uncertainty of the pandemic.
The Door to Door program has become DOROT’s most popular service. With many seniors unable to leave their home, DOROT provides Travel Companions who shop for food, household supplies and medicine. The program’s popularity soon became an issue, with waitlists limiting the number of seniors DOROT could serve.
By the end of 2018, SFOA had contributed $175,000 in grants, allowing DOROT to hire a Program Manager and double their Travel Companions from four to six. The new staff allowed DOROT to expand participants served by 50%. “SFOA’s support of Door to Door has made a world of difference to so many older adults who live alone,” says DOROT Executive Director Mark Meridy.
The pandemic’s impact on New York City elders was immediate. Senior centers that elders relied on for lunch closed, and social distancing exacerbated social isolation. DOROT once again called on SFOA, which allocated a total of $70,000 to DOROT in 2020, helping ensure seniors had the support they needed to weather the crisis.
SFOA’s initial grants focused on expanding meal delivery, but perhaps most critical was the need for emotional support. DOROT’s staff of social workers was overwhelmed by the pandemic, according to Meridy. “We were serving significantly more people than we were even a year prior,” he says. “The status quo was no longer working.” A $20,000 grant from SFOA paid for an additional social worker to support recipients of Kosher Meals at Home, Holocaust survivors and more.
A $50,000 grant also allowed for the continuation of a holiday tradition: Thanksgiving meal deliveries. A total of 552 seniors received their meals from volunteers who also called them for a holiday chat. One senior noted that this was the first time in decades she wasn’t with family for the holidays. “I thought I might feel lonely eating alone,” she says. “Because I felt ‘served’ with this wonderful meal, I enjoyed the experience and felt deep gratitude.”
DOROT operates on a simple but foundational value: ensuring no elder must suffer through isolation. Thanks to well-timed support from SFOA, the organization was able to fulfill that promise even amidst a pandemic. According to Meridy, SFOA has been more than a grantmaker; it’s been a true partner. “Thanks to the generosity of SFOA, we are successfully advancing our mission,” says Meridy.