Grantee Highlight: SBH Community Service Network

A One-Stop Shop for Seniors

For over forty years, SBH Community Service Network (also known as Sephardic Bikur Holim) has stood as a pillar of charity and volunteerism in Brooklyn. The organization has established itself as a one-stop shop for communities in need, including Jewish seniors suffering from physical and mental ailments. SBH started its Senior Services Division Captain’s Program in 2017 to offer even more personalized support for seniors, after noting the increasing number in need of extra care. The Sephardic Foundation on Aging (SFOA) played a critical role in bringing this program to life, and supporting its other needs, with $345,300 in grants to date.

Going the Extra Mile for Brooklyn’s Seniors

Among the seniors SBH served were numerous clients deemed to require “chronic care,” from medical and financial support to increased socialization. Many of these individuals were no longer in touch with their families and the Captain’s program filled that void by assigning them a volunteer to be their helping hands. The $292,800 grant from SFOA (paid over three years) helped get the program off the ground, allowing SBH to hire a social worker to oversee the program and train 24 captains who served 34 seniors.

“There would not have been a Captain’s Program without SFOA’s support,” says Marissa Wright, Coordinator of the Senior Captain’s Program.

Each Captain is a volunteer who, despite their other jobs and commitments, finds time to meet the often urgent needs of their seniors. One Captain contacted a client’s family, who had been out of touch with their father, after noticing some worrying medical issues. That call saved the client’s life as it was determined he had an undiagnosed urinary tract infection.

Pandemic Support

Like many community organizations, SBH’s operations were severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. With seniors unable to leave their homes to pick up groceries and Passover just around the corner, SFOA committed $20,000 in 2020 for its food pantry and meal delivery program. SBH received hundreds of requests by phone during this time, and the grant allowed each of them to be fulfilled. These deliveries were not just a necessity for survival – they provided much needed social interaction for clients. One senior’s Captain delivered meals to their house and spoke with her through the screen door. The senior’s daughter called the Captain her mom’s “angel.”

The pandemic isolated all seniors, forcing them to be quarantined from their friends, families, and neighbors. This caused tremendous mental and functional decline, significantly exacerbating the challenges already associated with aging. In comparison to 2019, SBH saw triple the number of requests from seniors for mental health services. A $32,500 grant from SFOA allowed SBH to hire a mental health counselor, who assessed over 1,000 seniors and conducted comprehensive mental health assessments.

Growing Need, Growing Support

SFOA’s grants not only allowed for the creation of a new program, it helped grow all of its services so they could reach more seniors in need – all the more important during an unprecedented pandemic. “It’s incredible that SFOA allowed us to expand these programs to what we needed,” says Marissa Wright.

Posted September 1, 2021