JFS Pairs Volunteers with Older Adults for Shopping Experience

Picking out a new outfit for the High Holidays was the highlight of 102-year-old Henriette’s day. “I haven’t gone shopping in ages because I have to have somebody go with me,” she said before choosing a jacket, blouse and skirt to wear to synagogue. “I’m so glad that I came out today.”

Henriette and two other women who have few opportunities to get out and go shopping were treated to a fun day out with Jewish Family Service of the Lehigh Valley on Sept. 12 at Boscov’s.

Before the big day, each client received a home visit from a volunteer to review their wardrobe and budget and create a wish list. Transportation to and from the store was provided by these volunteers, who served as personal shoppers during the event.

The event began with a brief welcome before the volunteer-client pairs split off to do their shopping. After the shopping experience, each pair went out to lunch at a local restaurant.

“It was just wonderful,” said Dolores, who received the personal attention of Boscov’s associates. “I can’t say how appreciative I am. Otherwise, I never would have been able to come out and enjoy a day like this, and I’m in my favorite store!”

Boscov’s was enthusiastic to be able to provide this experience for the shoppers. “Boscov’s is a very community-oriented department store,” said Jessica Blasco, Boscov’s regional manager. “We welcome any opportunity we are presented with to help our customers and the members of our community and give them the ability to come out shopping. We just want to make them comfortable, and we want to make it a fun, enjoyable experience for them.”

“They had everything prepared. They had personal shoppers arranged, they provided bags of snacks and gifts, they’ve really been a dream to work with,” said Carol Wilson, JFS coordinator of older adult services.

“Several months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting with a 92 year old client. She explained that due to health challenges, her clothing no longer fit properly and barriers to transportation made it difficult to go shopping. She was also looking for the social aspect that comes with spending the day shopping with a friend. My conversations with this client were the inspiration for Shopping & Sharing,” Wilson said. “It's a unique program and one we hope to replicate again in the spring. We have a waiting list of clients who would truly benefit from this program.”

Chelsea Karp, JFS's volunteer coordinator, was in charge of preparing the volunteers for the event.  "We've talked a lot about the benefit for the clients, but it’s not just about shopping. We're using shopping as a vehicle to have a ladies' day out, freshen up their wardrobes and feel connected to our community. Our volunteers, all avid shoppers, have shown great enthusiasm and passion for this project. They know how good it feels to have an afternoon of Shopping & Sharing.”

Each volunteer was enthusiastic about her role in helping brighten an older adult’s day. “My personal belief is that when you look good, it changes your whole outlook, so I just want to add a little bit of sunshine and happiness so that our older generation feels like a part of this community,” said volunteer Naomi Schachter.

“It was terrific! I’m happy to give back to people who could use some help. We are a lucky community to be so close-knit and family-like, and it gives me joy to be able to help somebody else,” added Beth Kozinn, another volunteer.

Tama Lee Barsky, another volunteer, said, “When I first heard about it, I thought it was exciting! I love to shop and I love to help people with their choices of clothing, and I thought it would be a great day out, especially for these women who maybe don’t get out a lot.”

At the end of the day, the collaboration between Boscov’s, JFS and volunteers brought great joy to the clients. “I’m loving it,” Helen said as she made her purchase. “I’m alone all the time, and I don’t get out anymore, so this was the biggest treat anybody could have made for me.