Behind the Scenes with JCS’ Ben Levey

Like many of his days since the COVID-19 pandemic set in, Ben Levey has been working nonstop. As the Senior Manager of Access Services at Jewish Community Services (JCS), an agency of The Associated, he has been overseeing a team of JCS staff committed to helping community members who are facing challenges find resources and services during these unprecedented times.

Since JCS went virtual with its services, a typical day in Levey’s life looks quite different than it did only a short time ago. Not only is he ensuring that existing clients receive the support they need – albeit in the new virtual environment—but he is finding himself at the heart of the growing concerns facing the community.

Each day brings a number of calls into the JCS hotline from community members, seeking both financial and mental health support and someone to talk to or help them get through the pandemic. As The Associated agency that is serving as the central address for these issues, Levey is in charge of making sure they reach the right person or Associated agency, be it JCS, CHAI, CHANA, among others.

“We are getting a number of calls from across the community — people concerned about financial issues,” he says. “Some are worried that they are going to be evicted, and JCS is reassuring them that the Governor has put policies in place so they can’t be. Many others don’t know how they are going to put food on the table.”

In fact, each day JCS is seeing a number of these requests from older adults who are unable to go online to access food delivery. Or, they’ve been dependent upon a family member who was shopping for them and is no longer able to do so.

To that end, Levey says JCS is working across the community to ensure that they do not go hungry. For example, they might contact a member’s synagogue, where a volunteer may help. Or, if an older adult lives in a Weinberg Senior Living residence, JCS professionals might reach out to staff members to check in and ensure they have the resources they need.

Yet not all the calls are about financial concerns. Levey says there has been an increase in the number of people calling to request therapy for mental health concerns like anxiety, stress, and depression due to the COVID-19 crisis. These individuals are being connected with available JCS therapists.   

JCS has even begun offering small discussion groups, and some of its support groups online using video conferencing, including a grief support group for widows and widowers. Just a few weeks ago, these widows and widowers were together talking face-to-face about their losses.

Though the format has changed, by taking the group online, they still have the opportunity to share their experiences and get the support they need.

“I’m amazed how quickly our agency adjusted,” Levey says. “We are doing everything remotely – by phone, Zoom, Skype, Facetime – in order to keep people connected to resources. It has been a team effort.”

This pandemic is having an impact in every aspect of the community. And, although much is still unknown, Levey believes that the team effort, thanks to being part of an Associated system, is what enables JCS to quickly pivot to meet the changing needs.

“We’ve weathered difficult times before. Times are tough, but thankfully, we’ve seen the people in our community who can help step up and provide the resources that we will get us through this,” he says.

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