JFS finds new superpowers to help individuals dealing with Isolation 2020

October 23, 2020

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Pandemic isolation affects everyone differently. It’s human kryptonite. Nobody is immune because there is no antidote for the great equalizer—the need for human connection.

Since 1946, Jewish Family Service of Tidewater has been fighting isolation-induced illness, anxiety and depression, as a transition partner to vulnerable members of the Jewish community.

JFS funding provides a lifeline to Jewish families and individuals experiencing financial hardship as well as those living with developmental disabilities. Add COVID to the mix, where the activity bus is shut down, and the agency’s need to be creative superheroes combating isolation, increases tenfold.

Special needs call for special people. Maryann Kettyle has been the Special Needs Case Manager for JFS since 2012.

Kettyle recently lost a client who passed away in the hospital alone and scared. Her biggest comfort is knowing they made arrangements for his brother to be with him on the day he passed. “We had a very unique relationship,” says Kettyle. “He had a big personality. I worry about the group getting back together and feeling that loss.”

Some of her clients, who are under 60 when they start working together, age up and stay with her for years.

Kettyle wears a lot of hats. She is a job and interview coach, facilitator who helps people apply for food stamps and fill out other necessary forms, and a caring soul who helps combat agonizing loneliness with long phone chats. She also acts as a patient advocate who will interact with medical professionals on a client’s behalf. This is especially helpful in the season of telehealth, an additional pandemic-produced challenge for everyone, not just someone with special needs, or their caretakers.

When performing certain tasks like writing a resume or applying for Affordable Care, Kettyle allows space for people to master what they can and if they hit a wall, they feel her presence. I tell them, ‘You can do this and I’m here to help you. If you get stuck, we can talk it through,’” says Kettyle.

Recently, she assisted a patient with a telehealth appointment, and was able to communicate on her behalf to the doctor, resulting in an appropriate prescription.

“Many have lost employment and insurance and won’t be returning to those jobs. I will help them demystify Affordable Care and tell them, ‘call me and we can do it together on your computer’ if they have connectivity. Some clients don’t have wifi or money to pay for it. They don’t have a computer so I use remote access to JFS server. I fill it in for them and get the tracking number so the local agent can contact them directly.”

“I am so impressed by the stupendous support for the Jewish community,” says Kettyle.

“Three clients passed away due to COVID. JFS helped with financial support for burial, and emotional support while they were ill. We called every day and talked to them.”

Kettyle’s positivity is safely spreading to the upcoming Hanukkah Children’s project which will look completely different than past events where people gathered and hugged with gratitude.

“This year people are not comfortable going into stores or picking up gifts so we’re doing a Gift Card drive. I hope it will be fruitful, and that donors feel just as good giving in this way.”

A lot of my clients have teenage kids and when they get a Starbucks gift card for a latte or hot chocolate, they feel just like other kids, and for that moment their cup is full.”

This is part of a series of articles spotlighting local and overseas partner agencies that are beneficiaries of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s annual Community Campaign.

–Lisa Richmon

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