Key Takeaways

NISC Programs of Excellence 

  • Year Awarded: 2021 (see all 2021 Programs of Excellence Winners)
  • Programs of Excellence Name: CheckMates
  • Hosting Organization: JCC of Greater Pittsburgh
  • PIttsburgh Population: 299,434
  • Senior Center Members: 10,000

About CheckMates

Healthy relationships are necessary at every age and perhaps even more vital for older adults who are feeling isolated, but still living independently. The CheckMates program featured weekly phone calls from a peer to reduce social isolation and connect older adults to resources via caring discussions. 

The program's 22 volunteers developed strong bonds over the phone with those they called. Volunteers provided information about upcoming programs and events that are available including activities around socialization, education, congregate and home delivered meals, COVID-19 vaccine information and clinics, and more. 

In 2021, 11,421 calls were made with an average of 219/week. As one volunteer said, "I’m a volunteer, but by calling my CheckMates people it helps me….it helps me emotionally, too."

Key takeaways from CheckMates

  • Often, the phone calls turned into a phone friendship that developed over time. Volunteers benefit just as much as the recipient, but often in different ways. 
  • Before and during the pandemic, these calls created a connection so that older adults knew someone was thinking about them and could also provide caring support, with their words, and concrete support when our social worker could connect the person to needed resources in the community. 
  • Volunteers benefited by having the opportunity to continue volunteering during the pandemic, unlike so many other volunteer opportunities. Our volunteers found that by calling from home, they were able to spend more time talking with their CheckMates "friends" and developed a stronger bond. 
  • Although the pandemic impacted everyone in so many ways, the program's directors noticed that the older adults who were already receiving phone calls seemed to be less impacted because they were already aware of available resources, staying home wasn't unusual and they were already connected (and felt connected) to other people. 
  • Many participants wanted weekly phone calls after the first month or two of the pandemic (once they realized that this isolation was going to last for a long time). 

About the JCC of Greater Pittsburgh

The Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, a member of the Jewish Community Center Association of North America, is one of the largest social service, recreational and educational organizations in the region. Comprehensive programming includes child care and preschool, after-school and school’s-out programs, day and overnight camping, senior adult activities, fitness and wellness programs, special needs services, arts and cultural activities including a nationally-accredited Jewish museum and scores of programs for all ages and interests.