For ten weeks, while our building remained closed, staff worked to adjust and adapt appropriately to the necessary societal changes. It became clear that our strength was never about our physical building. The JCA reached into the community to ensure that our community partners were able to continue to deliver their missions. JCA staff was reassigned to assist our sister agencies, Jewish Family and Community Services and River Garden Senior Services and their Coves Independent Living Community, who had an increased need for support. JCA staff food shopped for Coves residents, who were not able to leave campus. Staff also helped monitor entry to the River Garden Senior Services campus, 12-hours each day, seven days a week, to help protect vulnerable nursing home residents. JCA staff covered daily shifts at the Jewish Family and Community Services Max Block Food Pantry, which experienced unprecedented demand.
The JCA’s multiphase plan to reopen included opening preschool care on May 18 and other program areas on June 1, including a modified summer childcare program for children ages 2-14. All newly established protocols either meet or exceed all recommended regulations. According to CEO Adam Chaskin, “It became clear that one of the biggest challenges facing our city was how people would return to work without sufficient childcare, especially for elementary aged children. The JCA is a place that people trust, and we wanted to do everything in our power to try to reopen safely and continue to serve those who count on us.”
Once again, the JCA reached into the community and approached our local synagogues for support, Congregation Ahavath Chesed (The Temple) the Jacksonville Jewish Center (The Center). All local clergy agreed that offering summer childcare reflected Jewish values of supporting a community in need, and both The Temple and The Center agreed to house extensions of the JCA summer childcare program, which has allowed the program to reduce group sizes and eliminated group mixing. The program, renamed J Days of Summer, demonstrates the implementation of mission driven programming, regardless of increased costs and scholarship awards, that has led to an unprecedented community collaboration.
As a result of our community collaborations, the JCA was able to continue to serve as a convener of Jewish Jacksonville and remain committed to our mission to serve as a common meeting ground beyond the walls of our physical building.