During this season of thanks, I’m humbled and filled with deep gratitude for the enduring partnerships which form the core of Sweet Readers and resonate through every facet of our work and communities.
Isolation can be a terrifying experience and this year, along with partner loneliness, it became a new common ground transcending gender, race, geography and age.
The opposite of isolation is connection and that’s what we’re all about. Countless partners have come together to make our work impactful – I could list hundreds easily, but in the interest of time, will limit myself to five.
Below are 5 examples of partnerships which have flipped the frame from isolation to connection. These of course only scratch the surface and don’t include the most obvious partnerships – that of the Sweet Readers and Adult Partners which we highlight in every Newsletter and throughout the blog.
- Family Caregiver Alliance awarded us a grant in early 2020. Their focus is on the caregiver experience and our award was for the innovative and creative nature of our method. The partnership with Family Caregiver Alliance enabled us to pivot quickly, create a new web site, new training and new protocols so that young people – disrupted themselves – could be empowered to immediately reach isolated elders in need. In the first three months we facilitated over 300 visits and group sessions. The feedback has been excellent!
- When the pandemic hit, eldercare centers around the world were majorly disrupted and older adults with and without cognitive impairment were further isolated, seriously threatening their lives and well being. Reaching them was especially challenging as basic health & safety needed to take precedence over human connection, let alone figuring out technologies. Dr. Sam Gandy and Faye Linker at Mount Sinai immediately went into action and started prescribing Sweet Readers to their patients. With the Family Caregiver Alliance Grant, we were able to have trained Ambassadors (students from 5th graders to college juniors) at the ready and they were able to immediately and meaningfully engage their patients. This was true for so many of our eldercare partners and none of the engagement would have been possible without them.
- When the pandemic hit, I was in the middle of chemo treatments and during the surge, I was compelled to relocate to Boston from Manhattan as a matter of my health and safety. I was all alone in a new city and yet never felt isolated. I attribute that, in large part, to all of the young people (from 5th graders to college juniors) who surrounded me and my assistant Nicole – they, along with our school and eldercare partners were my partners and while together we were making a difference in their and their elder partners’ lives, they were all making a difference in mine.
- Sweet Readers has been fortunate to work with a talented designer for many years – since the very beginning, actually! Because we had worked so well together, because of the strength of that partnership, we were able to quickly rebrand Sweet Readers to create Sweet Readers Connect. Chris Allio made that possible. The strength of that partnership lies in Chris’ incredible talent and generosity and our ability to communicate well together. Without good branding and messaging, it’s much harder to connect with isolated people in need.
- As this will probably be his last year serving on our board (he has been trying to retire for years), I’d like to spotlight one of my greatest partners, the former President of the college from which I received my bachelor’s degree, Lafayette College, David Ellis. David’s guiding light these past 8 years has been the fuel to keep me engaged on a higher level. This year, in addition to being a steady hand and trusted counselor, David introduced Sweet Readers to RiverWoods, a residence for older adults in Durham, NH. RiverWoods has been a wonderful new partner for Sweet Readers and it has been a pleasure to watch couples, even those without cognitive impairment, meaningfully engage with students in Toronto, Connecticut and Chicago. David’s partnership has helped the work of Sweet Readers to stay connected rather than isolated!
Thank you Family Caregiver Alliance and all of our other donors and funders, Dr. Gandy, Faye Linker and all of our care providers, Jodie Berman, Jackie LeBau, Chris Diaz and all of our eldercare partners, Dara Cohen, Chris Allio, David Ellis, Dr. Linda DeCherrie, all of our adult participants, Sweet Readers, Young Leaders, Liaisons, Facilitators, Administrators and School Partners. Happily, the list is too long to write here; but the message I hope to leave you with is, you are not alone! Be a partner, find a friend, reach out; because with good partners, you can truly make a difference and flip the frame from isolation to connection.
Wishing you and yours lots of love and laughter….Happy Thanksgiving!