JCC Chicago, YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago join partner to engage grandparents

  • JCC Chicago and YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago have partnered to offer the free Write Your Story program for grandparents, which starts Sunday, May 30.

    JCC Chicago and YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago have partnered to offer the free Write Your Story program for grandparents, which starts Sunday, May 30. Courtesy of JCC Chicago

Updated 5/26/2021 3:59 PM

This past year has definitely presented challenges for nonprofit organizations whose purpose is to enrich lives and build community. But, with necessity being the mother of invention, oh, the possibilities that came to light! Organizations who had never explored the opportunities to work together suddenly became solid partners in meeting common missions.

With so many seniors physically and emotionally isolated from their grandchildren, JCC Chicago partnered with the Grandparent-Grandchild Connection, an organization founded by Jerry Witkovsky, a longtime member of the North Shore community and author of the book, "The Grandest Love: Inspiring the Grandparent Grandchild Connection," to provide an opportunity for grandparents to share their stories with their grandchildren.


Throughout the year, over 500 grandparents have signed up with the J for the free Write Your Story program to receive writing prompts to document memories to share with loved ones and grandchildren. Now, the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago is joining JCC Chicago and Grandparent Grandchild Connection to expand the reach and impact of the program.

Taking a walk down memory lane has been fun and enjoyable for the participants who are documenting their memories in 10-minute writing sessions twice weekly. Sample prompts have included, "On my wedding day," "My first day of high school," and "My favorite Thanksgiving tradition growing up."

Grandparents have written to share the impact that the process of writing these stories has made for them and their families. "Enjoying every minute of this project!!" said one enthusiastic writer. They are also invited to share their memories with JCC Chicago's community by posting on the J's website.

This latest collaboration was the brainchild of long time JCC Chicago board member Chuck Frank, who is also a member of the board of directors for the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago. As a participant in the program, he recognized its impact and the opportunity to share this program beyond the Jewish community with a new 6-week series of prompts that will begin on Sunday, May 30. Says Chuck: "As a volunteer member for over 25 years of the board of directors for both JCC Chicago and the YMCA of Metro Chicago, I have tried to bring the best ideas, practices and programs from one organization to the other. So, I am thrilled on both a personal and professional level to see this grandparenting connection taking off. So many, like myself, will benefit from it and create stronger families and communities."

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After meeting with the leadership at the YMCA, the J realized the potential for sharing and working together could go way beyond this program. The pandemic showed working together to understand and solve for common community issues, such as the need for connection and engagement, is a wonderful way to leverage resources.

Ilene Uhlmann, Director of Community Engagement for JCC Chicago shared, "From our first meeting I have been looking forward to the possibilities of all kinds of partnerships including, but not limited to, opportunities for connecting through programs such as Write Your Story and the JCC Chicago Social Justice Film Festival. We are stronger when we recognize that we all have more in common than what sets us apart, and it sends a strong message of solidarity and responsibility to our communities when we focus on the commonality and leverage those resources to make a bigger impact."

To sign up for this free writing program starting Sunday, May 30, visit jccchicago.org/ggc.

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