Community Spotlight Archive: Savannah

Georgia Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs) Initiative
Summer Angels Intergenerational Program
Savannah, GA

The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta (JFGA) has helped create six NORC sites and is the umbrella organization of the Georgia Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs) Initiative. Beginning in September 2003, the Georgia NORC Initiative has grown from two NORC sites to six and has served almost 2,500 older adults. The NORC builds on entities that already exist – lead partners that know how to provide community based services, seniors themselves, businesses, and nonprofits. One such partner is Senior Citizens, Inc. (SCI), which oversees and manages the Ardsley Park NORC in Savannah.

Although Ardsley Park is a desirable neighborhood for in-town living, many of its seniors, having aged in place, are “house-rich but cash-poor,” and are in need of free or reasonably-priced services which they can no longer provide for themselves.  Beyond issues of financial need and physical ability, loneliness and social isolation are perennial problems for seniors, no matter what their individual living situations.

In 2006, SCI developed and executed a program to address both the tangible and psychological needs of local seniors.  The program matches middle-grade students from two Savannah schools with seniors at various levels of need and in a variety of living situations.  Under the direction of a staff person (a teacher on summer break), participating students and over one hundred seniors engage in more than 1,000 hours of programming that met the needs of the seniors and provide a life-changing experience for the young people as well.  The project, entitled the Summer Angels Intergenerational Program, is amazingly successful.  The program is now in its third successful year.

At the start of the summer, young people, ages twelve to fourteen begin their five-week commitment to serving seniors.  Their summer itineraries include yard work for senior clients on a weekly basis, home delivery of meals on wheels, frequent craft projects and sing-along sessions at SCI’s adult day care center for Alzheimer’s patients, and numerous scheduled visits to local nursing homes.

In addition to all of the benefits enjoyed by clients through this project, the young people themselves are utterly transformed by their association with the seniors they serve.  All of them report significant changes in their perception of the elderly, as well as a brand new service ethic that forever alters their view of civic responsibility and their duty to serve the community.  With these positive outcomes, the program now has a waiting list for youth participants.

The Summer Angels Intergenerational Program has become a staple item in the array of services offered by SCI through its NORC designation and grant funding.  Savannah’s seniors have grown accustomed to the program, which receives yearly attention from local media (the Angels have been named “Top Teens” by Savannah’s CBS-affiliated television news team for three years in a row), as well as from Savannah’s Mayor and the City Council of Savannah, members of which have attended all end-of-summer recognition ceremonies.  It is difficult now for SCI or the seniors it serves to envision a summer without the Angels.

For more information on the Summer Angels Program, please contact Roger Smith, Director of Community Outreach at Senior Citizens, Inc. at 912-236-0363; or for more information on the Georgia NORC Initiative, contact Deborah Kahan, NORC Project Director at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta at 404-870-1624