MILWAUKEE — Judy Winnik never imagined she would return to the Milwaukee area after she left for college.
But as she neared retirement, her mother was aging, and she decided to return to Bayside to help her.
“I just realized it’s in our Jewish values to take care of, to honor, the elderly,” Winnik said.
That decision showed her that the community needs more activities for independent seniors who are isolated and lonely. She started offering programs at the Ovation Sarah Chudnow care center in Mequon. There, she connected with Mequon residents Debra Slater and Lori Kornblum. Slater, a retired commercial litigator, is caring for her own aging parents. Kornblum, an attorney and Marquette Law School professor, volunteers at the center, teaching classes for the residents.
The three women all saw the same void and together decided to address it by founding L’Chaim Chaverut Clubhouse NorthShore. The nonprofit organization aims to provide a welcoming gathering space, with lunch and activities, for people who are at least 65. The Clubhouse recently received a donation that is enough to fund a three-month pilot program while it pursues grants.
The organization plans to host its activities at Congregation Shalom, 7630 N. Santa Monica Blvd., twice a month during the pilot phase. The first program is scheduled for June 12. Check-in begins at 11:45 a.m., and activities run until 3 p.m.
Programs are expected to include speakers, music, humor, group education and exercise demonstrations. Lunch, which will cost $3, will be sourced from local restaurants, with kosher options available.
“It’s really designed to get to those people that we know are there, who are feeling isolated, and either not interested or not able, to get out and attend programming that they would be very excited by,” said Slater, who serves as the vice chair and treasurer on the Clubhouse’s board of directors.
The Clubhouse has no membership fees, but pre-registration is required. Transportation can also be arranged for anyone who requests it ahead of time.
Although the Clubhouse received a donation to get started, Kornblum, the secretary of the board, said long-term funding remains a challenge. Sustaining interest in the programs will also be a hurdle for the Clubhouse to overcome, she said.
“Breaking down the social barriers that people have to going to a place where they don’t really know everybody — that’s hard for people of any age, but I think it gets harder as people become seniors,” Kornblum said. “They may have suffered significant losses in their lives.”
Kornblum said the Clubhouse is interested in bringing in a social worker who can help participants with issues the founders may not be prepared to handle as lay people.
Winnik, the chair of the board, said the Clubhouse is also looking for volunteers to help with the programming. Ultimately, she said, the organization wants to enhance seniors’ lives so they can live independently as long as possible.
“If you need a little bit of nurturing, then that’s what we’re here for,” Winnik said.
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How to go
L’Chaim Chaverut Clubhouse NorthShore is launching its pilot program for seniors at Congregation Shalom, 7630 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Fox Point. Dates:
Tuesday, June 12
Wednesday, June 27
Tuesday, July 10
Wednesday, July 25
Tuesday, Aug. 7
Wednesday, Aug. 22
Check-in begins at 11:45 a.m. and activities run until 3 p.m. Lunch is $3. Free pre-registration required. LchaimChaverut.org, firstname.lastname@example.org, 414-882-1393 or PO Box 170602, Glendale, Wisconsin 53217.