MILWAUKEE – Older adults who could use some free help with technology questions can now call Mensch Techs, which is staffed by volunteer Hillel Milwaukee students.
Having trouble figuring out Zoom? Can’t get your smartphone to work right? Need help scheduling an appointment online? For these and other technology questions, contact Mensch Techs at 414-533-7212 or MenschTechMke@Gmail.com. There is no charge for assistance, though people with complex technology needs may be referred to other sources of assistance.
Mensch Techs, funded by Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s Fund for Jewish MKE, is aimed at older adults. “We are one small part of the Federation recognition that this is a population that needs resources,” said Hillel Milwaukee Executive Director Deb Fendrich.
A needs assessment by Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s Crisis Response Team identified isolation among older adults as an issue.
“We know older adults are feeling more isolated than ever,” said Joan Lubar, who co-chairs the Federation’s Crisis Response Team with Sara Her-manoff, which oversees allocations from The Fund for Jewish MKE. “There are a lot of virtual opportunities for them to connect, and technology issues can get in the way.”
Young people were a natural resource for addressing this need among older adults. It also allows ways for students to be of service. “We have young individuals who are looking for ways to engage in our community,” Fendrich said.
Student volunteers were slotted into a Mensch Techs service roster starting in late March. Students help callers remotely.
Mensch Techs are rewarded with gift cards, said Director of Jewish Student Life Anna Goldstein, of Hillel Milwaukee, who has been getting the word out to students and offering them training. The training has included guidance on how to effectively serve older folks, based on best practice information from the medical profession, she said. Students have been instructed to not assume callers have the same level of technology experience, the same knowledge of technology jargon, and to provide good customer service. Training has included role playing.
Mench Techs Manager Jordan Conen is a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee student who worked in restaurants for five years. Conen started in June as a data and development intern for Hillel Milwaukee. Fendrich said she approached Conen about the opportunity to be the student manager for Mensch Techs.
“It didn’t take me very long to say yes,” Conen said. “It gears toward my personality. I’m a helpful person. I want to make sure people get helped.”
Conen is a communications major and is managing Mensch Techs for school credit. At least eight students have been signed up as Mensch Techs so far. If you’re a Milwaukee area college student interested in volunteering, visit HillelMke.org/MenschTechs.
The Federation’s Louise Jesse helped found the program. Now, Mensch Techs are hoping to get some of their first calls with the publication of this article.
Organizers aren’t sure what kinds of calls they’ll get, and they’ve had to make some guesses for training purposes.
“We’re building the bike as we’re riding it,” Goldstein said.
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About Mensch Techs
- Free technology assistance for older adults
- Not available on Shabbat