Chai4ever Provides Unique Support to Families Where a Parent is Ill

November 28, 2014 12:11 pm By Lisa Matkowsky

chai4ever-sukkos-2There are many amazing chesed organizations for times of illness, but the relatively new Chai4ever is the only one of its kind, and has already had a remarkable impact. Since its formation about 10 months ago, Chai4ever has become a primary resource for families enduring the crisis of a sick parent with catastrophic illnesses, and serves clients in their home communities all across the US. “We come to you,” said Samuel Zaks, Executive Vice President. “Unfortunately, there is a tremendous void of adult-specific support and services, and Chai4ever’s safety net is tailored to patients, spouses and their children.”

Chai4ever’s mission is to help maintain the stability and functionality of the rest of the family when the foundation is uprooted by parental illness. They work with adults and ensure that the client maintains control because no one can tell an adult what he or she needs. “The part I like about Chai4ever is that it is not a generic service, it’s very personalized,” said Rachel, a Chai4ever client who suffers from multiple sclerosis. “When a parent gets sick, the very base of the home crumbles. In addition to sending suppers, Chai4ever takes care of the technical stuff that I specifically need.”

Chai4ever’s services include housekeeping assistance, homework help, transportation, crisis and bereavement counseling, school collaboration, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, meal delivery, insurance advocacy and navigation, family retreats and recreational events. “Chai4ever is truly unique,” said Zaks. “There is no other organization that has a family-centric approach, focusing on maintaining the cohesiveness of the family structure. We do everything possible to ensure that the sick parent returns home to a healthy, normal family.”

Rachel recounted how on this past Erev Succos, she was speaking to her case manager (every client, and their spouse, if desired, receives a designated social worker) and was sharing her gratitude for all the pre-prepared meals she had received at once for the entire yom tov, but was anxious that she had nowhere to store all the food. “It sounds dumb, like a small thing,” she said. “But it was really upsetting me and stressing me out. That same day, a fridge appeared at my door. Volunteers put all the meals into it. When I tried to return it after the chag, they said it was for me to keep because I have a degenerative disease and will continue to need it. They think ahead for me to alleviate my burden.”

Chai4ever provides volunteers to run errands or to drive the patient or their family where they need to go. “I like to feel I’m taking care of my family myself as much as possible, to feel independent and empowered” Rachel said. “So I like to go shopping if I can, but I can’t drive. They give me a driver, who shops, takes my daughter for a haircut, anything we need. They take care of little things too, like cutting and bagging vegetables for meals that I prepare, which I am no longer able to do, or driving me to a doctor’s appointment when my husband is at work and no one can take me. Real nitty gritty help. There’s nothing like it.”

Rachel explained that when Chai4ever was created, she was receiving limited services from other organizations. “When Chai4ever was launched to help parents, I knew that it would be more relevant to my needs. I wondered if it would be an obstacle for me to receive Chai4ever services and was happy to see that they work collaboratively alongside other community organizations.”

Chai4ever’s Director of Operations, Estee Lavitt explains: “We encourage clients to accept services from whoever is able to provide them. Our purpose is to fulfill their needs, and we enjoy collaborating with other organizations. We have been inundated by requests from patients, friends and family, and hospital social workers for assistance.”

Lavitt continued: “We are honored to have the opportunity to keep families intact, practically, financially and emotionally. If the primary breadwinner is incapacitated, the financial stress is enormous. Our services are designed to alleviate the burden. We even finance the costs of sending the children in these families to the sleep-away camps of their choice, so we don’t disrupt their routines.”

“It was such a relief to find out somebody was helping parents,” said Tova, recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer. “I was panicked and overwhelmed and didn’t know where to turn. I have a large family to take care of. I was referred to Chai4ever and I am so grateful that this organization is here to help those who are most vulnerable. I could not get through this challenging time without them.”

This summer, in cities throughout the US, Chai4ever negotiated and underwrote camp expenses for children under the financial constraints of parental illness. This past Succos, over 500 children participated in exciting and memorable activities. For families confronting a serious medical challenge, holiday time can be filled with sadness, loneliness and anxiety. “At Chai4ever we are determined to ensure that the chagim remain an enjoyable, spirited and stress-free time,” said Zaks. “Knowing that their children are able to maintain routines and that family life is preserved to the extent possible allows parents to focus their energy on treatment and hopefully, recovery.” One parent wrote of Chai4ever, “By restoring the smile to my child’s face, you enabled me to smile again too.”

Chai4ever serves families cthroughout the United States and Israel. Chai4ever is looking to add to their strong volunteer corps. For those looking to make an invaluable difference in other people’s lives, volunteers are always welcome. For more information, visit, e-mail or call (646) 519-2190.


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