Sharon Vest never lived in Philadelphia, but she wants to learn all she can about the city.
Retired from the medical field, she’s also taking a class about how the brain works. And another class about current events.
“I just like learning new things,” the Myrtle Beach resident says.
Vest is taking classes with SALT, Senior Adventures in Learning and Travel, one of three new programs Neighbor to Neighbor has added to its already packed agenda.
Expanded phone contact and a food pantry are the other new programs.
The same volunteers call the same 10 clients each week, establishing rapport and relationship with about 300 people. That extended-phone program has shifted from meeting COVID-19 challenges such as isolation, to general needs.
“They tell us what they need, from a battery changed in the smoke detector to food or transportation needs,” says Jason Walter, the N2N volunteer coordinator.
“Round one of those calls was very COVID-related, but now it’s more general,” he says.
“They’ll share something their grandchild did or a memory they have from their time in the military, it’s about having someone to talk to.”
N2N launched another new program with six Horry County and two Brunswick County, North Carolina, food pantries.
Volunteers pick up the food and deliver at least a week’s worth of groceries to clients who don’t have transportation to get to the food pantry themselves.
N2N is also partnering with emergency resources that provide about three days of food.
In 2019, Neighbor to Neighbor received 40,344 calls, with 189 volunteers providing 8,277 rides which added up to 8,453 hours of volunteer time.
Because Osher Lifelong Learning Institute [OLLIE] is not offering the learning opportunities it had been, N2N has picked up those classes, added more, and already has 460 students taking any of 151 online courses ranging from senior fitness to a travel series to culinary classes and arts and crafts. Most classes are available for a nominal fee.
Whether it’s learning yoga or being curious about Turkish breakfast culinary arts, SALT has a course for everyone.
Clubs including Chew the Fat, a time to chat about everything from pop culture to South Carolina’s culture, Mondays with Maury which looks at more controversial issues, and clubs that involve dance, film, music and theatre are available.
While the expanded phone and food pantry programs always welcome new volunteers, SALT is looking for more professors and even more students.
The website to learn more, to sign up or to volunteer is riden2n.org\salt.
Retired teacher Kofie Montgomery is taking several courses including discussion, exercise, history and travel courses.
She’s also involved in several of SALT’s online clubs including Zan Tangling and Dining Club Central – Home Edition.
That Dining Club Central is especially fun, she says.
“We all came online at 6 o’clock with our meals in front of us and we talked about all different things while we ate, just as we would do face-to-face in a restaurant,” she says.
There are about 16 in the Dining Club Central now, as compared to about 40 pre-COVID.
Montgomery says SALT, which uses an online program call Ring Central which is similar to Zoom, allows participants to each other.
“This is huge, especially as older adults who can’t have close contact, and that’s what SALT is able to do.
“While we cannot currently meet face-to-face, this internet platform gives us the opportunity to see as well as hear one another’s voice, facial expressions and body language as we communicate.
“SALT provides a wonderful opportunity for both lifelong learning and socialization.”