Congratulations to Elsa Bengel and JP@Home!

We are thrilled to announce that Elsa Bengel has been selected by the Village to Village Network for its annual national Volunteer of the Year award. Ethos submitted the nomination for many reasons, and feels this honor is a fitting tribute to Elsa, JP@Home, Ethos, and a testimonial to the partnership that has been created between the vibrant community of elder activists that belong to JP@Home and Ethos’ staff who are committed to serving each member whatever the need.

Elsa has been a pioneer of new programs for decades—creating a village in her community was a natural next step following her retirement. JP@Home is entering its fifth year, and under Elsa’s leadership forged a unique partnership with Ethos, a 40-year-old home care agency in Jamaica Plain. Elsa is most proud of the partnership with Ethos, because an experienced, compassionate staff is available to handle the administrative side of the program, while members have time to enjoy activities and forge new and lasting friendships. Members also have the comfort of knowing that they will have ready access to resources and services as they age in the community.

Dale Mitchell, Executive Director of Ethos, welcomed the opportunity to support the development of a village in Jamaica Plain. JP@Home, which has since expanded to other neighborhoods, now has more 125 members and a high retention rate. Dale recently stated, “What is special about Elsa is that she is a consensus builder and natural recruiter. She truly enjoys what she is doing and sharing her life and wisdom with others. She is real and extremely thoughtful and knows that it ‘takes a village’ through each stage of life.”

Elsa has served on JP@Home’s Advisory Council since the program’s inception where she was the first Co-Chair, and she currently chairs committees both the recruitment and fundraising and finance committees which are critical to the program’s sustainability. Elsa is a mother, grandmother, and caregiver of her husband John who experienced significant health issues this year.

Members rally around one another during personal crises—walking with them post-surgery or providing meals, rides, or simply being present during these hard moments; this was Elsa’s hope in creating JP@Home with other concerned Jamaica Plain citizens. She and other members serve on support teams for those experiencing significant caregiving responsibilities. She sees that caregiving is a privilege that can help us become stronger and wiser; her latest initiative is the creation of a caregiver support group to help reduce social isolation and burnout.

She is an active leader and participant in a host of JP@Home groups, including memoir writing, Dining Out, and Tai Chi. JP@Home is continuously expanding its membership and the depth and breadth of its offerings with Ms. Bengel thoughtfully leading the way.

In speaking with Elsa’s husband John in preparation for the nomination, we discovered more important facts about her talents and dedication. He explained the underpinnings of her success with JP@Home: “Elsa has done a lot of important things outside of her 28-year career at the YMCA.” She has been a teacher throughout her professional life, and her work abroad in the Philippines, India, Indonesia, and Scotland has only broadened her skills and compassion. “Through her church, she oversaw the development of a domestic violence initiative, Safe Havens which today has a five million dollar annual budget, and another organization that helps underemployed and low-income workers secure training to build strong careers, Training, Inc. (Boston office); both programs have been in operation for nearly 30 years.” “What sets her apart is that she never does it by herself,” John continued. “Elsa can find champions. She has lots of creativity, organizing skills, and the most outstanding thing is her commitment and ability to role with the punches; she often does it better than other structures.”

We are all so very proud of Elsa, and the efforts of so many in JP@Home who are committed to ensuring that one another ages well and together in community. Stay tuned for more announcements about upcoming celebrations related to this good news.