JEVS Independence Network of Collingswood members and mentors enjoying the Friendsgiving photo booth.
If you were to ask the JEVS Independence Network members in PIN Narberth or Collingswood – what is most important about being a part of this community – almost all would immediately respond “my friends”. Sadly, with the seemingly never-ending quarantines and isolations of the last few years, personal connections have been put to the test, with the unimaginable consequence that it is now challenging for some to find the courage to embrace in-person events after repeatedly being told to be mindful of crowds.
So it was quite a response – and reason to celebrate – when over 60 people from both programs gathered in Collingswood on November 17, 2022 to revel in our first Friendsgiving Dinner in three years! For the first time in too long we connected in-person! We ate lots of delicious food. We played our usual Thanksgiving trivia in teams.
We talked, laughed, and hugged each other…often! Mentors past and present joined in the celebration. We openly shared what we are most thankful for, and we created an impressive Chain of Thankfulness that captured our
collective gratitude. It was beautiful and chaotic, and definitely by far our best Friendsgiving ever!
Events like this are much more than a simple social outing for the JEVS Independence Network members and staff. These events represent learning moments and opportunities to practice and build new skills. The support provided in conjunction with events like Friendsgiving provide a comforting safety net to explore new horizons. For example, in preparation for Friendsgiving members participated in recipe searches, signed up for potluck dishes to contribute, grocery shopped, cooked delicious foods, learned to safely store their culinary contributions, and made decisions about how to transport and reheat food.
Many members practiced traveling on public transportation and navigating through the community to get to the venue. We all brushed-up on social skills, dinner etiquette, impulse control, as well as self-regulation in dealing with a whole host of sensory stimulation –noise, smells, new foods, a crowded room, meeting new people, and more – not to mention teamwork during the trivia competition! Many members were brave enough to perform public speaking in front of the group as they shared blessings and expressed what they are most grateful for – with friends and independence being a common theme.
Friendsgiving, especially this year, represented a new start with real connections and real growth opportunities to practically learn important skills relevant to independence and interdependence!
JEVS Independence Network is a whole life program with embedded supports serving Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Follow this link to learn more about Independence Network.