In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic kept many people home; most notably, older adults who were more at risk from the virus.  The pandemic isolated many older adults who rely on others for help and human interaction.  The Reif Center understood the social isolation faced by older adults and wrote a grant to the Itasca Area Community Response Fund, which was created last spring as a joint venture between the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation, United Way of 1000 Lakes, and other area funders.  The Reif felt it was imperative to create safe, socially distanced activities to help combat the social isolation that affected older adults last year.

The Reif Center received a $4500 grant through the Community Response Fund and with the help of a sponsorship from Dairy Queen, they were able to provide area seniors with live events that were recorded onto DVDs and sent to seniors. They also partnered with ElderCircle, a nonprofit serving seniors, to provide monthly virtual bingo games.  Each week approximately 16-20 senior participants were able to enjoy virtual bingo.  Most of these seniors lived alone at home, some seniors connected through Itasca Life Options, and some were residents at senior living facilities.  There were “celebrity” bingo callers each week including Tom Pagel, City Administrator, Matt Grose, ISD 318 Superintendent, a Reif volunteer, a Woodland Bank employee and more.   Shantel Dow, Executive Director for The Reif says, “Bingo was a great way for us to safely connect with community members during COVID. The older adults looked forward to this event, and we shared fun stories and some laughs together. We are grateful to the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation, Dairy Queen of Grand Rapids and ElderCircle for helping to make this event possible for our community.”


Over $156,000 was distributed in 2020 to local nonprofits through the Community Response Fund for COVID-19 relief, which was made possible by the generosity of individuals and major givers. The Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation has been connecting donors’ charitable intentions to community needs for over 25 years to make our Greater Itasca Area – and the world – a better place to live.  For information on nonprofit organizations who may benefit from your planned gift, please visit our website at and click on Donate Now and Show All Funds List or schedule a visit by calling (218) 999-9100.


PHOTO:  Tom Pagel