Impact Stories:

COVID-19 Relief Stories: Ruth Skeegan

Isolated Older Adults Get Support and Experience Joy During the Pandemic

For years, Ruth Skeegan looked out for the Jewish community. Now, with help from the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, the community looks out for her during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Every week for decades, Ruth took the trolley to Montefiore Hospital, then Pittsburgh’s Jewish hospital. As a Montefiore volunteer she did many jobs, including organizing the candy stripers. At the end of Ruth’s volunteer career, she had logged more volunteer hours than anyone in the history of the hospital.

At age 97, Ruth faced health challenges, and her daughter Carol Kushkin moved Ruth to a residence at the Jewish Association on Aging (JAA), funded in part by Jewish Federation’s Community Campaign. “The JAA was the first place I thought of because of the quality of care,” says Carol.

When COVID-19 demanded quarantine and social distancing at JAA, Carol wondered if Ruth would stay safe from COVID. How could Carol communicate with her mother? Would Ruth be bored and lonely?

Shortly after quarantine went into effect in March 2020, the Jewish Federation provided funding that helped the JAA to upgrade ventilation to protect against spreading the virus. The Federation funding helped JAA increase staff hours and purchase protective gear, sanitizing machines and a touchless thermometer system. Carol was relieved.

“The safety factors would never have been possible without the generosity of donors to Jewish Federation,” she says. “I don’t know if people realize how thankful we are. This [giving] means my mother is still alive.”

Jewish Federation support for increased staffing kept Ruth in touch with her family: “The wonderful thing is that Marcelene and Carol, in JAA social services, help my mother with WhatsApp,” Ruth’s daughter reported. “My mother can see me every day!”

When the time came to celebrate a special day, Ruth’s 100th birthday, JAA had the resources needed to pull out all the stops thanks to the Federation.

Ruth Skeegan Celebrates her 100th Birthday
Ruth Skeegan celebrating her 100th birthday

Carol Kushkin described the virtual birthday party that JAA created, which included a cake, birthday hat and silly glasses: “Her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were able to talk to her on Zoom, even from Israel. She just couldn’t get over how amazing the technology was. It was the most joyful day for her. I’m so grateful to JAA for doing that.

“I truly appreciate everything that Federation has done to keep my mom safe. I could not have gotten the help I received for my mom without the support from Jewish Federation.”

After years of serving others, Carol’s mother deserves safety and care. The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh’s Jewish community is helping to ensure that Ruth — and many others — can have joyful days.

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