RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — Many of us have likely had to help older family members with their technology.
One Palm Beach County student set out to do just that and ended up creating a whole network that's never been more important until now during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"If you want to place a value on it, you can't. You really can't," said Jerry Bailin.
Bailin and his wife, Joan, haven't met Sam Friedman in person, but they are certainly connected.
"We have six granddaughters but no grandsons, so we’ll adopt Sam," Joan Bailin said.
Friedman, a 17-year-old junior at Suncoast Community High School in Riviera Beach, knew there was a need to help seniors with technology. But he never could have predicted a pandemic taking that need to a whole new level.
"What was coming slowly but surely became an avalanche of people trying to get connected online and use Zoom and video calls, because all of a sudden, there was no alternative," Friedman said.
Friedman started South Florida Tech For Seniors last year, a non-profit organization offering free technology support for those who need a little guidance.
Earlier this year, he was forced to pivot from in-person sessions to phone calls, instructional videos, and Zooming to learn Zoom.
"My favorite thing is to see seniors get on Zoom and FaceTime for the first time and you finally see their face," Friedman said. "There’s definitely a light bulb moment there and they get connected and you realize you can do this for your family and for your friends."
Friedman said he has a team of about two dozen students working with him, and they've had hundreds of phone calls and interactions with seniors in the community.
"My big personal goal is to make sure the technology support for senior citizens is free and is always free," Friedman said.
For Jerry and Joan Bailin, it helped them reconnect with family members across the country during an isolating time.
"Every three months we're going to have a family meeting which would never have occurred really if not for Zoom," said Jerry Bailin. "It's really a Godsend. It really is."
And they are grateful for someone like Friedman walking them through it, even from a distance.
"The whole idea of being able to do what we’re doing now is really a phenomenon," said Jerry Bailin.
South Florida Tech For Seniors offers its services for free and operates through donations and grants.
The program was selected as a finalist by Philanthropy Tank and awarded $15,000. The charity gives young philanthropists an opportunity to receive funding and mentorship to grow their ideas.
For more information about South Florida Tech For Seniors, click here or call 561-444-TECH.