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JCI Utrecht is celebrating its 55th anniversary this year. Last year, in preparation for their big anniversary year, JCI Utrecht decided to grant 55 wishes to the local community. The wishes ranged from helping people move, to planting gardens, collecting socks for the homeless and a dinner with senior citizens. This last wish has since become so popular that there is now a waiting list of chapter members who want to take a senior to dinner. Inge van Kessel, JCI Utrecht member and wish coordinator, has already been able to delight a number of seniors and JCI members with a very special evening. Two weeks before the dinner, Inge sends a letter to the seniors to introduce the chapter members who will be dining with them. The seniors are then picked up on the evening of the dinner and brought back home again afterwards. What is special about these dinners, is that the seniors who want to participate are often lonely. Some of these elderly people only get out about once a month, and that makes these dinners even more special!

The With Your Heart Foundation

The With Your Heart Foundation (Stichting met je hart) has a mission to connect the more vulnerable people in our society. Wholeheartedly, they build the bridge that takes them from being forgotten to being the center of attention. They bring people together and help them to meet new people. They do this because they believe that spending time together and doing things together are what makes life richer and more fulfilling. The Foundation organizes activities around a campaign they call “Eat With Your Heart” (EET met je hart), where volunteers go out for dinner with the elderly. The cost of the dinners are sponsored through donations from the guests of participating restaurants and by the restaurants themselves.

Impact

After having organized several dinners, the chapter members have all been very enthusiastic about the seniors. The realization that most of these elderly people barely leave their homes has left quite an impression. And the fact that there are so many very elderly people (90 and 94-year-olds) who still live unassisted in their own homes was also surprising to many chapter members.

Vincent van Lamoen, one of the chapter members, recently attended one of the dinners. Vincent was pleasantly surprised by the interesting conversations with these seniors, who tended to not mince words and have a realistic perspective on the world. One asked Vincent, ‘What is networking?’ when she told him about the personal letter Inge had sent. According to Vincent, “One evening of your time is all it takes to give a lonely elderly person an evening to remember.”

After just a few dinners, the success has been so great that there is a waiting list of chamber members wanting to dine with the elderly. Long story short: JCI Utrecht plans to continue organizing these dinners! And the good news is that the With Your Heart Foundation is also active in other cities where even more people can dine with senior citizens.

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