Heart of Ida, one of the only Long Beach nonprofits to exclusively serve older adults, has expanded its space in the Long Beach Senior Center on Fourth Street.
Originally founded in 2008 by sisters Dina Berg and Keri Reich in honor of their grandmother, Ida Alice Reich, the organization offers various services aimed at supporting older adults’ independence while building connections.
At Heart of Ida, seniors get technology assistance, connect to resources, attend movement classes and receive essentials from a basic needs pantry. The organization also reaches older adults who may be isolated at home through its friendly caller initiative, telephone messaging program and dog-walking service.
“For a long time it was just me and my sister and we kept it really small,” Berg said. “The need was great, so we increased to meet the need of the community.”
Growing up, Berg and Reich spent a lot of time with their grandmother, often tagging along while she volunteered, Berg said.
“She was one of those people who was really warm and fun,” Berg said.
Berg and her sister would periodically go with their grandmother to deliver personal hygiene gift bags to nursing homes, which became the inspiration for one of Heart of Ida’s first programs, Operation Holiday Hearts.
“They loved to see kids,” Berg said. ”I just loved it, I loved listening to people tell their stories, every year we looked forward to it.”
Berg plans to relaunch Operation Holiday Hearts this December with a Rose Park partnership, where youth will help make cards and pack bags to be distributed to the senior center in the neighborhood, Berg said.
For Berg’s sister, who died from cancer in 2020, the program “was kind of her baby,” Berg said.
For seniors who are on a fixed income, accessing services can be extraordinarily difficult, especially considering that people are living longer, Berg said.
“I think a lot of people think that there’s this safety net just there, and it’s not,” Berg said.
For many older adults in need, social services aren’t available; instead, nonprofits and local organizations must step in, she said.
“It’s amazing what we don’t do for people,” Berg said.
Apart from assisting over 600 people with essential needs this year, volunteers have logged over 100 call hours and dog walks this year, Berg said.
Addressing isolation is a cornerstone of Heart of Ida, Berg said, and this summer, the organization received a grant for an intergenerational inclusion program, where LBUSD teens assisted seniors with technology.
Since then, Heart of Ida has continued its technology drop-in hours each Monday and Wednesday and is currently seeking volunteers to assist.
“It’s a wrap-around approach,” Berg said. “We’re trying to address the whole person.”
Expanding its space “was just one of those fortuitous things,” Berg said. The move was prompted by the large, first-floor space in the Long Beach Senior Center becoming available, and it was offered to Heart of Ida.
Luckily, the organization didn’t have to move far—Heart of Ida had occupied a smaller space upstairs in the Senior Center since 2014.
The initial space was much too small to gather or have an actual office, or to fully achieve Heart of Ida’s mission of supporting in-need older adults, Berg said.
Now with a more spacious home, Berg looks forward to Heart of Ida’s programs continuing to grow and connecting with more older adults in need.
“This space has been just amazing,” Berg said. “We’re so happy to be here.”
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly claimed that Heart of Ida is the only Long Beach nonprofit to exclusively serve older adults. The story has been updated.