Following comprehensive reorganization, LRRC sees dramatic improvement in key service metrics

In the years since its founding, the Lakewood Resource and Referral Center (LRRC) has developed into a major fixture in the Lakewood community, offering up to date easily understandable information and guidance on the entire range of government social programs, home purchasing and more. Just about every household in Lakewood and thousands more in neighboring towns in Ocean County have received top quality advice from the LRRC, backed up by the LRRC’s staff’s robust understanding of government regulations and their committed advocacy.

The LRRC was founded by the Lakewood Vaad in response to the growing needs of the Lakewood population and it has helped put many families on their financial feet, taking more than 30,000 calls and visits each year. During this time the LRRC became the ‘go to’ address for social services for the community and the prime point of contact for many government agencies.

Rabbi Aaron Kotler recalls two of the major turning points in the LRRC’s growth.

“The first major turning point was in 2008, with the United States economy in Major Recession, millions of people were suddenly out of work. Ocean County was particularly hard hit, the unemployment rate skyrocketed overnight from 4.3% to 7.6%, a massive increase in the unemployment rate of 77%.

“Over 8,000 Ocean County families were suddenly out of work! These families began to call Ocean County Board of Social Services and the Unemployment agencies en masse, seeking relief.  The problem was that the County had no funds in its budget to hire more caseworkers – and there was no way that the existing County workers, who are totally dedicated to their jobs, could handle so many new cases at one time.  Many of these families turned to the LRRC for help.  The County greatly appreciated that the LRRC was helping them with their workload.  By way of example, the then Obama administration eased the criteria for SNAP (Food Stamps) eligibility and began to market to families in need to apply. The County was overwhelmed – until the LRRC staff jumped in.”

Rabbi Kotler speaks of the second major turning point in how the LRRC serves the community. “In 2010 Obamacare passed and was signed into law. That caused a major upheaval in the health insurance field and the government agencies had no clear knowledge of the law, nor of how to implement it.  Just about every Lakewood family was affected.  Even large businesses with employee health plans were thrown into disarray and there was total confusion as to how to apply, when to apply, what eligibility was and more.  At BMG alone our Yeshiva health plan for Talmidim was deemed by the Federal Government as no longer Obamacare compliant. Our plan, which was affordable and low cost, collapsed. We had to inform thousands of families that they no longer had this option of coverage. The LRRC jumped in, learning the rules, learning which insurers were in the marketplace, learning the rules of eligibility and of the exchanges, and helping guide tens of thousands in choosing appropriate plans.”

He notes that this benefited not only the people with fewer financial resources who were eligible for NJ Family Care, but also the businesses and government agencies struggling with the deluge of health coverage issues.

Even as the LRRC took on more and more services, the Lakewood community, bli ayin hora, kept growing. With that growth the LRRC service wait times grew beyond what was acceptable.  Dr. Dovid Friedman, who is the CEO of both Chemed and the LRRC and Rabbi Yisroel Meir Hoberman, Executive Director of the LRRC asked Rabbi Kotler if BMG had any resources that could be of help. Rabbi Kotler assigned Mrs. Shoshana Djaker, project manager for Bais Medrash Govoha, to oversee a comprehensive restructuring of the LRRC. Mrs. Djaker has an MBA degree, and worked for many years on corporate restructuring in New York before moving to Lakewood and assuming her current position at the Yeshiva.

Tasked for months to the LRRC – she observed, gathered data and analyzed. The team at the LRRC rallied around the restructuring initiative.  Led by Rabbi Hoberman and Mrs. Suri Sternbach, the team of thirteen employees began to rebuild their work processes. Their efforts saw much Siyata D’shmaya, as indicated here:  Prior to the restructuring the LRRC fielded 1,200 phone calls a month, and managed to successfully respond to approximately 900 of the calls. Now, the LRRC receives approximately 1,500 calls a month and successfully responds to 99% of them. Additionally – and perhaps even more importantly – the average wait time for those calling the LRRC dropped from 46 minutes to just 2 minutes!

In addition to the phone calls, the LRRC sees 230 pre-scheduled appointments and 600 walk-ins appointments each month. Following restructuring, these face-to-face interactions have likewise become more efficient, typically consuming less time and being more productive.

Many steps were taken in order to achieve these considerable feats. They include allocating additional employees towards answering phone calls, especially during peak time; enhancing employee training so that they’ll have more answers at their fingertips; and instituting a call back system, so that callers are called back when they can be helped, rather than have to wait on hold.

Various other improvements were made, such as determining which calls and appointments could be satisfactorily handled in less time; directing phone calls and appointments to the most knowledgeable employee; and publishing easier-to-understand and more comprehensive printed material to answer frequently asked questions. The enhanced printed resources were also placed outside the LRRC office doors, so that residents can come get the material during off hours too. The LRRC has also expanded and enhanced the information it disseminates in various media outlets, as well as through representatives who interact with locals at busy locations.

As a result, many residents now receive the information they need without requiring a phone consultation or appointment. And those who still necessitate phone or face-to-face time at the LRRC office find the experience to be a whole lot more pleasant and time efficient. Callers and visitors have an advanced system through which to offer feedback, and the current satisfaction rate is 95%. “These are all common sense steps that came as a result of a dedicated team effort at the LRRC,” says Mrs. Djaker. “It offers our team endless satisfaction to know that we were able to make such as positive difference in the lives of families in our community.”

Now, Mrs. Djaker and LRRC staff are working on various other projects to improve the quality and speed of service even more. Ongoing projects include fully revamping the website, replete with a comprehensive FAQ page, and forum to ask questions online; as well as expand the number of public forums on various important topics. Beyond quality, the LRRC is working to enhance the quantity of the topics it assists with, in order to keep up with the social service needs of the contemporary family.

“Our families are bli ayin hora thriving and the cost of living is rising,” Rabbi Hoberman explains. “We are eager to continue working to have the LRRC help families meet the challenges of the day in the most comprehensive and effective manner.”

The LRRC expressed gratitude for the Vaad’s backing, and in particular to R’ Binyomin Heinemann, R’ Avrohom Moshe Muller, Rabbi Kotler and Rabbi Schenkolewski for the amount of kochos they keep putting into the LRRC.

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  1. The LRRC is a real true Chessed organization. Plus they help you with a smile. They give you all the time you need.

    Thank You LRRC

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