[by Shiela Steinman Wallace]
Jewish Family & Career Services has a lot to be proud of and celebrate. With 102 years of service to the community, their dedicated staff and cadre of over 350 volunteers deliver a wide range of first-rate services and programs that enhance the quality of life for many people.
The agency showcased its work, honored its volunteers and elected officers and Board members at its Annual Meeting Tuesday, June 22, at the Louis and Lee Roth Family Center.
Ruth Silon’s Story
Ruth Silon, a client turned volunteer, shared the story of her personal experiences with the agency and the difference it has made in her life.
Silon discovered JFCS even before coming to Louisville. “Reading the Washington Jewish newspaper,” she explained, I saw a small ad saying, ‘Come Home to Louisville.’” The ad, part of JFCS’s push to encourage young adults who had left Louisville to return, put Silon in touch with Ann Huttner who “was extremely helpful.”
Silon came to Louisville in 1998 and turned to JFCS for help in finding employment. This time, Phyllis Leibson “assisted me in determining exactly what I was looking for, helped me update my resume, coached me on interviewing and more” all for a fee based on a sliding scale that allowed her to pay what she could afford.
When Silon realized that her parents, who live in Louisville, were aging and would need her help, she again turned to JFCS, and this time, it was Mauri Malka who was there to help with a monthly caregiver support group for adult children of aging parents, letting her know how important her help was to her parents and ready with suggestions about ways to address problems. As her parents continue to age, JFCS helped Silon develop and implement a long-term care plan for them. Social worker JoAnn Kalb also worked with them.
During her time in Louisville, Silon also lost her husband, Herb, z”l. As the second anniversary his death approach, she again found herself grieving. “I was surprised that the grief hit me again like a wave, fresh and raw as at the time he’d passed away,” she explained. “I shared that with Mauri, who offered to see me that day” and told her she “didn’t have to go through it alone.” Silon also worked with Kalb for a few weeks.
After her last session with Kalb, Silon decided it was time to turn the tables, so, “I asked Shelley Kahn if I could volunteer at JFCS. Of course, she was happy to put me to work, and did so within the week.”
“My volunteer work at JFCS is a joy,” she stated. “I’ve been volunteering now for a year and a half, primarily in the Food Pantry. Every week, I organize and stock the pantry with food from the donations we receive from the community. I have also trained other volunteers, helped at events and delivered bags to residents at Treyton Oak Towers for Chanukah and for Passover.”
Silon has also helped with the Farmer’s Market and Multicultural Bazaar.
She has only praise for JFCS and its staff and volunteers. “People are treated respectfully, professionally and lovingly,” she said. “I am thankful that our community has had JFCS for the past 102 years to lend a hand to those who need help.”
JFCS Executive Director Judy Freundlich Tiell expanded upon the importance of volunteers to the agencies. Some work directly with clients, she explained, serving as Senior PALS drivers (providing affordable, reliable transportation for clients who cannot drive), Senior Companions, mentors for business start-ups, tutors and more. Others work behind the scenes, handling paperwork, making phone calls and providing technical assistance.
Tiell specifically recognized Shelley Kahn, JFCS’s professional volunteer coordinator, for her hard work in managing the volunteer workforce. She went on to say, “we could not see the number of clients we see nor do as much work as we do without you [the volunteers].” She said the agency needs it volunteers, and even if a volunteer can give only one hour a month, JFCS will find something meaningful for that person to do.
The agency also received some well-deserved publicity in the general community this year. WLKY, the media sponsor of JFCS’s MOSAIC Awards program, featured this year’s winners during their weekly Hometown Heroes segment. The TV clip was shown at the meeting.
Outgoing Board President Jay Klempner added special recognition for the JFCS Board members, who work hard to promote JFCS, and support the agency with their time and financial support, and for the agency’s loyal and dedicated staff.
During these are difficult times, he said, we’ve experienced a financial meltdown. The allocations and fees for services JFCS receives have been decreasing, while the need for services has been increasing. Yet despite stiff budget restraints, JFCS continues to provide high quality service and no Jew has been turned away.
The agency has been flexible and creative to enable it to meet community needs, often partnering with other agencies. Collaborating with other agencies, like the Jewish Community of Louisville, “is the only way we’ll survive,” he said.
Klempner also announced the establishment of the JFCS Community Advisory Council that will assist the Board in developing and implementing ideas, expanding the agency’s contacts and raising awareness about JFCS. Members of the Advisory Council are Madeline Abramson, Stephanie Bateman, David Bingham, Alice Bridges, Jan Buddeke, Rowan Claypool, Marcelline Coots, Dr. Linda Gleis, Maryann Hyland Murr, Christine Johnson, Gwenevere Josey, Jay Klempner, Bruce Maza, Tim Mulloy, Yung Nguyen, Djenita Pasic, Sharon Receuver, Lynn Simon, Terry Singer, Alex Spoelker, Robert Taylor, Lawrence Wilbon, Deborah Williams, Amy Wisotsky and Jeff Yussman.
Djenita Pasic will serve as the Council’s representative to the JFCS Board.
Mary Gunther Award
Each year, JFCS presents the Mary Gunther Award to the employee who has created the best new program or an expansion or enhancement of an existing program. This year, the Award went to Helen Hord for the Home Care Opportunities program.
By providing training to low income seniors who are interested in working and willing to learn, this program enables JFCS to provide affordable home care to low- and middle-income clients.
This award was created in memory of Mary Gunther who served JFCS as the Career Services Secretary from 1959-1992, a year before her death.
Executive Directors Report
Tiell, like Klempner, observed that this has been a stressful year marked by increasing need for services and decreasing resources, but she is excited about the innovative opportunities that are now being created. In addition to the Home Care Opportunities program, she said JFCS is now making tiny loans to microentrepreneurs enabling them to start businesses. One of the first loans, she said, was for just $200.
JFCS has also found creative ways to help people find jobs, including a recent Speed Job Interviews event.
Tiell also looks to partnerships with other agencies and groups and the Advisory Council as vital resources that create synergy for JFCS, as well as the expanding volunteer corps.
JFCS is here, she said, to provide the services families need to help children group up and succeed, to help adults be successful and to help people find their strengths.
She pledged that JFCS will continue to serve its clients and the community with respect and dignity. She thanked the Board, and lauded Jay Klempner as “a model of what a Board Chair should be,” and praised the agency’s staff for their compassion, dedication and professionalism.
She recognized staff members Beverly Bromley and Shelley Kahn for five years of service, Anita Jarboe and Mary Cleary for 10 years of service and Bonnie Lewis for 20 years.
Board and Officers Elected
Barbara Goldberg, a past president and chair of the Nominating Committee presented the committee’s report.
William Altman, Karry Kass, Shelly Breier, Laura Klein and Sean Wachsman were elected to three-year terms on the Board; and Lance Gilbert and Peter Resnik were re-elected to three year terms.
Mark Ament was elected president; Debbie Friedman, Sandi Friedson and Reed Weinberg, vice presidents; and Hunt Schuster, Treasurer.
Lowell Katz, Amy Wisotsky, Ariel Kronenberg and Stephi Wolff retired from the Board.
Ament, who has a long personal and family relationship with JFCS, also acknowledged the challenges the difficult economy is presenting to the agency, and said the key to JFCS’s success “is all of you.”
He is looking forward to working with the volunteers, the Advisory Council and the staff.
Mary Kate Poling, senior vice president of community impact for Metro United Way, brought greetings from her agency, one of JFCS’s primary funders and expressed appreciation for both Judy Tiell and the agency for their expertise on working together in partnership relationships. She expressed the hope that Louisville can be a pilot community, demonstrating how agencies can work together to focus on children and families.
Ed Weinberg, chair of the Jewish Community of Louisville’s Board, thanked the JFCS volunteers who do so much for the agency, adding that “they need leadership and direction” and they have that in Judy Tiell.
The JCL’s new president and CEO, Stu Silberman, will be starting work next week, Weinberg said, and he looks forward to working together.
Rabbi Gaylia Rooks of The Temple delivered the invocation.