In mid-April, I attended the Jewish Family Services (JFS) donor appreciation event. My husband and I have always supported JFS and I have always thought very highly of the organization. But, recently, I became more involved and, this year, I joined the board.
At my first board meeting, I was blown away by the information I received about what just one facet of the organization does for its clients – the family and adult resources program, which includes helping with food vouchers, medical support, housing, etc.
At the next meeting, another group of employees came to discuss their services to seniors, which range from individual home support and care to outreach programs reaching hundreds of vulnerable seniors.
Then followed the employees who took care of assisting clients with employment, and settling new immigrants. The list went on … clinical counseling, the Jewish Food Bank, mental health outreach, emergency and transitional housing support, to name a few. About six months in, I am truly amazed by the breadth of services JFS offers and the number of clients they reach, but that’s not even the story.
I went to the volunteer appreciation evening event with my husband, as a board member and supporter, the first one we have attended. Some of our friends were there, many of my parents’ friends, some employees and some volunteers of the organization, as well as my dad. A JFS recipient spoke about his experiences with the agency and how much they helped him. He spoke about receiving counseling for depression after the failure of a business, support he was given to find work and on how to prepare his resumé after not having done so for decades. He then described the help he was given to prepare for job interviews and on how to present himself. He also praised other JFS services, such as the food bank, help with finding new housing and counseling after his divorce, and said he felt supported through these difficult years. All of a sudden, it hit me!
I looked at my dad, who was standing behind me, hand on my shoulder, and I said to him, “Oh, my G-d! You are my JFS!”
It was true. My mom and dad, throughout my entire life, have been my Jewish Family Services. From putting a roof over my head, feeding me, helping me through school, assisting me in all my university applications, editing my resumés, introducing me to potential employers and coaching me for interviews, to counseling me through difficult times, and the list goes on and on. Not to mention the help they provided other family members. All the services required to care for my four grandparents at various times in their lives closely resemble the ones offered through JFS. My parents drove them to appointments, helped get groceries, provided in-house care when necessary, brought them meals, managed their medications and advocated for them. They drove them to and from our Shabbat dinners and all the events in the community, ensuring they could attend shul, family celebrations, holidays and fundraisers.
We are always reminded that it takes a village to raise a child. When I reflect on my childhood or on my children’s lives thus far, it couldn’t be truer. The people in our lives that we rely on – friends, family members, professionals – all have played such an important role in getting us to where we are today. If we take a minute to reflect on how dramatically different our lives would be without this support system, I think we would be amazed.
So many of us are so blessed to have this network, this “village.” However, many people in our community are not so lucky. Thankfully and fortunately, they can access the village that is Jewish Family Services. If your story resembles mine in any way, I believe it is our good fortune that finds us in a life of comfort and security. I feel privileged to be part of this amazing organization and to be able to donate time and money to help those who aren’t as fortunate, so they can have affordable access to JFS and all the wonderful services they provide.