People generally want to give back and make a positive impact for the underprivileged among us, but not everyone has the financial wherewithal to do that. Fortunately, there are numerous ways—aside from giving money—to improve communities, help individuals, support great causes, and ultimately make a difference.
Jim Ellis and Howard Goldwasser don’t know each other, but they share a private compulsion: they are serial volunteers. At the moment, they also share a common benefactor: Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry. The men, both retired, have been independently donating their time to the food pantry in a variety of ways, whether it’s helping people shop; gathering and packing up orders; or making deliveries directly to homes.
In January of this year, Jewish Family Service Youth Mental Health (YMH) program quadrupled in size when Director Leah Marcus brought on three talented social workers to join her efforts: Amanda Cramer, Nina Pridonoff, and Kasey Rosswurm. “Kasey, Nina, and Amanda are such a fantastic team,” Marcus said. “They are very energetic and have worked together so well. I couldn't pick a better group of people to do this critical work.”
From modern-day stressors, like social media, 24/7 texting, and constant location tracking—to more traditional ones, like homework, family turmoil, and bullying—today’s youth are living with a volatile mixture of societal pressures. And though the human psyche is equipped to handle enormous stress, when these pressures are intense, incessant, or novel (think coronavirus), they can increase one’s risk for mental health disorders.
Jewish Family Service is ramping up a new program to help isolated older adult community members stay connected to the community virtually. Nicholas Rackers is the new Virtual Programs Engagement Specialist at JFS. He is overseeing a program that provides technology and training to older adult community members so they can better engage with JFS’s online programming and connect with their families and friends.
One of the most important aspects of charitable assistance is the need to protect the confidentiality of recipients. People’s dignity should be at the center of any provided service; if a family is struggling—whether financially or in other ways—their right to privacy must be respected. So, when Jewish Family Service (JFS) recently received a grant that made recipient anonymity more difficult, their staff worked hard to create a resolution that was a success for everyone involved.
Isolation is as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Lonely people are 50 percent more likely to die earlier than those with healthy social relationships. Data from the Health Resources & Services Administration shows more than 3.4 million people struggle with social isolation, loneliness, and living alone—and that was before the onset of COVID-19. More recent numbers show loneliness and social isolation have increased 20 to 30 percent, and emotional distress has tripled during COVID.
“Jewish Family Service is committed to keeping these family histories alive,” said Amanda Huecker. Huecker is a Post-Adoption Social Worker at Jewish Family Service and works with families who are part of what she calls the adoption triad.
“The adoption triad is made up of adoptive parents, birth parents, and the adoptees,” she explained. “The services we offer are varied, depending upon the level of privacy that triad has set up."
“Young people can inspire others, just like adults can. They have a ton of power. And I think sometimes we forget how much good a single dollar can do—or a single can of soup.”
Chrissie Blatt couldn’t help but beam during a recent interview about her daughter Ella’s bat mitzvah project for Jewish Family Service: a canned soup drive to support Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry at the Barbash Family Vital Support Center.
“I have a great appreciation for what I consider an immutable fact: people who can feed themselves have a greater sense of independence,” stated Ben Kaufman.
Ben is the master gardener of the community garden of the Barbash Family Vital Support Center, located on the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion campus. The garden helps provide hundreds of people in our community access to fresh vegetables through the Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry.