INSPIRED IMPACT™ gives voice to social entrepreneurs and leaders of purpose-driven organizations who are making an impact in their communities, industries, and around the world.
WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?
I am the president and CEO and oversee the management, operations, and strategic direction of Jewish Family Service.
The mission of Jewish Family Service (JFS) is to enhance well-being to those in need throughout the greater Denver community by delivering services based on Jewish values. We do this in a variety of ways, depending on community needs. JFS works to reduce hunger and prevent homelessness, provides quality mental health services to children and families, offers job training and placement for people with barriers to employment, and provides support to help older adults maintain a high quality of life. The agency operates more than 30 programs and impacts nearly 24,000 people each year.
While the work of JFS is rooted in Jewish values, the agency serves people of all faiths, races, ages, incomes, and abilities. If there is one thing we do it is helping people overcome obstacles—whatever they may be—to reach their full potential.
WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR? WHY DOES THE WORLD NEED YOU?
It all comes back to our Jewish values, which guide our work and are quite universal. The most important of these is Tikkun Olam, and our obligation to make the world a better place.
In delivering our services we are also guided by these additional Jewish values:
- He who saves one life saves the entire world. – Pikuach Nefesh
- Social justice, the obligation to act justly toward people in need. – Tzedakah
- Acts of loving kindness. – G’milut Hassadim
- Every human being is equal in the eyes of G-d. – Tselem Elohim
- The act of mending the heart. – Tikkun Halev
WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
JFS is touching the lives of nearly 24,000 people from all walks of life by providing vital services that help them overcome personal challenges.
- JFS is fighting hunger in our community through the Weinberg Food Pantry, which is among the largest food pantries operating in the Denver metro area. Last year, the pantry distributed 622,000 pounds of food.
- JFS is working to prevent homelessness by supporting people in crisis with financial assistance so they can stay in their homes as we work to help them overcome barriers to self-sufficiency. We also are working to place those who are already homeless into safe housing and then working to find them stable employment.
- We are helping people who are unemployed and underemployed to find sustainable employment through job coaching, skills development, and job-search services.
- The Lunchbox Express program delivers free lunches and books to at-risk kids during the summer when they don’t have access to free and reduced-fee lunches in their schools. We expect to distribute 25,000 meals and 15,000 books to children in need this summer.
- JFS provides quality mental health services to individuals and families who need support to deal with depression, anxiety, stress, relationship issues, grief, and more.
- Our Refugee Mental Health programs serve refugees new to Colorado and who have experienced severe trauma and loss in their native countries.
- Through the KidSuccess program, JFS is providing free mental health services to children in schools to help them overcome challenges and succeed in the school environment. We are operating in 12 schools in Denver and Aurora and continue to expand.
- JFS is supporting older adults in the community to ensure that they are connected and engaged and living as independently as possible. We offer care management, homemaker services, counseling, meal services, and other supports.
- JFS is helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities with employment training, activities, community involvement, and support services.
WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO MAKE THIS IMPACT?
Again, it goes back to our Jewish values and the obligation to make our world a better place. We are driven by the needs of the community and work to create lasting solutions to social challenges.
WHAT’S YOUR VISION, YOUR BIG DREAM, FOR THE ORGANIZATION AND THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
Our vision is to provide innovative and professionally delivered services that empower people to overcome difficult challenges and live fuller, more meaningful lives. We want to see more people have real opportunities to succeed and be all that they can be. We want the disenfranchised to have the resources and support they need to live in comfort, safety, and security.
WHAT RESOURCES DO YOU NEED TO MAKE THAT DREAM COME TRUE?
It takes a full complement of resources, which we have been fortunate to shepherd throughout our history. It takes a talented professional staff, dedicated volunteers (1,200 supported us last year), committed financial supporters who believe in our mission, and the will make a positive impact on the community.
WHAT CHALLENGES ARE YOU FACING?
Current and future cuts in government funding present a serious challenge in our ability to expand services to meet community needs. Nonprofits and the private sector are becoming the safety net for people in need, but we don’t have the resources to meet that need.
Denver’s housing crisis is a growing concern as more and more people are being priced out of their homes. Finding affordable housing is a growing challenge.
Another challenge is the explosive growth in the aging population as older adults are living longer and requiring more (and more intensive) services. I don’t think we’re prepared as a society for the “silver tsunami’ that is coming in the next 10 to 20 years.
WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER LEADERS LOOKING TO MAKE AN IMPACT?
Look for what needs to be done and search out new and innovative ways to do it. There is so much need out there and if we can think creatively and collaboratively, we can make a difference.
WHAT’S ONE THING YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT THE IMPORTANT WORK YOU’RE DOING?
There’s a misconception that Jewish Family Service serves only the Jewish population. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the vast majority of the people we are fortunate to serve are not of the Jewish faith.
Beyond that, I want people to know the impact that we are making in the community an on people’s lives. The life-transforming stories I see and hear every day are a testament to our ability to create change and overcome whatever obstacle we are facing. JFS is helping people realize their full potential, regardless of where they are in life.
HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
There are so many ways. I encourage people to get involved and let their passion guide them to the role and place that’s right for them. We offer all kinds of volunteer opportunities, from working in our food pantry to serving as a friendly visitor to an older adult, to serving free lunches to hungry kids.
Financial support is obviously a necessary and critical component of our ability to do the work we do. There are lots of ways to help in that regard through annual giving, support for our fundraising events, and legacy giving.
We have three signature events each year that bring our community together to support the
work of JFS:
- The Faces of JFS is held in the fall each year.
- The JFS Executive Luncheon is held in the spring and features a well-known guest
- Reel Hope Boulder is an entertainment-themed event held in Boulder in the fall.
I encourage people to visit us and see first-hand the work we are doing to improve people’s lives. It’s eye-opening and powerful.
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