Posted by Liz Cohen

Parkinson's DanceAt a recent gathering of the Tremble Clefs, our choral group for people with Parkinson’s disease and their care partners, I made a joke that the name Institutional Advancement is one of those colloquialisms like sanitation engineer. Words like “gift officer” or “fundraising” often get a bad rap but that is not what is being reflected in our Institutional Advancement department. We are sincerely committed to thinking of ways to advance the mission and vision of Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Our goal is to find ways to engage friends and supporters in meaningful volunteer work, leadership roles, and (of course) philanthropy.

My background is in public health and I have mostly been a program manager or Executive Director but embedded in all of those positions has always been the responsibility of raising money. You can have the best organization in the world but without sustaining funds, leaders and volunteers nothing can get done. I was thrilled to find a position at an organization that I have long admired and a department filled with people led by the best practices in the field of fundraising, marketing, and volunteerism.

So, all that being said – here was my challenge. How could I get a sense of the more than 40 programs within Jewish Family & Children’s Service so that I could speak intelligently about our work? There is only one way for me to learn: I jumped right in and asked to go to as many events as I possibly could.

In my first six weeks, here is but a short list of everything I saw at JF&CS:

  1. The pure joy of people with Parkinson’s disease as they sang and danced with their peers and loved ones.
  2. The dignity given to families as they selected food for Passover from our kosher food pantry, the largest available in New England.
  3. The dedication of our Journey to Safety advocates as they work tirelessly to find resources for survivors of domestic abuse.
  4. The nods of understanding from older adults having a candid conversation about what it means to age at a Spirited Aging program in Central MA.
  5. The tears in the eyes of our guests as they said the Mourner’s Kaddish together at a lunch on Yom Hashoah, which honored Holocaust survivors.
  6. The sweet gurgles of an infant coming with her mom to visit one of our sleep consultants in the Center for Early Relationship Support®.
  7. The pride of a participant in Pathways to Employment as he told me how he developed skills to help when he applies for jobs with support from our amazing Services for People with Disabilities staff.
  8. The kindness of our volunteers as they participated in our Friendly Visitor Seder.

I am honestly blown away by the thoughtfulness and quality of our work and the dedication to really meet people where they are and help them get where they want to go. I am proud of all that we have accomplished and all that we will continue to accomplish together.

Liz CohenLiz Cohen is a Senior Development Officer at JF&CS. Prior to coming to JF&CS, she was the Executive Director of Families First, a parenting support organization serving low-income families. She has also held education-focused positions at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts and WGBH Educational Foundation. The beginning of her career was dedicated to helping survivors of sexual violence, including leading the Rape Crisis Services of Greater Lowell (now the Center for Hope and Healing). Liz has a master’s in public health from Boston University and a bachelor’s from Tufts University. Her greatest joy and accomplishment is being a single mom to an amazing 6 and ¾ year old daughter.

Originally published on the JF&CS blog.