February is Jewish Disability Awareness Month, and so this week we’re shining a spotlight on an innovative project that helps those in our community with special needs. Since 2003, CJP has been creating housing for people with disabilities. When Todd Finard isn’t developing commercial real estate at his firm Finard Properties, he puts his real estate skills to good use as part of CJP’s Real Estate Next Generation Group. Even though Todd has already answered five questions about himself on his company website, his tzedakah has earned him my four questions treatment.

This is Jewish Disability Awareness Month. What kinds of things are you doing with the CJP Real Estate Next Generation Group?

created at: 2012-02-05We are about to complete our third development/project. The entire team has been incredibly involved in making the Washington Square Apartments in Brookline a reality. Our group is constantly looking for ways to evolve and grow based on the focus of the CJP Disabilities Housing Initiative. CJP tells us who needs help and we rally around the idea of finding/creating/building the space that makes a positive difference.

How did you get involved with this cause?

A great deal of the credit has to go to Barry Shrage and Adam Weiner. After Barry challenged Adam to create an interesting avenue to become more involved at CJP, Adam reached out to a handful of friends he has known since childhood. This became a brainstorming session for eight of us sitting in Jon Davis’s office a few months later, and eventually the CJP Next Generation Housing Foundation Inc. was born.

We wanted to know what segment of the population was underserved, and at that point we were introduced to Elizabeth Sternberg, director of disabilities services at CJP. Our focus on people with disabilities was a direct result of hearing Elizabeth talk about the needs of this population. My involvement was a product of being lucky enough to live in a community where leaders like Barry and Elizabeth are willing to allow a bunch of 30-something real estate developers to sit in a room and brainstorm ways to be helpful.

Where did your interest in tikkun olam come from? Is this something your parents instilled in you?

Absolutely from my parents. Growing up, I was very aware of my father’s efforts at what was then called the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center for Aged (today Hebrew SeniorLife). He loved what he was doing, and it was made all the more special as he was volunteering his time with Marty Shulkin, Arnie Rosenberg and many other close friends. My mother was always busy planning events for Children’s Hospital and working side by side with Jill Karp, Myra Kraft and many others as well. They were all the original “Next Gen’ers.”

My time at CJP and HSL is—in large part—a reflection of what I saw them do for many years.

You work with real estate as an adult. What was your favorite “Monopoly” piece when you were growing up?

I always loved the top hat, and I never trusted anyone who picked the dog; they tended to be cheaters!