Shared by Rimma Zelfand at the JF&CS Benefit

“Community” is one of the words that our Parkinson’s clients use to describe our program. It’s an interesting word choice from people whose physical disease has often isolated them and their caregivers. I remember a conversation I had nine years ago with Dale and Marilyn Okonow. Dale came to JF&CS to share his parents’ experience with Parkinson’s disease. Dale’s father, who later succumbed to Parkinson’s, had no opportunity to connect with others in his situation. Although they had each other and their friends, they felt isolated. As an adult child, Dale felt alone as well. Dale came to JF&CS with the idea of offering a support program.

Along with a friend whose father had also recently passed from the disease, Dale and Marilyn contributed the funds to launch our Parkinson’s Family Support program. The program started with a support group and grew to include Parkinson’s dance and a chorus, the Tremble Clefs. When we needed a director of the chorus, Marilyn stepped forward and has been leading our chorus –as a volunteer – for the past five years. Two years ago, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center approached us to see if we would host a drumming class. Today, our Parkinson’s Family Support programs serve hundreds of people. With a grant from the National Parkinson’s Foundation, we are launching dance demonstration classes and partnering with a dance studio in the South End, responding to the lack of programming in the inner city for Parkinson’s patients. All of this because one person, one family stepped forward – the power of one! Dale and Marilyn have stepped forward again with an extraordinary philanthropic commitment to name the Charlotte & Richard Okonow Parkinson’s Family Support program of JF&CS.

We are also proud to celebrate Jon and Margot Davis. Jon and Margot have given so much to our community – they have shared their volunteer time, their professional wisdom and expertise, and they have invested generously in so many nonprofits, including JF&CS.

Last year, I shared how JF&CS is a 150 year old “startup.” I am proud that we are still creating new programs, discovering new ways to help people in crisis, and leveraging our unique integrated model of care to make an even bigger difference in people’s lives.  I like to call this the power of one agency.
Together with our partner agencies in the Jewish community, we are helping more people in crisis in more impactful and meaningful ways. I am so grateful to our friends at CJP, Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters, JVS, Yad Chessed, JCHE, and Brandeis University for our increased collaboration. The power of community extends beyond the walls of JF&CS and together we make such a difference. JF&CS also has collaborations with dozens of other organizations across Eastern and Central MA. From Greater Boston Food Bank to Horizons for Homeless Children to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, we are leveraging our agency’s expertise with the strength of other organizations.

I invite you to think about the difference you can make, the role you can play, the ideas you have, the time you can volunteer, and the impact your philanthropic dollars can have. Please join us in our work and share your power – the power of your time and volunteerism will improve the lives of so many people in need.