Rimma ZelfandAs CEO of Jewish Family & Children’s Service, I have the privilege of meeting with lots of people. Often, I meet with someone who knows very little about our agency. Yet sometimes I spend time with people whose families have been connected to JF&CS for generations. No matter who I am with, people tell me that they are surprised that we do so much. As a relatively small human service agency, it is surprising to many people that we serve more than 17,000 individuals each year. It is surprising that we serve Jews and non-Jews. It is surprising that we serve people in low-income areas and that some of our clients live in Weston, Wellesley, and Worcester county. Many people are surprised that we serve military families and that we have a program that supports newborns exposed to substances and their moms, either in recovery or dealing with addiction. One board member recently told me, “This is not your father’s JF&CS.”

What I hear most often is “How do you do everything you do?” I am very proud that today JF&CS is a leading provider of comprehensive services that helps individuals literally from birth to death. We are able to do so much because our program areas do not work in isolation and instead work in constant collaboration. Let me illustrate this point:

When Kathy (name changed to protect privacy) came to us after suffering a debilitating stroke, she needed financial assistance and a safe place to live. A JF&CS case manager secured initial benefits for Kathy that included cash and food assistance as well as desperately-needed health insurance. With further help from JF&CS, she was approved for social security (SSDI) benefits, which provided her with a monthly income and triggered her eligibility for Medicare. JF&CS helped Kathy find a subsidized apartment in a building with on-site supports for her, including access to a social worker.

JF&CS staff came together to secure a personal care attendant to help Kathy with daily activities like grocery shopping, bathing, meal preparation, and housework. With her immediate needs met, Kathy and her caseworker met regularly to discuss financial literacy to ensure that she would not run out of money before the end of each month. They secured additional health support for Kathy, including a nurse care manager, an in-home therapist, a home health aide, and finally, a long-term support coordinator. Thanks to JF&CS, Kathy is now living comfortably and safely on her own. She reports to us that the agency has had a “profound impact” on her life and she is amazed that after entering through the front door of JF&CS, so many other doors were opened for her.

This client’s story is not unique. Almost every day I learn about the many ways our clinicians, social workers, and even our administrative team work in partnership to achieve the greatest impact for our clients to improve their lives. I like to think that for every client we serve, we do not just give them a hand-out; we give them a hand-up.

And we do not work in isolation. As one of the lead agencies in the Anti-Poverty Initiative, supported by Combined Jewish Philanthropies, we are able to easily connect clients to services outside our purview like Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters and JVS. We work closely with other agencies like the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, Boston Medical Center, and the Greater Boston Food Bank.

Perhaps you are not surprised by what I have shared, but if you are, I’d like to share more with you. I’d like to personally invite you to visit our website to learn more about JF&CS. I am certain that you will find something of interest to you – whether it’s a service that can provide support to you, a friend, or a family member. If you are interested in volunteering, we have many ways for you to join us in improving the lives of others. I hope that as the holiday season draws near you will also consider including JF&CS among the charities you support. I am proud that we have received a Gold Star rating from GuideStar, ensuring that your philanthropic support is providing direct assistance to our clients.

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about Jewish Family & Children’s Service.

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