2015-12-09 / Columns

Gratitude and growth are moving us forward to 2016

Executive Director, Jewish Family & Children’s Service

This will be my last column in 2015. As we bid farewell to the old year and welcome 2016, I want to take this opportunity to share just how much growth and progress JFCS has seen during the last year. While needs have emerged throughout our area, we as an agency have risen to meet each challenge with passion and an unwavering commitment to answering the call.

Yes, we had more than 7,000 clients use our Betsy and Peter Fischer Food Pantries this past year. It is also true that with the community’s help, we were able to rise to the challenge and provide an unprecedented $200,000 worth of food to those who struggle.

It is true that we continue to see a steady influx of Project SARAH clients and children who are suffering from domestic violence. To stem this tide of abuse, we have conducted outreach to hundreds of students in our area to teach them how to build healthy relationships, and we partnered with Camden County, legislators, local sports organizations, including The Flyers Wives, and many schools in hosting numerous events to raise awareness of abuse, most recently regarding the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses. We continue to work on the frontlines to make sure we can end the many cycles of violence that exist in our community. And we won’t stop until the violence has ended.

Our “Right in Your Backyard” addiction seminars have grown in leaps and bounds, thanks to the support of friends and the sponsorship of the Freeholders of Camden County. Since 1999, the annual tally of painkiller overdose deaths has quadrupled in the country and an epidemic of opiate and heroin abuse has hit NJ in unprecedented numbers. The largest group of people who overdose on narcotics are those 26 years old and younger. While the statistics of heroin abuse can shock a region into a standstill—we know that the only way to change the pattern of addiction and save lives is to get moving— hit the streets, meet the public, and arm residents young and old with the knowledge and tools needed to end the addiction crisis we are facing. There is no option; we all must continue to work together so that senseless tragedies stemming from addiction are replaced with healthy and bright futures.

We have all read the news that the senior population is expected to explode as the Baby Boomer population ages. That means more seniors will need our care. Last year, 3,600 seniors were served through our Senior Services Department so they could age in place, with dignity. We expect that number to increase next year as the needs and the demographics continue to expand. Just as we have every year of the 70+ years that our agency has been in existence, we will continue to face the issues with our clients providing them with the support and resources they need to lead fulfilling lives.

We also realize that caregivers are in need more than ever, and we need to support them as they care for the aging and infirm. We continue to offer Caregiver Support Groups to make sure they are connected to a support system to share experiences, resources and emotional support. Additionally, through our research and investigative efforts, we were able to identify, qualify, and assist new Holocaust Survivors for a litany of benefits to which they are entitled. In this past fiscal year, we were able to deliver nearly $1,000,000 of support services such as counseling, in home care, medication monitoring, friendly visitors, catered home delivered meals, and social programs to Holocaust Survivors throughout our region.

Support groups that focus on sensitive and personal topics such as the loss of a child, anxiety, pre-teen self-esteem, transitioning throughout life, widow/widowers, will continue to be a staple for the agency as we move into 2016. In response to the ever growing underemployed and unemployed population, we will be partnering with Jewish Employment and Vocational Service (JEVS) to expand our career services programming in order to assist dozens in our area to go and find the careers that will make their lives, and the lives of their family members, more prosperous. As our community comes to us with its challenges and struggles, we will continue to respond with an outstretched hand and a willingness to help.

As our mission has always been, this year, and every year, we are here to give help and hope. The JFCS Special Needs Supported Employment Program coached, mentored, and placed 130 individuals with special needs into the workforce. SAIL and TOPS, the special needs recreation and day programs continue to bring light and an abundance of happiness and fulfillment to the many participants who experience them. Our Soups and Sweets Culinary Training Program for those with special needs continues to grow and now offers business/personal catering menus, in addition to sweets, challot and desserts. The participants in the program are not only helping to feed their delicious fare to neighbors all around us—they are satisfying their appetite to learn culinary skills and techniques so that they will enjoy gainful employment in the food industry. Everyone wins. In fact, you’re likely to see one of our graduates working in the kitchen of your favorite restaurant!

What a year 2015 has been. We look forward to another year of standing up for others, empowering families and individuals, and heeding the call for assistance when it is sounded. Please know that we could not do what we do, year in and year out, without the continued commitment and support of donors, sponsors, community partners, volunteers, staff and board members. And for all of you, we are ever grateful.

Cheers to a happy and prosperous secular New Year! . mmeyers@jfedsnj.org

Return to top