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June 3, 2014

Posted by the JF&CS Events Team

We are excited to welcome Josh Seftel and his mom, Pat, as guest speakers to the 2014 Women’s Breakfast, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Lauren and Mark Rubin Visiting Moms® program.

Josh Seftel
Josh began filming My Mom on Movies with his mom a year and a half ago. The series now boasts over 35 episodes. Josh and Pat have since become occasional correspondents on CBS Sunday Morning. And the series has been featured on the front page of the Boston Globe Magazine, Huffington Post Good News, and Upworthy among others. Visit the JF&CS YouTube channel to see a clip of Josh and his mom talking about the event.

The JF&CS Women's Breakfast is on Wednesday, June 11 at 9:30 a.m. at Congregation Mishkan Tefila in Chestnut Hill. Visit our website to purchase tickets. For more information, please contact Susie Allen at or 781-693-5707.

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June 3, 2014

JF&CS Benefit 2014

Benefit 2014JF&CS has been providing support, guidance, and emergency assistance for people facing economic hardship throughout our 150-year history. At the JF&CS Benefit, we shared stories of how JF&CS improves the lives of people and families in need.

Irene* was referred to JF&CS by a friend. She had two children and was four months pregnant with a third. Due to a high-risk pregnancy, she was no longer able to work and had no source of income. She had been living, temporarily, with a friend who required Irene to leave the apartment during the day, which became unsafe for Irene and her unborn baby. JF&CS connected her to legal services that advocated for her to be placed in an emergency shelter at a hotel in Waltham. JF&CS immediately provided Irene and her family with emergency food and gift cards for diapers and other basic necessities. A JF&CS staff person helped Irene complete applications for financial assistance, permanent housing, and negotiated admission into the nearby Head Start program for her children.

The JF&CS staff person also connected Irene to the JF&CS Fragile Beginnings program to provide support during the final trimester of her pregnancy. Unfortunately, severe complications resulted in the death of the baby during delivery. JF&CS staff continued to be a source of emotional support for Irene and continued to help her achieve greater stability. A few months after the loss of her newborn, Irene’s name finally came up at the top of the affordable housing list. JF&CS helped pay for costs associated with the move.

Although Irene continues to grieve the loss of her baby, she is now economically stable and has gone back to work. She is a loving mother and very motivated to provide for her family. She keeps her focus on a bright future with her children, who are flourishing in their new affordable apartment. JF&CS responded to Irene’s needs and connected her to resources, both within JF&CS and the community. Irene made excellent use of the resources and support provided by JF&CS and is on her way toward self-sufficiency and a full and satisfying life.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

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June 2, 2014

Posted by Beth Soltzberg

Tremble Clefs“Laughter.”

These words do not usually come to mind when thinking of life with a chronic, degenerative illness like Parkinson’s disease (PD). But these are some of the words that the Tremble Clefs choral group, made up of people with Parkinson’s and their care partners, chose to describe what singing together every week means to them. Singers held up signs with these and other inspiring words during their spring concert at JF&CS on May 19.

The Tremble Clefs choral group was created in 2006 by Marilyn and Dale Okonow and Nancy Mazonson as part of the Parkinson’s Family Support program. The choral group’s name comes from the signature “tremble” of Parkinson’s disease and reflects the group’s determination to face adversity with openness and creativity.

One of the words held up at the concert was “community.” This aspect of the Tremble Clefs was vividly evoked by singer Priscilla Elliott’s introduction to the concert. The concert was dedicated to her husband Clark Elliott, a longtime member of the Tremble Clefs who passed away in February. Priscilla described Clark’s brief “escape” from the hospital to attend a Tremble Clefs concert in 2010, saying that participating in the concert was necessary for his emotional health. The audience shared a laugh as she explained that it was a challenge to get him into his concert attire with the hospital bracelet attached to his wrist, but that Clark was determined.

Recently, the Tremble Clefs has plunged into writing new lyrics to many songs. At the May 19 concert, singers sported t-shirts with one of these new lyrics, “music brings joy, and joy makes us strong.” Parkinson’s Family Support program director Nancy Mazonson says, “In addition to medical treatment, people need motivation, aspiration, and social connection to live well with chronic illness. Joy does make us strong; we need it.” The audience, which included family members, health professionals from Greater Boston, and many JF&CS staff, certainly agreed that this concert brought joy. They gave the singers a standing ovation.

Beth SoltzbergBeth Soltzberg, LCSW, MBA, coordinates Living with Chronic Illness, a program of Jewish Family & Children’s Service encompassing support, education, and the arts. Beth’s work includes facilitating caregiver support and education groups, and designing new offerings for families affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Beth earned her MSW and MBA from the University of Chicago and a certificate in end-of-life care from the Smith College School of Social Work. She holds an advanced credential in hospice and palliative care social work.

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May 30, 2014

Posted by Jon Federman

In Parts I and II of this story, we learned about the decline of the Jewish community in Roxbury and Dorchester in the 1960’s and how JF&CS was able to spring into action, bringing shopping trips, transportation, and cultural and social programming to the isolated Jewish elders who remained in those neighborhoods. In this final chapter, we examine the larger picture and see how JF&CS mobilized to physically relocate these elders to other neighborhoods where they could rejoin the Jewish community and feel less isolated.

MattapanMoving Day

By the summer of 1970, the situation had become dire for the remaining elderly Jews of Roxbury and Dorchester. The Elderly Project staff met with the BHA to initiate a police protection program for elderly, Jewish BHA residents. Several elderly clients’ residences had been broken into, and some elders had been robbed and beaten – repeatedly. One client was in the hospital, injured from her fifth robbery/beating. Some had experienced teens banging on their doors at all hours, while others had found dog feces deposited in their doorways. One client’s apartment had even been fire-bombed while she and her disabled sister were inside the apartment.

JF&CS began to receive many calls from elderly people seeking relocation help from the agency. Not only were apartments scarce at the time, but the elderly had mixed feelings about relocating. Rents in the newer Jewish communities of Allston, Brighton, and Brookline were much higher than in Roxbury and Dorchester. Many elders lived in larger, multi-room apartments or even houses, and the thought of moving into an “efficiency” (one-room) apartment was not appealing. Some found the prospect of selling off their personal possessions in order to scale down into an efficiency unit off-putting or unsurmountable. Home owners were also suffering great financial loss in selling their homes. Some expressed that they would rather live in fear and isolation than give up their memory-filled, larger living situations for the unknown.

Elderly tenants living in BHA properties faced even more roadblocks. At first, the BHA denied the transfer requests of these tenants because they felt that they already had adequate housing and that any new openings should be reserved for those with a more urgent need for a roof over their heads. JF&CS staff, with great effort, eventually persuaded the BHA to waive their rule which prohibited intra-project transfers so that the at-risk elderly could be moved into safer, elder sections of BHA properties. JF&CS staff was also instrumental in forcing the BHA to change their policy about placing elders into efficiency apartments so that more desirable one-bedroom apartments would be made available. JF&CS caseworkers noted that there were non-Jewish elderly residents living in fear of their surroundings, too, and these elders were also granted waivers and assistance from JF&CS.

With help from the Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP), six new JF&CS staff members were added to the Project to deal exclusively with relocation, along with a few CJP staff members. JF&CS staff negotiated lower rents with landlords in neighborhoods such as Allston and Brighton for elderly clients who had been living in private housing. CJP and JF&CS staff were also able to negotiate arrangements between the BHA and some landlords under a “Leased Housing Program,” in which the city would supplement a tenant’s rent in order to make apartments available to low-income residents. Arrangements were then made by JF&CS with moving companies and volunteers to relocate the elderly clients.

Caseworkers faced a daunting task. They accompanied clients to view potential apartments, contacted realtors and utility companies for shut-offs and set-ups, hired movers, helped to decide which furniture to keep and which to sell or donate, and of course addressed the emotional factors inherent in uprooting someone from a long-established home. Dozens of elders were moved in the last few months of 1970 – elders who otherwise would have suffered further mental and physical hardship.

Much like present day JF&CS, the Roxbury Dorchester Elderly Project offered comprehensive services to its clients in 1970. Relocation was just one of the many services offered. Case workers attempted to maintain a broad view of the client’s overall problems and needs during and after the initial intake interview and were able to plan accordingly. Strong relationships were established between caseworkers and clients. As a result, caseworkers could offer other JF&CS services to clients, from legal assistance to nutrition, visiting homemakers, counseling, and support services. Once they had a supportive JF&CS network in place, some elders who were not in immediate physical danger decided that they did not need to relocate. Instead, with access to shopping, homemaker, and Friendly Visitor services, in addition to support groups and access to recreational activities, they remained in their homes while their feelings of isolation and loneliness decreased.

The Roxbury Dorchester Elderly Project Report itself sums up the involvement of JF&CS:

There was group interaction and communication. The emphasis was on the total program rather than on its component parts. For the first time, workers were making demands on the agency with concentration on a total program rather than individual concerns.

More than 40 years later, JF&CS continues to provide a full spectrum of services – from prevention to intervention and remediation – in order to improve people’s lives.

Jon FedermanJon Federman is the JF&CS Staff Writer. A practicing attorney for more than 15 years, he is thrilled to bring his legal and persuasive writing skills to the JF&CS Marketing Communications department. Jon has a BA from Tufts University and a JD from Boston College Law School. In his spare time he is an exhibiting photographer and an award-winning cartoonist. Jon lived in London, England for five years before returning to Boston in 2011.

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May 28, 2014

Posted by Jamie Grossman

Shoulder to ShoulderI grew up outside of Philadelphia in a typical suburban neighborhood, connected to the kids in my town and my Temple community.  My mother was a longtime volunteer with Jewish Family Service of Philadelphia. I learned early about the value of reaching into the community to offer support to individuals and families in need of financial, spiritual, or emotional guidance.  Fourteen years ago, when I was asked to join the Board of Directors at JF&CS of Greater Boston, I jumped at the chance. I worked on committees, helped fundraise, and became a lifetime supporter of the invaluable work being done every day at JF&CS.  What I did not know was that there was an incredible community of military families who JF&CS had yet to reach out to.

I have been living in Boston for more than 30 years now and until I met my partner, Bob, almost four years ago, I had never spent any time with or known anyone in the military. As we got to know one another, I began to learn about life as a military family and the toll it can take on relationships with spouses and children. With Bob I became involved with military support programs in the area. The more exposure I had to the military community, the more I thought about JF&CS and the services we provide. I decided to bridge the gap between JF&CS and the military community by creating JF&CS Shoulder to Shoulder.

The Shoulder to Shoulder program is a network of military and military-connected volunteers who understand the emotional struggles that accompany deployment and reintegration by our troops. With the absence of a large military base in Greater Boston, we want our military families to know that we are here for them and that we care. Trained and supervised volunteers will visit the homes of military families weekly and provide them with new skills and resources to strengthen the family. Our volunteers bring their unique perspective as members of the military community who understand the pressures of life as a military family. Our goal is to provide non-judgmental, empathetic support to these families, letting them know that they are not alone and that we understand the particular challenges that face our incredibly strong military families.

Jamie GrossmanJamie Grossman is the proud mother of three beautiful daughters. A board member for 14 years, she is Clerk of the JF&CS Board, served on the Executive Committee, chaired the Hunger and Nutrition Committee, the Annual Campaign, and the Benefit. She is now serving as Special Advisor to the newly created JF&CS program Shoulder to Shoulder and was the recipient of the JF&CS Family Tzedakah Award. Currently Jamie is an overseer at the Beth Israel-Deaconess Medical Center, a member of the Red, White & Blue Alliance of the Home Base Program, member of the executive committee of Silent Springs, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Beyond Boston Women's Executive Council. She is also working with PowerHouse Assets as a Community Advocate. This year marked her fourth year riding in the Pan Mass Challenge.

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May 23, 2014

Posted by Jon Federman

MattapanIn Part I of this story, we learned about the decline of the Jewish community in Roxbury and Dorchester in the 1960’s. In Part II, we see how JF&CS responded to complaints from aging citizens in these neighborhoods.

In response to numerous complaints from the aging citizens of the Roxbury-Dorchester communities, JF&CS entered into collaboration with the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center for the Aged (HRCA) to address these complaints in early 1969. A research team was gathered and elderly residents of the communities were interviewed as part of the “Roxbury Dorchester Elderly Project.”

To start the project, JF&CS used an outreach model because older adults would not be likely to ask for assistance due to lack of information or because they were too proud. HRCA and JF&CS staff canvassed the neighborhoods, interviewed the at-risk elderly, and referred the appropriate cases to JF&CS for casework and services. Five full-time caseworkers were assigned to the project.

The JF&CS/HRCA crew quickly assessed the needs of the elders. They determined that the most urgent needs were assistance with shopping and transportation. Due to their diminished strength, as well as the lack of suitable grocery stores within walking distance, many elders had great difficulty getting food into their apartments. Alarmingly, many elders had been physically attacked in the hallways of their own buildings and were afraid to go out.

Within weeks, a van was purchased for the project and JF&CS volunteers took elders to go food shopping, helping them carry bundles into their apartments without fear of violence. Volunteers also took elders to medical appointments.

Once these basic needs had been addressed, the focus turned to the elder’s psychological needs to counter their feelings of isolation. Recreational activities, such as beach and theater trips, card games, art exhibits, Bingo, Chanukkah parties, Passover Seders, and even a choral group were organized by JF&CS staff in collaboration with the Sisterhood group of Temple Mishkan Tefila of Newton. Men’s and women’s discussion groups were initiated, with JF&CS facilitators. A JF&CS representative even met with the local Stop and Shop to see about expanding the kosher food section in light of the fact that most kosher grocers in the area had closed.

As most local synagogues had moved out to the suburbs, elders were left with nowhere to go for religious services.

Arrangements were made by JF&CS staff with the director of a local School of Fine Arts, once a prominent local synagogue, to hold High Holiday services in the school’s library. JF&CS also organized weekly services in an unused local public housing recreation hall, after lengthy negotiations with the Boston Housing Authority (BHA). Temple youth groups and sisterhood groups volunteered to provide religious services and entertainment at these locations. Local university work study students, along with one of the JF&CS caseworkers, implemented a “friendly visitor” volunteer program to counteract the feelings of loneliness and isolation experienced by many elders.

Find out what else JF&CS was able to do for these vulnerable elders in Part III of this story, appearing next week.

Jon FedermanJon Federman is the JF&CS Staff Writer. A practicing attorney for more than 15 years, he is thrilled to bring his legal and persuasive writing skills to the JF&CS Marketing Communications department. Jon has a BA from Tufts University and a JD from Boston College Law School. In his spare time he is an exhibiting photographer and an award-winning cartoonist. Jon lived in London, England for five years before returning to Boston in 2011.

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May 21, 2014

Posted by Sue Spielman

Hands in a circleSynagogue caring communities are built around the tradition of bikur cholim, Hebrew for "visiting the sick." In Jewish tradition it is an imperative to support those who are ill or isolated. Visiting those in need brings comfort and reinforces connections to life. But it’s not easy. Caring communities depend on members to make sure this caring work happens, yet the knowledge and skills of these volunteers varies.

At JF&CS we recognized the need for experienced professionals to educate and support synagogues to create effective caring communities – ones that truly reach out to provide support to each congregant in need. We developed the Caring Communities Resource Network (CCRN) to bring together members of synagogue communities and help them refine their synagogue's caring skills. Each caring community benefits from developing a structure based on a “train-the-trainers” model that is then replicated and tailored to fit each synagogue’s specific needs. At CCRN community-wide workshops hosted by JF&CS and JFS Metrowest, synagogue lay leaders bring their experience and expertise to collaborate and support each other in building strong and effective caring communities. Currently more than 60 synagogues are members of the CCRN including synagogues throughout Greater Boston, Eastern MA, and Metrowest.

On May 13, members of synagogue caring communities met to discuss how their synagogue can serve the caregivers for those with Alzheimer's disease or a related disorder. In the workshop, Marjie Sokoll, Director of JF&CS Jewish Healing Connections and Beth Soltzberg, Program Coordinator of JF&CS Living with Chronic Illness, led an active discussion about how caring communities can help congregants access resources, find support, and deal with the overwhelming challenges they face. The discussion that followed about how their communities could support caregivers illustrated that synagogue caring community leaders already know so much and can learn even more from each other.

Sue SpielmanSue Spielman, MPA has coordinated the Friendly Visitor Program for more than a decade and more recently the Caring Communities Resource Network, both programs of JF&CS Jewish Healing Connections (JHC). Prior to her work with JHC, Sue worked for 20 years in the world of parenting education and support as an educator and community organizer. In her work with people of all ages, Sue has developed a deep appreciation for the positive impact a friendship can make on one’s quality of life, and she is honored to be able to help create those friendships. Sue received degrees from Harvard University, Wheelock College, and the University of Massachusetts.

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May 15, 2014

Written by Jon Federman

MattapanImagine that you are a Jew living in Poland right after World War I. Jews have been prohibited from running their own businesses. State-sponsored pogroms are making it difficult, if not dangerous, for you to leave your house. You can’t even be sure you’ll make it back alive if you go out to get some groceries. Now flash forward to 1969. You immigrated to America in the 1920’s. You raised a family in your Roxbury home, surrounded by other Jewish families. Your spouse is deceased and your children have moved across the country. Your peers have almost all moved to Brighton or Brookline, along with your synagogue. You are all alone. Suddenly, you cannot leave your home because you’ll be robbed and beaten by local teens. You cannot venture out to get groceries or pick up your mail without fear of a violent attack. Your situation is hopeless.

In the late 1960’s, Jewish elders in the Roxbury-Dorchester area of Boston found themselves in an unfortunate situation. The area had been a thriving, Jewish middle class neighborhood since the 1920’s. In the late 1940’s, Jewish families who had found their economic situations greatly improved due to post-war prosperity started to move west  to places such as Brookline and Newton. This trend continued as socio-economic conditions further improved in the 1950’s and into the 1960’s. In the late 1960’s, the practices of “red-lining” by local banks and lenders and “blockbusting” by unscrupulous realtors accelerated the movement of most of the remaining Jews from these neighborhoods1.  By 1970, fewer than 16,000 Jews remained, down from a high of almost 77,000 in the 1930’s2.

Those left behind were the elderly who either had no families to support them, or could not move due to economic, health, or emotional reasons. They felt abandoned and isolated. Synagogues and Jewish businesses had closed their doors and moved to the Brookline-Newton area. Blue Hill Avenue, which had been the area’s lively Jewish shopping street for decades, had become a symbol of the death of the neighborhood, with boarded-up storefronts and burned out tenements. The neighborhood was besieged by crime and the remaining elderly Jews were afraid to leave their homes. Sadly, even if they had been able to go out, there would have been almost nowhere left to go.

Find out what JF&CS did for these vulnerable elders in Part II of this story, appearing next week.

Jon FedermanJon Federman is the JF&CS Staff Writer. A practicing attorney for more than 15 years, he is thrilled to bring his legal and persuasive writing skills to the JF&CS Marketing Communications department. Jon has a BA from Tufts University and a JD from Boston College Law School. In his spare time he is an exhibiting photographer and an award-winning cartoonist. Jon lived in London, England for five years before returning to Boston in 2011.

1Leon A. Jick, “From Margin to Mainstream, 1917-1967,” in The Jews of Boston, ed. Jonathan Sarna  and Ellen Smith (Boston: Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, 1995), 106.

2Sarna and Smith, The Jews of Boston, 330.

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May 12, 2014

Posted by Ira Schor

AJFCAHaving recently returned from the annual AJFCA (Association of Jewish Family and Children’s Agencies) conference, I have a renewed awareness of the value of gathering with one’s colleagues from other agencies. In the short space of several days, we became a community of professionals learning from one another and sharing our strikingly similar challenges in our efforts to make our world a better place. With our differing logos and acronyms, our varying sizes and geographic locations, it was the commonality of our purpose and the good intent of our missions and services that was most inspiring.

Montreal, bi-lingual, cosmopolitan, and charming, was a terrific setting in which to meet. Stunningly beautiful, bordered by Mont Royal to the north and the St. Lawrence to the south, Montreal is populated by grand, impressive, and intricate 19th century public buildings. This walkable city provided the occasional break from the rich assortment of plenaries and workshops.

I was accompanied by our CEO, Rimma Zelfand and Marjie Sokoll, Director of Jewish Healing Connections. For Rimma, it was a return to a beloved city to which she emigrated from St. Petersburg, Russia. For Marjie, it was the opportunity to share her expertise and her gift in bringing spirituality to the workplace and to her work with older adults. Marjie’s workshop, titled “Standing on Sacred Ground: Cultivating Spirituality in our Agencies,” was hugely well received, prompting many to seek her guidance on bringing healing circles to their agencies.

Personally, I had the opportunity to present on our Talent Management program, sharing a panel on “Developing Agency Leadership” with several colleagues from JF&CS Atlanta. The essence of our workshop was this: (1) each agency is only as good and only as successful as its staff, (2) it is the responsibility of management to find, train, nourish, and appreciate those individuals who we engage to serve our clients, and (3) to thrive, any organization must truly be a “learning organization,” one with the courage to reflect, be curious, ask why, and learn from our successes, failures, and each other.

Two special moments remain with me. The first occurred when approached by a colleague from JFS Seattle who said: “I must tell you how pleased and thankful my family is with the geriatric care management services my grandmother has received from the Your Elder Experts program. The services are excellent and a tremendous comfort to us.” A second memorable moment came as Marjie Sokoll and I walked in the lovely Old Montreal section of the city on a break from the workshops. Pausing only briefly to look at our map, an elderly Asian gentleman stopped and asked “Are you lost. May I help?” As I reflected on his kindness I realized that this was, in fact, what all of our agencies are about: to help people find our way when lost, recognizing that lost is a place we will all find ourselves at times.

Ira SchorIra Schor, now in his twenty-fifth year with JF&CS, is currently the Senior VP of Operations. A licensed clinical social worker, Ira earned his MSW from Syracuse University. Prior to JF&CS, he was the director of out-patient and emergency services at a community mental health center in central Massachusetts. When not at work, Ira enjoys reading history and non-fiction, travel, and outdoor activities.

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May 9, 2014

Posted by Samantha Bullock

CHAi Works AwardOn April 10, JF&CS CHAI Works was recognized at the Newton-Wellesley Hospital (NWH) Volunteer Recognition Dinner for all of the hard work CHAI Works participants have done at the hospital over the past year. The CHAI Works program was awarded the Outstanding Group Volunteer Award, which hasn’t been given out since 2006. This year more than 21 CHAI Works volunteers have assisted NWH in putting together more than 8,000 maternity and postpartum packets as well as adult GI packets and various mailings for different departments throughout the hospital. In addition, there is a CHAI Works participant who volunteers in food service and another who restocks the flu booklets around the hospital and collects and recycles the hospital’s batteries each week.

The relationship between NWH and CHAI Works began in 2005 and has flourished to what it is today, with CHAI Works volunteer groups enthusiastically volunteering three days a week and taking ownership of the projects they complete. NWH greatly appreciates the CHAI Works participants’ work, stating “We simply could not provide this service without their presence and hard work!”

At the Volunteer Recognition Dinner, NWH also took time to acknowledge the amazing JF&CS staff who accompany the CHAI Works volunteers each day. “Their dedication, care, and patience are enviable.” We are grateful for their innovation, motivation, and flexibility!”

The evening consisted of an awards ceremony followed by a dinner complete with live music and appreciation gifts. It was a great evening for the CHAI Works volunteers, staff, and their families to celebrate the success they have had over the past year!

Samantha BullockSamantha Bullock joined the CHAI Works team in November 2013 as the CHAI Works Program Manager. Samantha is currently working towards her Master’s in Special Education and Behavior Analysis at Arcadia University and will be graduating in 2014. Samantha has been in the field of developmental disabilities for almost 10 years and has worked in a variety of settings including residential and classroom environments.

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