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June 24, 2014

Written by Evette and Ari Ronner
Presented at the 2014 JF&CS Benefit

Ari, a 10th grader at the Maimonides School, and his sister Evette, a senior at the Maimonides School, shared their JF&CS story at the 2014 Benefit on Wednesday, May 21.
Evette and AriWe, along with our amazing mother, Janet, are honored to be here to help celebrate the 150th anniversary of JF&CS. Unfortunately, our sister, Adina, could not be here with us. Adina has developmental disabilities and is with her caretaker this evening. We are here tonight to tell you about our long-standing relationship with Jewish Family & Children’s Service.

In 2002, our dad passed away after being ill for just a short time as the result of a brain tumor. He left our mom with three young children to care for. Evette was only six years old at the time and Ari and Adina were only four. Our situation was fragile. This was when the Jewish community stepped in.

We remember very distinctly our family’s initial experience with JF&CS: that first Chanukkah after our dad died. We knew we could no longer light the menorah with our father. Our dad traditionally gave us gifts all eight nights, but given that our mother was struggling financially, she would not be able to keep up that tradition. But the holiday turned out to be a joyous one after all. Unbeknownst to us at the time, we were already receiving food from Family Table. JF&CS volunteers arrived with bags full of gifts as a result of our relationship with the agency. There were enough gifts to cover almost all eight nights of Chanukkah for the three of us! At the time, we were overjoyed, having no idea that they came from JF&CS. JF&CS allowed our family to enjoy Chanukkah the way we would have had our dad still been with us.

Over the years, JF&CS has provided us with camp scholarships, which enabled us to attend summer camp. After many years of attending camp at the Chestnut Hill School, this summer we will be returning to work as camp counselors. Adina has enjoyed time at Camp Jabberwocky on Martha’s Vineyard for the past several summers, thanks to the support of JF&CS.

Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters also has played an influential role in our lives. We have developed strong, nurturing relationships with our Bigs over the years, who have also been a huge support to our mother. Ari has been together with his big brother, Paul, for the past six years, and he is the best Big Brother Ari could ask for.

In January of 2013, our life circumstances took a turn for the worse - our mother was admitted to the hospital for what would turn into an extended stay. We were devastated, scared, and alone with no parents to take care of us. Our aunt managed for a week but was unable to care for both our family and her own. Evette was sixteen at the time. Between running the household, caring for Adina, and visiting our mother, we barely had time for schoolwork, let alone social activities. We knew that if we didn't find someone to care for us soon, the state would likely place the three of us in separate foster homes, especially given our sister’s special needs. The last thing we wanted was for our family to be torn apart again.

Just when our lives were falling into crisis, Eve Youngerman from JF&CS entered our lives. She began working around the clock to arrange for overnight care for the three of us, recognizing how important it was to keep us at home together. By the end of the week, we had loving nannies coming into our home each night to take care of Adina. Eve coordinated efforts with several Jewish organizations to provide funding to cover the cost until our mother came home from the hospital. This in-home support allowed us to focus on schoolwork, participate in school activities, and lead a somewhat “normal” teenage life. It was an amazing feeling to know that, once again, the Jewish community was able to help our family during some of our toughest times.

In the middle of February, as our mother was continuing to improve, we realized that caring for Adina, given her disabilities, would be impractical. JF&CS helped find a foster placement for Adina, ensuring our mom’s ability to get better. Throughout the placement process, we received a lot of support from JF&CS. Eve took us to meet Adina’s new foster family and helped us move her in. She even took us to visit Adina a few days later. Today, Adina is thriving in her foster home. Her caretaker, Catherine, is truly amazing; she specializes in caring for kids with disabilities, and we couldn’t have asked for a more loving, knowledgeable person to take care of our sister. We speak to Adina almost every night and visit her every weekend.

While at the hospital, our mom was visited by a JF&CS case manager whose role it was to coordinate her services when she returned home. The case manager helped sort through complicated health insurance and other benefit issues, ensuring that she received the assistance she needed to continue her recovery. The support she received was invaluable.

We are happy to say that today we are in a much better place than when we met Eve a year and a half ago. Our mom is doing well, as is Adina. We know our dad would be grateful to the Jewish community that helped support us through difficult times. He would also be very proud of our strength. Ari adds that the family is very proud of Evette who will be attending Harvard University as a member of their class of 2018 in the fall. He noted that, even though their family is really going to miss Evette, they know she has such a bright future ahead of her.

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June 19, 2014

By Lisa Katz

Family TableI have a deeply rooted passion for working at Jewish Family & Children’s Service Family Table as Volunteer and Food Coordinator because when I first walked in these doors, I needed the help.

Three years ago my husband and I each faced unemployment and we were struggling to climb out of debt. On top of that we barely could afford to keep kosher but because it is so important to us, we found a way, which often meant turning to others for help and meals. We felt embarrassed, stressed, and completely alone in our situation.

The JF&CS website walked me through all of the services offered and my heart sprang with hope. I contacted the Center for Family Assistance and applied for a Hebrew Free Loan for a looming tuition bill. We were connected with other services, including Family Table, which brought us such relief. Receiving a gift of monthly groceries was amazing. We especially appreciated being able to have Shabbat meals in our own home again since we were getting challah, kosher chicken, fresh produce, and many other items. As the Family Table Marketplace pantry started, I tried that and really enjoyed being able to come in and pick out my own groceries. However, after I had a baby it was difficult to travel and come in to Marketplace so I missed several months. Thankfully, the Family Table Case Manager reached out to me and made sure we had the support we needed and arranged for us to receive deliveries.

In addition to everything else, when I became pregnant, JF&CS staff encouraged me to sign up for the Lauren and Mark Rubin Visiting Moms® program. It was wonderful having an understanding mom who could come each week to my home to talk and listen, especially since my parents live far away. My son is 20 months old now and I still think back fondly to her visits.

JF&CS case managers worked together extremely well to make sure that my family received all the relevant services we needed. We were so fortunate to have found JF&CS.

When I heard about a job position opening at Family Table, which exactly fit my background as I had been a Volunteer Coordinator at Cambridge Family & Children’s Service, I eagerly applied. When I learned about how Family Table actually operates, I was completely impressed. As a client I had no idea so many other families were being served. I couldn’t believe the complexity of this program and how it can successfully serve more than 400 client households through a network of public and private funding, and food donations from 69 area synagogues and schools.

My experience as a client helps me train volunteers, educate the community, and serve clients better. I want to make sure both clients and volunteers have as smooth and positive of an experience as I had. JF&CS has made a tremendous impact on my life and I am so glad I have the chance to pass on what I have gained to others in need.

Lisa KatzLisa Katz is the Volunteer and Food Coordinator for Family Table, the largest kosher food pantry serving Greater Boston and the North Shore. She joined JF&CS one year ago after having worked as Children and Family Services Coordinator at The Second Step, a domestic violence program, and Volunteer and Mentor Coordinator at Cambridge Family & Children’s Service. She also worked in Jewish communal service in religious schools, Jewish camps, and as Program Coordinator at MIT Hillel. Lisa is excited to bring together her passion for supporting clients, volunteers, and the Jewish community. Lisa also enjoys dancing around the kitchen with her toddler.

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June 17, 2014

Posted by Hannah Hiam

Hannah HaimAs a closing to my senior year, my school, Gann Academy, gives students the opportunity to gain experience in a particular occupation that may help their future goals or develop their interests. As a granddaughter and great granddaughter of innocent people affected by World War II and anti-Semitic oppression, I grew up hearing stories about the painful adversities my family faced in Soviet Russia. Additionally, I feel an obligation to address the needs of European senior survivors in my community.

For six weeks I helped the hardworking team of Schechter Holocaust Services, who devote their utmost attention and support to those who have been through humanity’s worst era. I assisted Café Hakalah in late April, a luncheon that brought together Israeli Defense Force soldiers and over eighty survivors. In addition, I spent time researching, filing important documents, speaking on the phone with individual clients, making holiday gift bags, and giving a helping hand to the diligent staff who have numerous tasks to complete. Towards the end of my internship, I joined my supervisor on a home visit. The home visit put all the work I did in the office into perspective. It was special to connect to the people who benefit from my help in the office.

The work I completed for Schechter Holocaust Services has impacted me momentously. It is a comfort knowing there are professionals working to better the daily lives of survivors and those affected by Nazi persecution. I believe other young people like me who feel passionate about connecting their lives to the brave and commendable generations before us would feel the same way if they had such a powerful experience. I am grateful for the experience I had working with a warm and intelligent staff. In the future I hope other young people will be inspired to take the opportunity to volunteer and provide services for survivors and elderly immigrants.

Hannah HaimHannah Hiam interned with Schechter Holocaust Services before graduating from Gann Academy this month. She will be attending Trinity College in the fall.

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June 13, 2014

By Kate Weldon LeBlanc

Women's Breakfast 2014Wednesday morning was the annual Women’s Breakfast, supporting the JF&CS Center for Early Relationship Support® (CERS) and celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Lauren and Mark Rubin Visiting Moms® program. It was our most successful Women’s Breakfast ever, with more than 350 people in attendance and raising more than $260,000. We are enormously grateful.

This year, we were joined at the Breakfast by filmmaker Josh Seftel and his mother, Pat, who shared their reflections about the importance – and joy – of staying connected via their sweet, entertaining FaceTime chats.
This was only my fourth breakfast (many people there have been attending for more than two decades!) but based on this relatively small sample, I have made some unscientific observations about things that are “always” true about our Women’s Breakfast:

  1. The weather will be gorgeous. Not just a little bit nice but “nicest day of the week” gorgeous. It seems like even if clouds, cool temperatures, or rain are forecast, the morning of the Breakfast will be sunny and you’ll walk in the door already with a spring in your step.
  2. The whirlwind of friendship, generosity, and energy will be palpable and contagious.
  3. It will be emotional but not sad. Many eyes fill with tears (mine ALWAYS do) because it is profound to bear witness to the impact that the support provided by CERS has made for a quarter century. I am also moved by my admiration and affection for all my colleagues, especially our CERS Director Peggy Kaufman.

Yesterday’s event had all of the above and more. During the program, Peggy described her first conversation with our amazing Event Chair and Visiting Mom, Audrey Schuster. When Audrey asked about her goals for the Breakfast, Peggy explained she wanted it to increase awareness of Visiting Moms and CERS; to build a legacy and sustain our programs financially so we can continue to provide these vital services into the future; and to honor all the women who have served as Visiting Moms in the last 25 years. This Women’s Breakfast fulfilled all of these wishes! We welcomed many attending for the first time, and I am confident they left with a wonderful sense of the JF&CS community.

One of the most inspiring moments for me was when Audrey asked all the women who had ever been Visiting Moms to stand and be recognized. They have such a strong bond to each other and have literally changed the lives of thousands of parents and babies. This was reflected in the powerful remarks shared, in person and on video, both by mothers who received visits by Visiting Moms and by mothers who are Visiting Moms. One mom said, “Having a little extra love come into your life when you need it most is what Visiting Moms is.” It may sound simple enough but it is transformative. I’ll never forget a mom using that lovely and uncommon word to describe CERS. I think it is perfect. As Audrey herself said beautifully, “What matters most is to be in the moment and present for each mom.” The power of “just being with” other people is something we can all take away and bring into our own lives. What a legacy indeed!

kate weldon leblancKate Weldon LeBlanc has been the associate director of CERS since August of 2009. Kate is passionate about child and family issues, particularly on building communities of support for parents. Prior to her arrival at JF&CS, she spent nearly ten years working in the departments of Child Advocacy and Government Relations at Children’s Hospital Boston. She holds a BSW from Skidmore College and a MPA from UMass Boston.

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June 10, 2014

JF&CS Benefit 2014

JF&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.

HandsElise*, a 62-year-old woman with a disability, was living with her 93-year-old mother and had received financial assistance from JF&CS in the past and was currently receiving groceries from our food pantry. Unable to pay an assessment on their condominium and fearful about what would happen to her and her mother, Elise reached out to JF&CS for help. JF&CS provided financial assistance to prevent eviction proceedings. With the stress of possible eviction put aside, JF&CS staff began to research housing regulations and client rights to prepare for future advocacy. The JF&CS staff member connected Elise and her mother to a free JF&CS geriatric care manager to help with long-term planning. When it became apparent that getting to JF&CS to pick up food was a challenge, JF&CS provided them with monthly deliveries. JF&CS helped avert a financial crisis that might have resulted in homelessness and connected them to long-term support to address the issues of aging and housing stability.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

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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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