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June 28, 2019
Posted by Betsy Johnson 

Betsy Johnson and her daughter in the mountains.

At the 2019 JF&CS Women’s Breakfast, Betsy Johnson gave a heartfelt speech about the long-lasting impact the Center for Early Relationship Support® has had on her life. You can read the speech below or hear Betsy deliver her remarks in the embedded SoundCloud player.

Well, it’s been 16 years since I was a client of JF&CS. My husband and I left our family and friends in Pennsylvania to move to Massachusetts after he accepted a job transfer. We were hesitant to start a family of our own, as I had some medical issues that we knew would make pregnancy and child rearing difficult for me. In addition, my own mother had experienced a severe post-partum depression and psychosis that had psychologically crippled her and our family, and I was petrified I would have the same response.

So when I learned I was pregnant in October 2000, although I was so excited I told a complete stranger in the elevator on the way home from the doctor’s appointment, I was also frightened. I was mostly scared of not knowing how to be a mom.

Things seemed to be going well however; we planned to tell our families at the holidays when we visited home. Two days before our scheduled trip, with framed photographs of the ultrasound pictures wrapped up as Chanukkah gifts for our family, we went for a routine ultrasound, only to learn that there was no longer a heartbeat. It devastated me. 

A midwife suggested I get in contact with JF&CS to learn about their miscarriage support groups. There, I met others who had experienced pregnancy loss, and I found a haven of support. It was a place that felt safe to say the hard things, a place to listen, a place to grieve, and even a place to hope. While involved with the group, I got pregnant again and lost again. Although just as painful, this time I had people who I knew I could talk to. It made a difference.

Betsy Johnson and her young daughter at the beach.Finally, in October 2001, we conceived Rebeccah. As you can imagine, the pregnancy was fraught with anxiety. But slowly, ultrasounds continued to be positive, and I’ll fast forward through nine months to tell you that on July 24, 2002, I gave birth to a beautiful and healthy baby girl.

With no family here to support us and no good model for mothering, it was challenging for me. I felt that I lacked the tools, that although I felt more love for Becca than I ever felt possible, I was unsure of her love for me. I felt ill-equipped and utterly isolated, as well as guilty for feeling that way. Since I had experienced a negative model for mothering, I had to figure out how to do it differently - how to redefine it. 

Peggy Kaufman and Debbie Whitehill of CERS came to the rescue. In addition to a New Moms group led by a caring and skilled facilitator that met weekly, they also set me up with a Lauren & Mark Rubin Visiting Moms® volunteer. Jennifer came weekly for an hour or more. We connected immediately. She listened to my fears, she encouraged my efforts, praised my successes, helped me figure out how to fit an infant carrier into a shopping cart (for which I am forever grateful), made me laugh, and helped to start me on a path to start to see myself for what I know I am today - a good mom.

When Becca was 9 months old, she was sitting in her high chair when all of a sudden her eyes rolled up in her head and she became unresponsive. It lasted about a minute. We were terrified. We rushed her to our pediatrician, then a neurologist. In order to rule out seizures, doctors ordered an ambulatory EEG for 72 hours. We were sent home and were told we needed to watch her and press a button every time we saw an episode, at which point the EEG would start recording. 

I came home and cried because how could we possibly watch her for 72 hours straight? I was overwhelmed and terrified. My Rubin Visiting Mom, Jennifer, called Peggy and told her what was going on.  

By the end of that day, the phone rang. It was Peggy. They had garnered 12 JF&CS volunteers to help. They came in two-hour shifts, for the next 72 hours so we could rest and take a break. I was overwhelmed again, but this time with such immense gratitude. Other agencies certainly offer cookie-cutter support. But this was community support on steroids. It was personal. It was customized. It was unique, and it was timely.  She said, “We’ve got this Betsy.” I will never forget this immense kindness. This is who JF&CS is at its core.

I’ve stayed connected with Peggy and Jennifer over the years with cards and holiday cookies and emails and an occasional lunch. But this is the part of the story that feels really important now. 

Becca with a fishing rod.Becca is 16 years old and several years ago was diagnosed with autism type 1 as well as a complex tic disorder, and this year also diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Type 3, a genetic connective tissue disorder. It’s been a very hard journey with lots of highs and lows and a whole lot of fear for her future. 

Although she is an accomplished pianist, loves scuba diving and karate, had an amazing conversation with Elizabeth Warren about autism, and is completely obsessed with all things Broadway, she has also had scary lows, school refusal, been a target of bullying, suffers from panic attacks, and has frequent and severe meltdowns. But drawing on my experience with JF&CS, this time, my first instinct was to seek out community again. I spoke to Peggy who gave me information and autism referrals. I’ve connected with yet another community of parents on this journey, and we support each other daily. Some of my dearest friends and supports are in this community.   

I have this favorite ceramic cup. It was chipped in a way that made drinking tea impossible. I lamented the crack, as the cup has a great deal of sentimental value to me. I could not bring myself to throw it away. Finally, I took the cup up to the room where I do my writing. I put all my favorite pens in the cup and set it in the sunlight. The crack was still there, but now it is covered with bits of ink and creative process. It was only because of that crack that this mug found its new and beautiful purpose.

Sometimes healing happens when the pieces are glued together and things go on pretty much the same - but now with an important tender place. Sometimes healing happens when the pieces do not go back together in exactly the same way. Something new was discovered, a different way of being in the world that could not have been found without the breaking and mending experience.

You see, we can call something broken and end the sentence. Or we can take what is broken and fashion something that might be improbable, but not at all impossible. We have this power. We always have. We have pulled threads of hope from fabric that was frayed, turned it into a quilt, and called it Jacob’s ladder. 

How can we find the courage in life as things break apart around us? You see, I experienced the power of community 16 years ago, and so when we learned of these diagnoses, I knew that part of my healing was to seek out and find community and make something out of the broken pieces. JF&CS taught me that.

JF&CS taught me that however long, short, wide, or deep a true community might be, its impact is timeless. It’s like you throw a stone in a lake and the ripples extend out into forever. So the goal is not to make moments of true community last forever, but to inhabit them as fully as possible for as long as possible, and to carry their legacy with you. The ripples of the services I received from JF&CS, from miscarriage support, to lactation support, to new mom support, and to creative personalized support are still moving outward into forever. And then I think about all JF&CS does for everyone over so many years, and how it multiplies and multiplies out into forever in ways we never imagined at the time.

Betsy Johnson and her daughter on their deckJF&CS is so many things: a safety net, a haven, a sanctuary, a soft place to land, a supportive network. But really you create community – fostering support, space, resources, and the relationships to nurture this journey wherever it ends up taking us. And I’m so grateful I can say I am part of this community.

To learn more about all of our home and community-based services for parents and infants, visit our Center for Early Relationship Support® page.

Betsy Johnson and her daughter on their deck.

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June 20, 2019
Posted by Kim Creem

Dancing at the Art of Resilience 2019.

On June 6, 2019, JF&CS hosted the Art of Resilience, a celebration of the Charlotte & Richard Okonow Parkinson’s Family Support program. Clients, staff, volunteers, and donors gathered to enjoy refreshments and entertainment from the JF&CS Parkinson’s Dancers and Tremble Clefs choral singers. JF&CS Board member Kim Creem attended the event and wrote this beautiful reflection on her experience.    

The Art of Resilience was an event that I had always wanted to attend. I had never been able to come, mainly due to conflicts with my family’s weekend activities. However, there was also another nagging issue for me. I would be surrounded for 2 hours with people who suffer from the same disease that my mother was diagnosed with over 25 years ago.

It is interesting to me that, on paper, I can talk about, encourage, and support the Charlotte & Richard Okonow Parkinson’s Family Support program at JF&CS. However, being there in person is emotionally devastating for me — tearing at my heart and bringing a deep sadness like no other.

Today was the day to challenge myself and face my emotions head-on. The Art of Resilience clearly fit into my schedule, and I was determined to be there and to be fully present.

So Much Good for So Many People

As I drove towards the entrance to JF&CS, I realized that every car in front of me was entering the parking lot as well. I had no idea that this program would be so well-attended. I was pleasantly surprised!  

When I entered the room, I saw Marilyn Okonow, volunteer conductor of the Tremble Clefs, and Art Sullivan, instructor for the Parkinson’s Dancers, both skillfully preparing their respective groups. I was excited to see what was in store. Clients entered walking on their own, with a cane, walker, or wheelchair — they were all spirited and excited to perform. 

What amazed me the most about the day was all of the mitzvot (good deeds) and all of the tikkun olam (repairing the world) happening in one place! While walking to my seat, I happened to look out the back window to see Bernice Behar with her staff and volunteers unloading a huge truck with goods for Family Table, the JF&CS food pantry. All while we were inside on the second floor celebrating the strength, grit, and resilience of those living with Parkinson’s disease. I felt a chill go through me and said to the staff of JF&CS that I was always amazed by this organization — one that does so much good for so many people all of the time!

Uplifting and Emotional

I swelled up with tears as the performance began. Between Eli playing his guitar and the most articulate and poised speech from Anne Muskopf, Okonow Parkinson’s Family Support Program Director, I knew the morning was time well-spent. As Marilyn conducted her singers, I felt the inspiration, hope, and sense of community that JF&CS brings out in people. I spent 2 hours crying, laughing, singing, and dancing. 

The Art of Resilience will be in my calendar for years to come. I encourage those of you who have not attended to make it next year. It is a day that we should be so proud to be associated with JF&CS and an opportunity to marvel in the work that they provide to this community. 

If you have questions about Parkinson’s disease or would like more information about our programs, contact Anne Muskopf at or 781-647-JFCS (5327).

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June 18, 2019
Posted by Heidi DuBois

Danielle and Chaplain Hali at the Chaverim Shel Shalom Passover Seder.

Dr. Heidi DuBois submitted this thoughtful reflection on volunteering at the Chaverim Shel Shalom Passover Seder in April. Chaverim Shel Shalom (Friends of Peace) is a social program for Jewish adults with psychiatric challenges that meets monthly.

During Passover 2019, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Chaverim Shel Shalom Seder. I did not know much about this Seder prior to attending. Although I work with special needs children and teens as a pediatrician, I have little experience working with adults with mental illness. My background has prepared me to be comfortable around people of various ages with physical, intellectual, and psychiatric differences. Therefore, I was surprised to find myself a little apprehensive prior to the Seder.

A Beautiful SederHaggadahs at the Chaverim Shel Shalom Passover Seder.

My concerns quickly disappeared the moment I met the warm and welcoming staff who were busy setting up for the Seder. I was so impressed with their dedication and commitment to creating a special Seder for the guests. The staff certainly went the extra mile! Every table was beautifully set, complete with a Seder plate, Haggadah, and fresh flowers!

Once the service began, I was reminded of the universality of Jewish tradition which bonded all of us in the room together as a community. The Seder was traditional in many ways, but the Haggadah was modern and relevant, acknowledging the challenges of mental illness for individuals and their families. 

A Community of Friends

Throughout the evening, I had the opportunity to meet several of the participants. Some had obvious mental health issues and others less so. Some were eager to share their background and others kept quiet. Almost all expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to participate in the Seder. For most, this was the only Seder they would attend.

A smiling guest at the Chaverim Shel Shalom Passover Seder.Many of the participants at my table knew each other from previous events over the years. In a way, I was the “outsider” new to this community of friends. I couldn’t help thinking that aside from gatherings like this Seder, individuals with mental illness feel like “outsiders" in the real world every day. In fact, one of the participants at my table expressed how hard it is to make friends like her.

I left the evening with a full heart, happy to have participated in such a wonderful event. I continue to be impressed by JF&CS and the breadth of services offered to those in need in Greater Boston. I look forward to volunteering at the Chaverim Shel Shalom Seder yearly in the future.

If you’re interested in getting involved with JF&CS, visit our Volunteering page!

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June 14, 2019
Posted by Wendy Wilsker, Senior Vice President of Institutional Advancement  

Webster’s defines “impact” as the action of one object coming forcibly into contact with another, and the effect or influence of one person, thing, or action, on another. When you pause to consider those meanings, it truly defines the work that we do and our goal, not just to improve people’s lives, but to have a long-lasting impact.

I’m proud to share the first issue of our rebranded spring newsletter, Impacting Lives. You will read about the myriad of ways that JF&CS impacts the lives of thousands of people across Eastern and Central Massachusetts. 

The Talmud teaches, “Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:9; Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 37a.

Jewish tradition values every single life. At JF&CS, this means we care deeply about the impact we have on every life we touch. To make a meaningful difference in the lives of clients facing complex problems, we take time to understand their unique needs and tap into all available resources to meet those needs. Every day we save a life, we rejoice as though we have saved the entire world.

I’m profoundly grateful to the thousands of donors and volunteers who give so generously of their time and financial resources to change the lives of our clients. This year, we are proud to recognize the members of our Tree of Life Society, individuals who have included JF&CS in their estate plan. Your legacy ensures that we will be a safety net for generations to come. Each year, more than 2,000 volunteers give their time – some one hour a year, others several hours a week. Your time enhances our ability to support our clients and reminds them that their community is here for them.

For your generosity and caring, my thanks are beyond measure.

Impacting Lives Articles 

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June 14, 2019

Posted by JF&CS

A woman holding another woman's hand in support.

“I truly believe that everyone has something in them to give someone,” said Irene Rosenzweig, a founding member of the JF&CS Journey to Self-Empowerment Mentor program. 

Irene has been a JTSE Mentor from the beginning, from brainstorming with JF&CS staff to being part of the first group of mentors. The program is a component of Journey to Safety (JTS), the JF&CS response to domestic abuse, which is in part funded by The Victim of Crime Act (VOCA), The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and The Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Within the program, volunteer mentors are matched with a survivor of domestic abuse with economic-related goals and meet with them throughout a period of one academic year to offer inspiration, encouragement, and support.

Reaching Goals and Finding Security

Domestic abuse happens at roughly the same rate in the Jewish community as in the general population, crossing demographics, including geographic, denominational, and cultural lines.

According to Elizabeth Schön Vainer, program director of Journey to Safety, “the role of a mentor is to collaborate with their mentee and champion their goals and support them in their process to reach those goals. Mentors, trained to understand the impact of trauma on survivors, are tasked with targeted work. The mentor helps research and set realistic steps to reach goals and find economic, physical, and emotional security.” In addition to learning about trauma, mentors receive training about domestic abuse, coaching, and clinical supervision in twice monthly group meetings to support each other in this role.

A Natural Mentor 

Stepping into the role of mentor was a natural fit for Irene. Irene ran the Sisterhood rummage sale at Temple Isiah in Lexington  which isn’t your average rummage sale. The sale, according to Irene, serves as not just a fundraiser, but also as a way to distribute much-needed goods to those in need throughout Boston and the surrounding communities.

“We enlisted our Temple’s teens to help research items that people needed,” said Irene of her early connection to JF&CS. “I had the opportunity to connect with the Journey to Safety program by advertising the rummage sale to women in need. We printed postcards that helped women know it would be a safe space.”

“The idea of the program is to really be a support,” shared Irene. “Support can come in many forms. It can come in the form of working towards economic security, but first and foremost, it is being there for someone who is just trying to survive the day-to-day.”

Being in Someone's Corner 

Irene calls on her own background when approaching the program and offering mentorship. As the daughter of Holocaust survivors, her parents “raised us in a way after their experiences to always give. They were two remarkable people who always saw the good in people.”

For anyone who is considering volunteering as a mentor, Irene offers the reminder that the program provides training and support for all mentors. Even more so, for Irene, it’s not about the skills you have - but the ability to be in someone’s corner. “It didn’t matter to my mentee if I could help her write a resume or not, that wasn’t the point; for her, the need was confidence and support. It’s a whole team approach that makes the partnership - and the program - successful.”

To learn more about JTS and the Empowerment Mentor Program, visit our Journey to Safety page or contact Elizabeth Schön Vainer at or 781-647-JFCS (5327).

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June 13, 2019
Posted by Carl Zack, Interim CEO of JF&CS

Carl Zack, Interim CEO of JF&CS

During my five-month tenure as Interim CEO of JF&CS, I have had the opportunity to learn first-hand the impact our programs have on transforming the lives of our clients. We help people when they are at their most vulnerable, understanding the challenges our clients face when working within systems that can be difficult to navigate. While the saying is trite, it truly “takes a village” to support the needs of our clients and to make a lasting impact.

Each of you – our donors and volunteers – are a part of this village. In 2018, volunteers donated 24,990 hours of time, ensuring that our clients know they are cared for and supported. Last year, over 5,000 donors contributed more than $6 million to JF&CS. Your generosity has impacted the lives of more than 14,000 individuals and their families.

I’m proud to serve JF&CS during this pivotal time of transition to ensure that our programs and services are delivered at the highest quality possible. I have been incredibly impressed to meet our employees and renew relationships with colleagues I have known for decades. Seeing our goal to improve people’s lives being carried out daily by experts in their field and professionals who care deeply about the clients we serve, I can confidently say that JF&CS is stronger than ever.

If you’re interested in getting involved with JF&CS, check out our numerous volunteer opportunities.

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June 13, 2019
Posted by JF&CS

Jack and Sandy Swartz, JF&CS donors and volunteers.

After being involved with JF&CS as volunteers, board members, and donors for the past 25 years, Jack and Sandy Swartz’s membership in the Tree of Life Society is, according to Jack, “an obvious choice.”

With a long-time commitment to the values of JF&CS, being a member of the Tree of Life Society means they can rest easy knowing their support of JF&CS can and will continue for future generations. “It’s a chance to do something meaningful,” shared Jack. 

Leaving a Legacy

The JF&CS Tree of Life Society was established to assist individuals and families who have included JF&CS in their estate plans through a bequest, retirement plan, life insurance policy, life-income arrangement, or other legacy gift. The future of JF&CS is ensured through these important commitments.

“The motivation behind designating our funds to JF&CS is because it’s such a long-lasting organization,” said Sandy. “We’ve seen and experienced all the good that the agency does. We’ve watched it grow and it’s just remarkable how many people they’ve touched.”

Contributing to JF&CS at Every Level 

Sandy and Jack first became involved with JF&CS through Friendly Visitors, a program that matched Sandy with an elderly individual in need of support. Sandy’s time volunteering grew from companionship, as her volunteer match became a part of their family. “It was a tremendous experience for me; our relationship really shaped who I am today,” shared Sandy.

Sandy and Jack also volunteered at Family Table, the JF&CS food pantry, alongside their son, Tyler. “Instead of just depositing food in bags someplace, we would, as a family, distribute the food,” said Sandy. “It was really an eye-opening experience as well as an important family project.”

Jack is a current board member on the IT, Finance, and Department of Evaluation and Learning committees. Serving on these committees has helped Jack learn more about the many programs at JF&CS and offered the family a deeper appreciation for the breadth and variety of support JF&CS offers the community.

Jack and Sandy are both committed to preserving the Jewish identity of Boston, a value they live through their support of not just JF&CS, but also organizations such as The Vilna Shul. Commenting on the family’s support of JF&CS, Jack stated, “It’s just who we are.”

For further information on the Tree of Life Society, please contact Elizabeth Cahn, Senior Philanthropic Advisor, at or 978-884-0653.

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June 12, 2019

Posted by JF&CS 

Sephardic Home for the Aged Foundation

“Parkinson’s doesn’t just affect one person, it impacts the family – it’s a complete change,” said Janice Stolar, Managing Director for Grants Programs for the Sephardic Home for the Aged Foundation.  

“It’s important to support the caretaker - almost as important as supporting the person who is suffering. The work that JF&CS is doing to support the caretaker is important.” Stolar was glad to award a grant to JF&CS, citing the organization’s stellar reputation and the work being done to support the community.

“Our foundation has a very strong commitment to making sure the Jewish elderly live their lives in dignity, with respect, and in as much comfort as they can,” said Stolar. “The Sephardic Home for the Aged is very generational. We were once a wonderful home, and we put our heart and soul into making sure that we were a place you could trust for elder care. Now as we transition into a grant-making organization, we recognize that we’re not the experts in this work. It’s important to us that we support the experts, such as JF&CS. We have a very strong commitment to providing that support, and thus supporting JF&CS.”

Arts-Based Therapeutic Activities 

The Charlotte & Richard Okonow Parkinson’s Family Support program at JF&CS assists families as they live as fully as possible with the challenges of Parkinson’s disease (PD). For twelve years, JF&CS has been providing arts-based therapeutic activities, education, resources, and a supportive community for people with Parkinson’s, while also supporting and educating caregivers and family members.

Therapeutic art activities include a choral group and a dance group, with more than 45 participants in attendance each week. “We use music and song as part of treatment for symptoms of Parkinson's. What we observe is that people are joyful when they sing together. There’s a growing body of research that shows that group singing promotes resilience and provides coping skills,” said Anne Muskopf, the Okonow Parkinson’s Family Support Program Director. “Dancing can also have a positive impact - some care partners join in as well. It promotes a sense of community and belonging for participants.”

Support Groups 

Currently, Okonow Parkinson’s Family Support offers different groups to meet the needs of people with Parkinson’s as well as their care partners. Support groups provide Parkinson’s education, tools for PD self-management, and strategies for caregivers.

These support groups, which include three in Waltham and one on the North Shore, are run by highly skilled social workers. Muskopf credits these program leaders with “their ability to create a space for care partners to open up and express the joys and sorrows of living with Parkinson's and how their relationships have changed. These programs become a lifeline for care partners.”

A Welcoming Community 

Stolar also pointed towards the education work being done by JF&CS. “We really believe in education and supporting organizations that are educating and helping around these issues.”

According to Anne Muskopf, “The strength of our programs is in our welcoming environment and the strong sense of community we provide. Any level of participation is welcome; we are able to adapt the programs to fit everyone and we value each person for who they are.”

If you have questions about Parkinson’s or would like more information about our programs, contact Anne Muskopf at or 781-647-JFCS (5327).

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June 11, 2019

Posted by JF&CS 

David Grant, Director of Human Resources at JF&CS, and his mother.

“My world was turned upside down but in a good way. My colleagues at JF&CS saved my life. It was profound,” says David Grant, Director of Human Resources at JF&CS. David was referring to Your Elder Experts (YEE) at JF&CS, which helps older adults and their families manage crises and also plan for the future.

Although David’s situation was extremely stressful, it was certainly not unique. His 63-year-old mother had a history of dementia and her condition had started to deteriorate rapidly. She lived in Connecticut, close to David’s two brothers, but far from David’s home in Waltham. “It got to the point where it wasn’t safe for her to be alone,” says David. “She also had no financial preparation and she had no savings.”

David had attempted to piece together benefits for his mother but found it nearly impossible to navigate the system, especially since he was in Massachusetts and she was in Connecticut. “I remember saying to my brothers, ‘We need to find the JF&CS equivalent in Connecticut.’” 

Asking for Help 

David spoke about his mother’s situation with Karen Wasserman, Director of Your Elder Experts. Immediately, she set up an appointment with JF&CS Geriatric Care Manager Joanne Peskowitz and Candy Gould from CJP SeniorDirect.

“I did not have the first clue where to start. I didn’t even know which questions to ask. Together, they extrapolated and pulled out the useful data from my mess. They took that data and turned it into a plan. They literally held my hand and guided me,” adds David. They even connected him with local MassHealth attorneys so that his mom could receive benefits, which had initially been denied due to complications in the application process.

Referring to the help he received from JF&CS, David said, “The part that really stands out for me is that people don’t need to know all the answers. Most people don’t even know which questions to ask. You just need to be able to ask for help. JF&CS will take care of the rest.”

A New Home 

The group of experts at JF&CS concluded that David’s mom would be best served by moving into a dementia wing - and one that would be affordable.

By the end of the week, David got a phone call from someone at CJP SeniorDirect who connected him with the staff at Briarwood Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Needham. They had found a place for his mother at Briarwood and she could move in as early as Tuesday.

When they arrived at Briarwood, Joanne Peskowitz was there to greet them and provide assistance. They brought David’s mother in to meet the staff. After meeting them, she exclaimed, “Finally, I can be retired!” David’s mother quickly bonded with the staff.

Now, after a few months, David’s mom is safe, happy, eating well, taking her medications regularly, enjoying all the activities Briarwood has to offer, and hugging David close on his frequent visits.

“I can’t speak highly enough about the JF&CS program and the body of knowledge they have,” David marvels. “I couldn’t have done any of this myself. Karen and Joanne were so professional and remarkable. They listened to me and remained engaged.”

For more information about our care management services, visit the Your Elder Experts website. 

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June 10, 2019
Posted by JF&CS

Supporting JF&CS and Family Table has been such an integral part of the Bilezikian family makeup for so long that Jeff and Nancy can’t remember the exact date they started supporting the organization. They do know it was back in the early days of Family Table - and that they were impressed with the organization, efficiency, and forward-thinking attitude of the food pantry from day one.

Seeing the Big Picture 

“When we started donating, JF&CS was ahead of the curve on the nutrition end of things,” said Jeff Bilezikian, estimating that their first involvement must have been a dozen years ago. “When you provide food to individuals in need, you can give them just about anything - or you can take the time to provide the good stuff, like nutritious complete meals. JF&CS takes the time to educate clients and provide full nutrition.”

Seeing the big picture is important to Jeff and Nancy. They like giving to an organization that is constantly growing and evolving. “There’s no doing something just because it’s how it has always been done,” said Jeff.

For Nancy Bilezikian, educating clients is almost as important as providing a full range of fruits and vegetables. JF&CS doesn’t just hand out food and send families on their way. In fact, Nancy has been involved in demonstrating how to cook healthy foods on a budget. “I really appreciate the health and nutrition aspects of the program,” she said. “It’s important to me when I see the overall respect Family Table has for clients and the emphasis placed on education.”

“From increasing the balance of the food we provide to offering hands-on demonstrations, the support of the Bilezikian family ensures our work continues. They embody the spirit of our work,” said Bernice Behar, Director of Family Table.

Volunteering as a Family

The Bilezikians give in both time and financial support. They’ve volunteered with their daughters packing food at Family Table in the past, “We’re able to give and it’s nice to have a program to feel confident to give in,” said Nancy.

“We feel that giving is a part of living in this world. No matter how much each of us has - we all have something to give to others. A smile, a kind word, a helping hand, and even financial support. G-d has blessed our family and we want to use our resources to bless others. JF&CS is an organization that provides quality services and respect for its clients and reflects our Judeo-Christian values.

We all have decisions to make regarding how we spend our time and it’s important to us that we show our daughters, albeit imperfectly, that giving of ourselves through volunteering and thinking of others in our day to day lives makes a difference in this world.

Whatever we do as volunteers is just a little drop in a bucket, but it’s nice to be a part of it. I know that the community has many people who do much more, and we’re happy to be a part of it. It’s a small humbling piece that we get to add to it.”

If you would like to volunteer at a Family Table food distribution, please fill out one of our application forms: Waltham Application, North Shore Application, South Area Application. A schedule of upcoming distribution days can be found here

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