We sat down with Laurie and Paul Gershkowitz, our chairs for the CHAI Champions event, to learn more about them and their connection to JF&CS.
Tell us about your involvement with JF&CS.
Our involvement with JF&CS began when our three oldest children were in elementary school! Our family spent time sorting, organizing, and delivering food to families in need. This was our kids’ first introduction to philanthropy and giving back to help others in need.
Our connections to JF&CS continued to grow through the years. Both of us have served on several committees within the organization. Laurie has donated her time on the Women’s Breakfast event committee for many years, and put together backpacks for children in need with CJP Women’s Philanthropy to help them start school feeling good about themselves. She also put together baskets in the winter with items of warmth and comfort for older adults and Holocaust survivors living alone.
Paul has served on the committee to help place JF&CS clients with disabilities into local companies, giving these individuals the ability to build their self-esteem by contributing to society. In addition, being the son of a Holocaust survivor, he has supported programming within the agency, as well as helping survivors and their families. He is especially honored to have been installed as a new Board member this past June.
We have given our time and resources to the agency, but when our fourth child Jake was born with severe special needs, we realized that instead of giving to the agency, the agency was there to support us. Jake was able to take part in recreational programming where he was able to swim, listen to music, and meet new friends. This program provided respite for our family. In addition, the agency has important resources and advocates that work with families to navigate the complexities of how to best help our child. This includes not only social opportunities, but making us aware of the legal and educational pieces involved for Jake as well.
What are you most looking forward to about this year’s CHAI Champions event?
We are most excited about chairing the CHAI event this November. It is our mission to introduce our family, friends, and community to the important work that this organization does. It is also important that we honor individuals and companies outside JF&CS that are making differences with the inclusion of individuals with special needs or mental illness in our community as well. Our committee for the CHAI event has also been invited to take part in volunteer activities within the organization, and several of us volunteered at a Passover Seder for adults with mental illness. In addition, we will be making centerpieces for the event with JF&CS clients with special needs.
To learn more about the CHAI Champions event, visit our event page.