Shared by Yelena at the 2015 JF&CS Gala

At this year's Gala celebrating our 150th anniversary, we heard from Yelena, a JF&CS client who shared how the agency helped change her life.

Yelena speaking at the GalaFear. Loneliness. Uncertainty. Anxiety. Panic. Dread.

These are just some of the feelings I experienced when I first came to America 10 years ago as a woman from the Ukraine seeking political asylum.

When I arrived in this country, I had nothing, except my three-year old little boy. I had no documents, no status, no home. I was a nobody from nowhere. I didn't speak English and I was completely unfamiliar with the culture here.

I was living in a shelter when I saw an ad for JF&CS in a Russian bulletin. I didn't have a phone, so I walked into the JF&CS offices to see if they could help me. I met with someone in New American Services. They initially helped me with my political asylum paperwork so I could become legal. Then they referred me to Journey to Safety, where I met with Masha Akhmetova. Masha was truly amazing. She became like a mother to me over the years, and I knew I could always count on her to get results. Masha always pointed me in the right direction, referring me to other departments at JF&CS that could help me during this time of crisis. Bet Tzedek Legal Services helped me get public benefits. JF&CS helped me to bring my eldest daughter to America as the child of a political asylum refugee, so that we could all be together. I became legal. I became someone.

JF&CS helped get me out of the shelter and into an apartment. They helped me with clothing and furniture. The Center for Family Assistance helped with rent and utility payments. When I had a baby, the Center for Early Relationship Support® was there for me with baby clothes and baby furniture. Through the years, JF&CS has helped my kids each September with free backpacks and a box of back-to-school supplies, which helps me so much. They paid for my kids to go to summer camp. When I faced an emergency tooth extraction, I didn't have to choose between paying for that or having food for my children. Family Table gave us food so my children wouldn't know hunger.

JF&CS also helped me on the road to my career. JF&CS paid for the courses I needed to become a medical assistant. I worked very hard and got my certificate to be a medical assistant in just six months. I now work as a phlebotomist at night. By day, I am studying to become a nurse. I have three happy, wonderful children. My eldest daughter is even taking prerequisite courses at Bunker Hill Community College so that she can become a doctor someday.

I don't know if I can even find the words in English to tell you how I feel about JF&CS and express how thankful I am from so deep in my heart. JF&CS didn't just help me financially - it helped me emotionally, as well. When I first came here, I was in limbo, between the Earth and the sky. I am now a person standing on my own two feet, raising my wonderful children, earning money, and building a better future.

JF&CS has truly been like a family to me. I don't even know all the people behind the scenes who helped me, but I want to kiss and hug everyone in the agency. Without JF&CS, and without Masha, I would have been lost. I came here in crisis, my life was in chaos. Thanks to JF&CS I came out of that like a phoenix - with a career, a paycheck, a place to live, a happy and healthy family, and a bright future on the horizon. From the bottom of my heart, I cannot thank you enough for making me a someone.