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    • Thank You!

      Dec 1, 2020

      On behalf of the board of directors, staff and all of our neighbors we would like to say thank you and acknowledge those who assisted us during our Thanksgiving Holiday Basket drive. This could not be possible first without the tremendous support of our volunteers – you are the heart and soul of the agency. I would also like to thank several sponsors/donors of the event:

      Jewish Federation of Greater Orange County, ShopRite – Warwick, Orange County Office for the Aging, Middletown Kiwanis, Hanaford -Middletown

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    • Rosh Hashanah Food Baskets

      Sep 2, 2020

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    • Executive Director Sean Gerow – WALL Radio Interview About JFS

      Aug 3, 2020

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    • Volunteer 2020

      Jul 21, 2020

      Volunteers like you help make the world a better place with your time, dedication and support to the agency and most importantly our neighbors.

      Thank you so much for being a constant to our neighbors and a beacon of hope. We appreciate all of your efforts who make such an impact on the lives of so many. The only way to become smarter, better, happier, livelier and wiser, is to help others – and you have done all of that and more for JFS and the neighbors in the Friendly Visitor Program.

      I truly hope you know how appreciative everyone is for your volunteer work. Thank you so much for coming forward and serving yourself, we cannot do our work without you.

      During this time of uncertainty, you are making the world a better place and we are eternally grateful. Thank you never seems to be enough and yet, now more than ever, we Thank You!

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    • COVID-19 Response

      May 19, 2020

      We have heard so many times the phrase, “uncharted waters” over the past few month. It is the only way to describe what we as a nation and world are dealing with. With the deep sorrow so many of us have experienced we can only hope things will get brighter soon.

      Jewish Family Service wants to thank all of the wonderful volunteers who have stepped up and supported our efforts during this time. We have transformed our conference room into an emergency food pantry and we have been non-stop since mid-March. This could not have been done with so many (who we will acknowledge in a separate post).

      Although there has been much hardship and sorrow, there has been so much good and togetherness that i can only hope we as a nation and world can learn from this and make changes to make us a better world.

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    • A Close-Up of the Friendly Visitor Program in Action

      Nov 24, 2017

      At Jewish Family Service, we highly value collaborating with others. We serve ALL corners of the county with our Friendly Visitor Program. Through partnerships between JFS Orange and five municipalities, we have found that we can be more effective in meeting the needs of neighbors and recruiting volunteers. A partnership was recently established with the Town of Warwick. I asked Jean Corbi Ciappa, an Advisory Board Member, if I could use an article that she wrote about the services as a blog post. Jean graciously agreed to be a guest blogger. Thank you Jean and to the Town of Warwick Friendly Visitor Program, we are happy to work with you!

      Marcia lives in her own apartment in one of Warwick’s senior housing developments and values her independence. Recently Marcia made a decision not to keep her car any longer since driving became more of a challenge than she wanted. Fortuitously, Marcia had seen a flyer for the Warwick Friendly Visitor Program on a bulletin board in her lobby and she decided to check it out.

      Marcia placed a call to the Warwick Town Hall and chose Option #1 to connect with the volunteer service. She left a message indicating she needed assistance in the form of a ride to get her weekly food shopping done. A return phone call led to the assignment of Deanne, a volunteer who likes the idea of giving of her time to people in her home town. Deanne is a retired teacher who learned about volunteering from her own mother when she was growing up. She seeks activities that are meaningful and found the Friendly Visitor Program to be important to people. Deanne quipped “It’s nice to be appreciated”.

      Marcia can now rely on always having her refrigerator stocked with the foods she likes. She has a routine Friendly Visitor who drives her to the supermarket and helps her reach items on shelves and carries her groceries into her home. Marcia also gets a ride from another volunteer for her occasional medical appointments.

      The Friendly Visitor Program is a volunteer service provided by the Town of Warwick in partnership with Jewish Family Service and the Office of the Aging, both of Orange County. Volunteers are matched to people who request help, and new neighborly bonds are made. Volunteers are screened and attend 4 hours of training to understand the parameters of the program. Volunteers offer their time either on a regular basis or an occasional basis, depending on their own interest and availability.

      The town of Warwick boasts of its 8,000 senior citizens—an impressive 25% of the total population.  The Friendly Visitor Program can be a solution for many seniors and other adults who need some help in maintaining their independence in their homes.  If it’s not food shopping, perhaps help with getting to a medical appointment is something that’s needed.  Volunteers can make a regular phone call to chat, or maybe visit for a game of cards, or help with sorting through some paperwork that is a bit overwhelming. A ride to our lovely town library to select a book or take advantage of one of the many programs can be a volunteer service as well.

      If you are someone who can contribute a few hours a week or month, perhaps you’d like to consider becoming a volunteer.  [Trainings are conducted on a regular basis. Check out the calendar on the JFS Orange website for a date and location that works for you.] Call the number below to leave a message about your interest and expect a return call within a few days.

      Perhaps you are someone who can use the help of a volunteer, or you know someone who could use some help.  Spread the word!  This is about neighbors helping neighbors.  [For the Warwick Friendly Visitor Program] call Town Hall 986-1124 Option #1 and get on board!

      If you are interested in the Friendly Visitor Program elsewhere in the county, please call the JFS Office: 341-1173 ext. 313

      Thanks again, Jean!  We appreciate how you are spreading the word!



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    • Assemblyman Skoufis shares his perspective with the JMHCA

      Nov 17, 2017

      Executive directors and administrators of nonprofits throughout Orange County meet on a monthly basis as part of a federation called the “Joint Members of Health and Community Agencies” (or JMHCA). Together, we learn about trends and changes in the human service field. We hear again and again from colleagues of other counties that Orange County is unique; we “play well in the sandbox.” Aside from discussions, learning from one another’s experiences, advocating as a group and collaborating on special projects, we enjoy hearing from guests. Earlier this week, we were honored to open our meeting to Assemblyman James Skoufis.

      This fall, Assemblyman Skoufis was named Chair of Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities. Interestingly, this task force had been on hiatus for over ten years. James is in the process of re-establishing this committee. He is bringing both action and heart to his role there.

      Please join me in learning a few of the insights shared by James:

      • “Every single person in NYS has the right to live with dignity.”
      • The NYS Constitution has a section of Civil Rights. Expressed in the constitution are names of specific groups (including gender, race, religion, etc.). These groups are not to be discriminated against. There is a clear omission in the constitution. Where is disability? James is working on including “disabilities” as a group along with the others named. He values the importance of identifying this as part. Increased awareness of people with disabilities is a start.
      • James is looking at accessibility issues. He is working with others in making buildings and housing more accessible. (Locally, Independent Living and Recap are taking initiatives here.)
      • While James sees the role of government in helping peoples’ lives, he honored the work of the nonprofits at the table.

      We are a mirror for him, as he is surely a champion. Especially in the role of Chair of the Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities, James is speaking up for those who have no or little voice. Thank you, Assemblyman Skoufis for your advocacy!


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    • Join me in celebrating our MSC Department!

      Sep 19, 2017

      Empowering all people facing challenging times to live with dignity, hope and strength is the mission of Jewish Family Service. This mission expresses itself in an array of programs. We work with many people facing challenging times. One of the agency’s oldest programs is that of “Medicaid Service Coordination.” This program operates under the rules and regulations of the New York State Office of People with Developmental Disabilities, or “OPWDD” for short! The definition of a Medicaid Service Coordinator or MSC is: “A professional, selected by the person or family from an approved list, who helps the person access supports and services.”

      There surely are many, many guidelines to follow when it comes to putting this valuable role into action. In simple terms, MSC’s ensure that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities lead a meaningful life, living in a home that is clean and comfortable, having proper nutrition, healthcare, socialization, stimulation throughout the days and evenings, medical care and access to the community. Choice is key in all of the decisions. We take a “Person Centered” perspective, following the people we serve. There is no one size fits all when it comes to doing the work we do.

      The “C” of MSC is critical. Coordinating all of the people in a person’s life, including the various agencies that help to serve people with disabilities is critical. It includes documenting every phone call, email correspondence, meetings, getting signatures and following through.

      We are grateful that we are not alone. OPWDD offers us oversight. They have trainings, webinars and yes, there are regular audits. At least once a year, a thorough review is conducted. Earlier this week, we had one such survey.

      Let us keep in mind that the State Surveyors are paid not only to keep us on our toes, but to find mistakes! They pay attention to every detail, and like an archeologist will dig and dig. If they read about a conversation that transpired regarding medical testing, they will continue to turn the pages to find out that the testing was done. What are the results? What about the treatment? And follow up, how is the person now? Not a pebble is left unturned. Typically, surveyors are in our office for eight full hours and they do not take a moment’s break.

      At the exit interview, we sit with the surveyors to hear how we stand. How can we improve? We are offered a “Statement of Deficiencies”. You get the picture. Notes are written on a six page template, with space after space for deficiencies noted. When hearing of the places that we need to improve, we need to submit a “Plan of Corrective Action”. Yes, you guessed, at a later time, we will be checked to see if we followed through with our “Plan”.

      On the “Statement of Deficiencies” we had five blank pages! As much as she dug, there was not one deficiency that our auditor found. She could not make one single recommendation! Here are her notes:

      “Records are clean and concise. All required forms are easily located. SCOR reports [Service Coordination Observation Report] are routinely done. ISP [Individual Service Plans] reports are comprehensive and complete. MSC notes are detailed, relevant, personal and specific. The MSC conveys a clear interest in each individual. Face to Face and home visits exceed the minimum requirements.“

      I cannot help but celebrate the phenomenal work of our MSC Department. They shine in ways that go beyond the roles mentioned above. Our auditor would like Marjorie Faber, the Director of Medicaid Service Coordination, to train others throughout the field. She always puts the person first, will sing songs to some people to greet them, advocate for simple, but important things like a haircut and staunchly advocate for those she works with, when needed.

      We do not advertise our MSC Department; according to regs, we cannot do so. We can simply let people know that we offer the service, along with many other service providers throughout the county. In spite of our lack of outreach, our phone rings all the time, looking for MSC’s to offer this service to their loved ones. They come to JFS Orange due to our outstanding reputation. Now you have a sense why.

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    • Opening doors for James

      Aug 24, 2017

      We love win win situations. At times, there is more than a “double win.” Hiring James Cartright for our KidsConnect Camp in the summer of 2016 was one of those situations. James worked as a “Mentor in Training” which we like to call, “MIT”.

      We’ll fill you in on the “wins” in a moment. Let us first read a few words from James:

      “In the summer of 2016 I had the opportunity to work at the KidsConnect Camp at Jewish Family Service of Orange County. During my two weeks there, I became very passionate about my work. I had a lot of fun assisting the campers and participating with them in activities. My favorite part of the day was seeing all the campers going home with a big smile on their faces from having an amazing day at camp. My experience at KidsConnect was truly heartwarming.

      “KidsConnect inspired me to continue in this field of work. Over the next six months, I was a seasonal/part time worker at iKan. At iKan, I assist adults with specials needs in the community. I help them work on their personal goals. KidsConnect opened doors for me to continue this work out in the community. I am truly thankful to Jewish Family Service and the entire KidsConnect family for letting me be a part of such an amazing organization. “

      • Win number 1: The kids loved James in 2016!
      • Win number 2: James found a new passion in the work that he did!
      • Win number 3: James pursued this passion and now has a meaningful job with an Orange County based agency, offering care to people with disabilities.
      • Win number 4: James returned to KidsConnect for the Summer 2017 season. Aside from working as a counselor, he is a gifted musician and offered daily music workshops to those who choose to participate.  The campers sincerely resonate with James’s sense of calm.

      Typically, we highlight stories of the many people who receive needed services from JFS Orange. We are aware that we are also touching the lives of volunteers and staff. In this case, our work made an impression on a young adult who now has doors opening for him.  KidsConnect was a start.

      KidsConnect is a therapeutic day camp for children ages 5-18 with any type of disability. We wish James the best as his future unfolds. We also wish (and are working hard) for sustaining the valuable KidsConnect Day Camp. We have faced challenges with funding in recent years. If you have any ideas of sources for this program, please call the office!

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    • Who am I anyway?

      May 25, 2017

      I have tended to shy away from academic theory in this blog. While sitting at the Fourth Annual LGBTQIA+ Youth Conference, I could not help myself but remember one psychologist whose theories resonated with me. Erik Erikson looked at our life span in terms of how we navigate through “conflicts” that each developmental stage presents. The “fifth stage” which roughly occurs between the ages of 12-18 years old offers the conflict of “Identity vs. Role Confusion”.  According to his theory, it is during this stage that teens are searching for a sense of self and personal identity. There are intense explorations of personal values, beliefs and goals.

      So it is not surprising, that the teens of the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) chose the theme for this year’s conference to be, “LGBTQ stereotyping: Who am I anyway?” All teens are wondering about their identity. They are negotiating who they are as individuals and where they may stand in society. Throughout history, we’ve had questions about identity. But the questions of identity were explored at the conference with a specific lens, that of the lens of the LGBTQIA+ culture. Now, we have terms; new words now have definitions. My hope is that in another blog post, I will share some of these terms, as space here does not allow! Thankfully, now there is safety (in some places) to talk about these definitions, where to get support, how to make decisions as we are discovering “who am I anyway?” Now, we can talk about assumptions. The conference, attended by over sixty people, offered a venue to listen to adult speakers about their journey, to hear from teen presenters and to be inspired.

      Decorating “Genderbread Cookies” was part of the activities; this offered participants an interesting way of looking at gender. The brain, heart and biology all have an impact on different aspects of our…

      • Gender identity (what we think about ourselves)
      • Gender expression (how we demonstrate our gender)
      • Biological sex (organs, body parts, hormones)
      • Sexual orientation (who we are physically, spiritually and emotionally attracted to)

      There were options to write postcards to our elected officials to voice concerns around LGBTQ issues. People from area human service agencies had tables in which they shared information.

      And one of the most valued elements was that teens met other teens from across the county; teens that they could relate to. It was a place for connection.

      “Empowering people facing challenging times to live with dignity, hope and strength” is the mission of JFS Orange. What was our role in this conference? With the support of funding from the Orange County Youth Bureau, we partner with high schools in the region. We guide, facilitate and empower the students to organize a conference. They are learning leadership skills. The teens learn how to:

      • create a meaningful theme
      • schedule an event from start to finish
      • reach out to speakers
      • publicize the conference
      • budget for food and supplies
      • evaluate their efforts
      • make a difference!

      We are honored to be a part of helping youth to organize this conference. It’s just a day behind us, and ideas for the Fifth Annual LGBTQIA+ Conference are already brewing!

      Some resources:





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