Annual Meeting Speeches

Posted on August 21, 2013

State of the Agency

Below is Andrea Steinberg’s speech from the Annual Meet held June 10, 2013.

This certainly has been an unexpected year for JFS and so many in our community.  As we all know on October 29th our region was hit by Superstorm Sandy.  At JFS, we found ourselves at the forefront of disaster work, not a typical role in our agency’s history.  The very next day, before the travel ban was lifted, we were in the community assessing needs and responding.  We immediately opened the food pantry and packed up cars with pre-packed bags of food and other necessities to distribute.

On a personal note I went out in the field on that first day and worked with the staff to get the necessities to the residents of Ventnor who could not leave the town for the foreseeable future was an amazing experience.  We met people that day who had no shelter let alone basic necessities but they still only took what they needed knowing others needed so much. The strength of the staff and the community reminds me of why we do what we do every day.

We quickly mobilized and opened a distribution center at Saint James School in Ventnor and feverishly began to write grants to find the necessary funds to put staff in place and provide direct relief.  Having raised more than $700,000, we continue this work and will maintain our efforts for at least the next 18 months.  I must take a moment to acknowledge a staff who, in the midst of personally dealing with the aftermath of the storm, did not hesitate to assure that so many in our community received the help that they needed.

On June 27th we will have the unique opportunity to thank all of you in the community who responded and helped JFS respond.  With partners in Luke Palladino and Revel Entertainment we will host an extraordinary party where invited guests have all supported the relief efforts, as well as those want to join in to support our efforts and needs in the community.  Please feel free to take home the invitations on the tables. We hope everyone will join us at the Revel Cabanas on the 27th.

You might think that this work consumed JFS and was the single focus of the organization. In fact we attended to all other JFS business and grew in ways that I never anticipated.

Supportive Housing Services continues to be the area of most growth.   In the past year we have been awarded $1.2 million in contracts.  These contracts will provide essential housing and services to individuals who would otherwise remain hospitalized – allowing them to live successfully in the community.  With new partnerships in the Pleasantville Housing Authority, as well as with area landlords and developers, we expect new opportunities to present themselves.  The numbers are important but only tell part of the story.  An employee of JFS shared this with me:

For over twenty years, Leo lived on the streets of Atlantic City, moving from the Rescue Mission, to bus terminals and train stations, to under the boardwalk, and everywhere in between. During this time Leo fought addiction, until deciding it was “time to wake up”. In 2008, Leo was referred to JFS from the county, and obtained Section Eight housing along with case management services. The stability of housing allowed Leo to address some of his challenges such as addiction and budgeting money. This support allowed him to build a social network and support system, while learning to advocate for himself. When the tough days come up, Leo works to express his needs, set goals, and work towards them. There are many Leos in this community, and we will continue to try to reach them in hopes of having more stories like his.

In the third year of funding from Susan G. Komen Central & South Jersey, we have a model program that is far exceeding grant expectations and attending to unmet medical needs of women with serious mental illness who might otherwise go unscreened.  This model of leveraging contract funds, Medicaid reimbursement and grant dollars to meet critical unmet medical needs has been so successful; we have employed the program design in a funded application from the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey.  This program is in partnership with South Jersey Family Medical Center.  It educates consumers with serious mental illness on attending to their medical needs and chronic disease management, reducing the number of hospital admissions and improving outcomes for those consumers.

A core element of JFS’s mission is Older Adult Services.  This is a population that JFS has always and will always be committed to serving.  Following a yearlong process of research and development, JFS is about to launch the Village by the Shore – a community initiative providing services and socialization for adults and older adults.  The Village model enables community members to enjoy life in their own homes through the concept of neighbors helping neighbors.  Village by the Shore provides a variety of concierge and professional services including transportation, social activities, discounted service rates, and other complimentary programs. (See your program books for more information).  As the Village is implemented and evolves, we will be better positioned to serve the growing baby boomer and senior population.

Outpatient services are increasing and gaining a reputation as the service provider of choice.  JFS is the go-to place for trauma counseling, which positions the agency to provide necessary and growing needs for both children and adults - especially post-storm.  Following recommendations from many state entities JFS was invited to attend the training of nationally renowned Cares Institute for Trauma informed care to increase capacity following the storm.  Additionally, JFS was awarded a $78,000 contract to bring trauma services to Cape May County an otherwise underserved area for children’s counseling.  With our expertise in serving children and adults with developmental disabilities, JFS was also awarded a contract from the Department of Labor and Work Force Development to develop a transitional vocation program for high schools students with Autism.  As well as becoming a contracted vendor for the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Fundraising efforts by both staff and board have led to JFS seeing revenues increase by 17% this does not include the incredible amount of money raised for storm relief.  With amazing community partners in Caesars Entertainment and Bernie Robins Jewelers, we had our 6th Annual Cocktail Party.  This event was attended by 200 guests and raised more than $50,000.  It allowed us to honor AC Linen and Portia Parto for their work post-Superstorm Sandy.  This year JFS held its 15th Women's Golf Tournament and Card Party at Harbor Pines.  We had a great day thanks to the Gurwicz family and the terrific golf committee.

Board and staff are working to prepare for changes in the State contracting system.  The agency has been in a yearlong strategic planning process as well as continuous quality improvement process.  We will identify and realize efficiencies in the agency preparing for change.  Over the past few years I highlighted and made mention of certain individual or programs this year without a doubt was remarkable and exceptional in so many ways and each and every donor, volunteer, board member and each employee was just as remarkable and exceptional.  I am truly proud of the strength we have in our team of board, staff and community.  Thank you all for your support and participation in bringing JFS to where it is today.

President’s Report

Below is Mitchell Gurwicz’s speech from the Annual Meeting held on June 10, 2013.

The past year has been one of growth and preparation for Jewish Family Service. During my first full year as President, I am proud to report our budget has grown and is no longer the small agency it was when I first started. From 2012-2013 we have grown astounding 18% percent for a $7M increase for the services we provide. Looking ahead to 2014 the JFS budget will increase an additional 14% to $8M.  Our staff has expanded to approximately 100 employees including 26 therapists, 3 psychiatrists, 4 nurses, 59 case managers and an expanding support and administrative team. With this growth, comes a significant impact in community support and services.

I am proud of JFS’s reputation as a go to provider who assesses needs and acts accordingly.  In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, JFS once again stepped up.  The staff mobilized immediately giving our community a place to turn as we looked for the necessary resources to assure services would be available. Seven months post storm JFS has helped nearly 8,000 individuals and families through financial assistance, basic necessities, case management and community linkage support.  I know the dedicated staff at JFS will continue to excel with the ongoing recovery efforts.

The needs in the community never remain stagnant. JFS staff and board are always identifying new opportunities to serve the community while maintaining a strong organization. We are always ready to respond to the evolving needs and build necessary expertise.  We look for partners to leverage resources and increase our effectiveness in the community.

With changes in the state reimbursement structure JFS is bracing and building for a change that could have significant impact on our budget. The JFS Board of Directors proves they are ready to take on the hard issues.  Alongside the staff the Board has spent the past year learning and building on our knowledge of the potential changes and opportunities.  As Board President, I have been so impressed with the time and commitment that the Board has put into better understanding the agency and the behavioral health environment where we operate.

In early December, JFS brought renowned healthcare expert Dr. Ron Manderscheid to the Board Retreat.  The day’s focus concentrated on educating the Board and administration and developing strategies to address upcoming challenges, a very proactive task.  A data dashboard was developed to monitor the ongoing progress.  In May, a follow-up caucus allowed breakout groups to re-identify the objectives, offer an update and action plan moving forward. As an organization, we will continue to build on this momentum and ensure our goals are met and surpassed in the coming year.

We continue to build a board with the right people to move JFS forward.  Past, present and future Board will provide the necessary supports to assure the organization is nimble and finding opportunities to accomplish responsible growth.

It has been my pleasure to serve and continue to serve JFS.  Thank you to staff and others in the community who make it possible for JFS to make the impact it does every day.