We had the pleasure this week to interview the Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of the Sacramento Region, Melissa Chapman. The Jewish Federation of the Sacramento Region is a philanthropic, not-for-profit organization that provides educational, cultural and social services programs within the Jewish community locally and around the world. Harmony Home Health has partnered with this charitable organization to aid in assisting our senior community and the caregivers that serve them.
Melissa came to Sacramento after a harsh Chicago winter in 2010. There she served a community of over 250,000 as an Assistant Vice President of Campaigns for the Chicago area Jewish Federation, and even assisted then Senator Obama with his first trip to Israel. With over 17 years of campaign and fundraising experience in the "windy city," Melissa carried with her a lifelong passion and idealism for helping her community. In September of 2012, Jewish Family Services in Sacramento was just beginning to reorganize after having been closed during the economic crash of 2008. Melissa came to a meeting in March 2011 to explore volunteer opportunities. Two months later, in May of 2011 she was hired as the Executive Director, and in September of 2012 brought the Jewish Family Services back into operation.
Inheriting a debt, and a skeleton staff, Melissa quickly got the organization back off the ground again with a fundraising campaign that drew in enough private donors to re-launch the Jewish Family Service. When I asked how she accomplished such an enormous task, she replied: "stubbornness and passion is a great formula for achieving seemingly impossible goals."
When asked what kind of people benefit from the services of her organization, Melissa recounted the story of a woman that had lost her husband 1 1/2 years before. She had tried to reach out to others in the community unsuccessfully and could not seem to get the assistance she needed. Then one day she discovered the "Bereavement Support Group" through the Jewish Family Services. She wrote the group an unsolicited thank you letter stating: "I didn't know if I could get out of bed, I felt lost and beyond hope. Your group allowed me to become a person again. I was depressed, alone...you enabled me to get my life back and begin re-connecting with others who understood what I was going through. I now have new friends and am involved in social activities again. Thank you!"
Jewish Family Services still faces many challenges day to day. Fundraising is a constant task, as 20% of their community donates 80% of the funds they operate on. Getting the younger generation involved and educating the community at large about the plight of Israel are ongoing efforts for Melissa and her staff.
Among the services now provided by the Jewish Family Service, they offer:
- Community Social Worker/Volunteer Corps: Counseling, home visits, food delivery, telephone check-ins and other un-met needs.
- Kosher Food Pantry: Donations accepted all year round; canned goods, oatmeal, cereal, peanut butter, tuna, toilet paper and paper towels. All food items must bear the kosher symbol on the label.
- Facilitated Support Groups/ Educational Programs: "Aging in Place" and programs sponsored by the Alzheimer's association are offered among others.
- Therapist Referral Network: Jewish Family Service has a Therapist Referral Network to assist community members in finding a mental health professional that is right for them. If you are a mental health professional and are interested in becoming part of our Network, please complete a Therapist Referral Applicationand return it to Elissa Provance email@example.com mail it to The Jewish Federation of the Sacramento Region, 2130 21st St., Sacramento, CA 95818.
- Federation’s Committee on Inclusion and Disabilities(CID) is composed of individuals with a wide range of experience working with disability issues, including parents/family members, professionals who work with the disability community, and advocates. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Senior Programs: Federation offers three senior programscalled Leisure League each month. These programs offer entertainment and lunch for $5/person. For more information, contact Elissa Provance at 916-486-0906 ext. 304 or email@example.com.
- Holiday Outreach Baskets: In partnership with community volunteers, Federation facilitates the delivery of holiday outreach baskets to homebound individuals during Rosh Hashanah, Chanukah, and Passover. Suggested items for Rosh Hashanah include honey jars/sticks, fresh apples, and sugar free candies; for Chanukah, gelt and potato latke mix; and for Passover, mini matzoh or Tam Tams and kosher for Passover treats. If you know someone in need of a basket, contact Alicia Mittleman at 916-205-0688.