COVID – 19 UPDATES

Find agency updates, helpful blogs & articles, and other resources HERE

JFCS Annual Event Raises Almost $200K in Support of Food Relief, Mental Health Support & Senior Services

On March 25, Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County (JFCS) held their annual fundraiser virtually via Zoom. The event, Cheers to the Volunteers, welcomed 370 guests to participate in a virtual wine and gourmet coffee tasting while honoring JFCS volunteers who supported the agency’s pandemic relief efforts over the past year.

“We never imagined the level of positive response to our first ever virtual fundraiser,” said Michelle Napell, JFCS Executive Director.

The event, JFCS’ single largest annual fundraiser and significant source of unrestricted funds, raised over $197,000 through sponsorships, tickets sales and a live Text-to-Give appeal during the event.

“We asked our guests to help us raise $10,000 through Text-to-Give by the end of the event, and in 10 minutes we had raised almost $15,000,” says Napell. “It is incredible to see the generosity of our community especially in the face of unprecedented challenges that have come during the pandemic.”

Guests were able to join from anywhere and participants tuned in from across New Jersey as well as across the country, from California, to Florida, to Massachusetts and more. Attendees had been able to select their choice of beverage in advance – either wine or coffee. Beverages were shipped directly to their homes in advance of the event and each guest received a personal delivery of a swag bag, with branded items courtesy of sponsor support.

“Despite the very real presence of ‘Zoom fatigue’ in all of us, it was clear that the community continues to be ready to support JFCS and was seeking an evening centered around connections and celebrations – something we have all been in need of over the past year,” added Jennifer Agran, JFCS Board Vice President and Event Chair.

Funds raised from the event will support all agency programs, several of which have grown with demand due to the pandemic. JFCS maintains several food relief programs including an on-site food pantry, available 5 days/week, two Mobile Food Pantry vehicles that bring the pantry directly into areas of greater Mercer County with the greatest obstacles to accessing available resources, as well as meal and grocery delivery to homebound seniors.

Additionally, JFCS maintains a counseling department which is seeing rising demand as everyone navigates the next stage of the pandemic. JFCS also boasts a senior service department which maintains an aging-in-place membership program as well as geriatric care management available to the broader community. Seniors have continued to rely on the support of the JFCS senior service team throughout the past year for resources, information, and the comfort and understanding of our staff.

“Our agency has successfully navigated the past year of challenges thanks to the generosity of individual and corporate supporters; however, we have learned that to be prepared for anything, our agency needs to remain adaptable to any challenge, and to do so, we will continue to rely on the incredible support of this community. The success of this event helps us step into the months ahead knowing we can continue to meet the demand for our services,” said Napell.

See a full recap on our event website!

JFCS thanks all event sponsors including Presenting Sponsor: Personal Home Care of New Jersey. Champion Sponsors Abrams Foundation/Nati Kushner, Crook & Marker, Pat & Ray Schlaefer and Troutman Pepper; Patron Sponsors Access Property Management, Homewatch Caregivers and Roundview Capital; Partner Sponsors Bristol Myers Squibb, Callaway Henderson Sotheby’s International Realty, Matt & Holli Elias, Lennar, and James E. Schwalbe; and Supporter Sponsors First Bank, Martha Friedman & Harold Heft, Joel Heymsfeld, Gershen Group LLC, Hill Wallack LLP, Carol & Bob Lerner, Lois & Jeff Miller, Orland’s Ewing Memorial Chapel, Elaine & Barry Sussman, Szaferman Lakind, Stacey Wasserman & Ian Zimmerman and Audrey & Marc Wisotsky.

Service Opportunities this Month for Youth & Families

J-Serve: Day of Jewish Youth Service  **VIRTUAL SERVICE EVENT**

Sunday, April 11 on Zoom!

Grades 6 – 9 | 1:00 PM & Grades 10 – 12 | 2:00 PM

Volunteer. Serve the community. Help others. Get involved.

Connect with personal and local heritage with Project Roots. Help yourself and others by learning self-care techniques. Learn about making a difference.

Register in advance.

 

Spring Into Action

Sunday, April 18 @ 10:30 AM

707 Alexander Rd, Princeton, NJ 08540

Learn about hunger in Mercer County and how YOU can help others in need. You’re invited to this service event…bring an old t-shirt, scissors and a rule to upcycle a shirt into a reusable grocery bag.

Participants also encouraged to bring donation of paper goods or personal hygiene products.

SPACE IS LIMITED. MASK WEARING REQUIRED DURING EVENT (outdoors)

Rain date Sunday, April 25

Register in advance.

Jewish Family & Children’s Service Announces Mensch Award 2021

JFCS of Greater Mercer County announces the Rose & Louis H. Linowitz Mensch Award.  This is a merit-based award for deserving Jewish eighth-grade and high school senior students living in Greater Mercer County.  Candidates should exemplify what it means to be a mensch – a person of integrity and honor, a doer of good deeds, and an all-around good person.  Students must be nominated by a member of the community such as a Rabbi, educator, youth group advisor, secular school guidance counselor, teacher, parent, etc.  Eighth-grade Mensch-In-Training award is $300 and high school senior Mensch Award winners will receive $1,500.  This is not a need-based scholarship.

Applications are due by April 30, 2021.

8th Grade Application

12th Grade Application

Photo Release (Required for all applicants)

W-9 (Required for all applicants)

For more information or to nominate a student, contact Joyce at 609-987-8100 / JoyceW@JFCSonline.org.

COVID-19 Anniversary: Why We Look Back, How We Move Forward

“Remember how far you’ve come, not how far you have to go. You are not where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be.” – Rick Warren

 

Why is it important to mark an anniversary?

Anniversaries – whether marking a wedding, a union, a birthday, a new job, or other significant milestone – are most often days of celebration. These occasions give us reason to celebrate and reflect on the previous year and how the event being celebrated has added to our lives.

Anniversaries can also mark more somber occasions, this could be the loss of a loved one, or even a larger event in our community or in history. Why is it equally important to mark the passage of time in respect to loss, heartache, or tragedy?

It is important to acknowledge that all significant events make us who we are. A marriage marks a new beginning, a new path forward, as much as losing a loved one can also define a new stage in life. Each experience becomes a part of your story.

Where we may take a wedding anniversary to reflect with our partner on the past year, or years, and reminisce about how the partnership has grown, when we reflect on the anniversary of a tragic event, it is an opportunity to recognize growth as well. What have you learned in facing a loss? How have you shown resilience? How have you learned to cope with grief, or sadness, or struggle?

To the end, any anniversary that you acknowledge has worth, you assign its worth simple by recognizing the event or day as an anniversary. And if there is value to you in that day, then there is value in the emotions and reflection that come with it.

In the coming weeks, we will be reaching the anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic taking hold of our lives. On March 4, 2020 New Jersey officials announced the first presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in New Jersey; two short weeks later, the state entered a near-total quarantine lockdown that brought our lives to a halt.

What do we find by looking back?

The coronavirus outbreak impacted major aspects of our lives: working remotely at home, online education, and religious services. We had to get creative entertaining outdoors with a minimum number of family and friends staying six feet apart, drive-by birthday greetings and Zoom parties. Suddenly we were wearing face masks and washing our hands so often our skin became red, sore, and dry. Families were not able to visit loved ones in nursing facilities or attend to funeral rituals due to the need for social distancing. And travel was not happening.

Although none of us could have prepared for such a tragic period during our lifetime, there is value in recognizing the anniversary and in reflecting on what we have experienced in the past year.

There has certainly been much lost in the past year…

The start of school, graduations, weddings, funerals, sitting Shiva are all time-honored rituals and traditions that COVID severely disrupted. The lack of physical expression (hugs, kisses) has left a void in the way we process grief. A challenge during this time has been creating new rituals so we can partake in these significant occasions. Connecting on Zoom, social distance get-togethers, lawn signs to express congratulations to a graduate or celebrate a birthday demonstrate how resourceful and creative we have been establishing meaning to special events.

It is important to acknowledge our losses. Feeling sad is a normal part of grieving and it’s important to give yourself permission to be sad and to acknowledge the other emotions you might be feeling. Remember to take care of yourself, this could be sitting with a cup of tea listening to your favorite music, eating healthy, or journaling your thoughts and feelings.

Where there was loss, there was also gain…

Reflect on personal accomplishments – did you start a new hobby? Secure a new job? Spend more quality time with family? Learn a new skill? Prioritize your mental health?

Now, not all of us will emerge from this quarantine with a healthy sourdough starter on the counter, fully reorganized closets, filled with newly crocheted blankets, and that’s ok too. Simply getting through each day, maintaining your health, being able to move forward during this challenging time, that is an accomplishment to be proud of as well.

Beyond our personal spheres, there are positive takeaways to be found from the last year in how communities banded together to help the most vulnerable during the pandemic. Around the world folks came together to support their family, friends, and community by providing emotional and financial support, food, protective gear, and social justice.

Food drives were organized, masks hand-sewn and delivered to seniors, neighbors shopped for each other to keep crowds out of stores, we stood on balconies to applaud the herculean efforts of frontline workers, grassroots efforts launched food pantries and meal distributions across heavily impacted communities.

Looking for more inspiration? We can look at the global scale and celebrate that in the past year…

How do we look forward with hope?

We may feel as our lives are indefinitely paused because we don’t know how life will look after the pandemic, but we can have hope. Hope is a belief that things will get better, it is linked to the power of our mind and plays a vital role in giving us the benefit of emerging from adversity. This is not an opinion, it is science.

Hope takes away the burden of the present moment making it less difficult to bear. It helps us to believe in a better tomorrow. I am hopeful that you can be hopeful and look for that better tomorrow.​

Spotlight on Volunteers: From Youth Programming to Volunteering

Our new monthly feature – Volunteer Spotlight – will share testimonials direct from our incredible volunteers. JFCS Volunteers are critical to our delivery of core programs and services, providing everything from delivery of Kosher Meals on Wheels, to helping at Mobile Food Pantry distributions, and making friendly calls to isolated seniors.

Lucian Chown – An Interview with our February Volunteer Spotlight…

What made you reach out to JFCS to volunteer?

I’ve always been inspired by the great local work of JFCS. When I came back to New Jersey to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, I wanted to give back to the community in a time of need. I loved being a part of the Jewish Community Youth Foundation (JCYF) as a teenager where Celeste Albert introduced my class to many non-profits whose missions were enhanced by our getting to know their organization and making a contribution to sustain them. Delivering for Kosher Meals on Wheels is a great way to get out of the house during a time when we’re all stuck inside, and it makes me happy to help those individuals who aren’t able to leave home.

What do you enjoy about being on our volunteer team?  

Each week, I feel such eager anticipation as I prepare to deliver meals to those on my route in East Windsor and Twin Rivers. Eden Aaronson is a joy and she makes it easy for volunteers like me to pack my car with meals and get back in time for my afternoon work meetings. Sometimes, recipients are waiting by their door for their delivery, other times they wave and smile from their window. I’m glad my actions make a difference; I only wish I had the opportunity to meet and get to know those on my route – perhaps post-pandemic.

How long have you been volunteering in the Princeton area?

I’ve been volunteering since I was ten years old. As a family, we raised and trained puppies for The Seeing Eye of New Jersey, a true family affair. 

Are you a volunteer at other agencies?

Yes! I volunteer with the Greater Trenton Jewish Cemetery Project, a local animal shelter, my university’s alumni ambassador program, and will be part of the Nexus leadership program for the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington (DC) .

Do you plan to continue volunteering with JFCS into the future?

Of course! I love the work that JFCS does for the Jewish community and the community at-large.

Have you had any impressionable moments with clients while you were working for JFCS that you’d like to share?

Because of COVID-19, I don’t get to interact with clients, though one man shouts his thanks through the door each week. That always makes me smile! 

Blast Hunger Series: Drive-By Breakfast Food Drive

You can help ensure our clients’ days start off on the right note by donating to our Breakfast Blitz Drive By Food Drive. Stop by to donate kosher breakfast foods and help families in need MIX UP their mornings.

Donations will benefit children of the JFCS food pantry and our partner agencies across Mercer County.

When? Thursday, February 25 & Friday, February 26 @ 10 AM – 12 PM

Where? JFCS Parking Lot 707 Alexander Road, Suite 102 Princeton NJ 08540

What? 

  • Cold Cereals
  • Oatmeal
  • Shelf Stable Milk
  • Pancake Mixes
  • Muffin Mixes
  • Breakfast Bars
  • Fruit Packed in Water

All items must be marked Kosher.

Can’t make the event? Purchase from your online store of choice & ship items directly to our offices!



Our thanks to Carli Masia, Blast Hunger Chair

JFCS Honors Volunteers at First Virtual Annual Event

Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County (JFCS) has pivoted their annual fundraiser to a virtual format. The event, Cheers to the Volunteers, set for Thursday, March 25, 2021 at 8 PM, will feature an interactive, virtual wine or coffee tasting for guests.

“Our annual event is an opportunity to bring together community members, donors and partners to celebrate the agency and recognize the efforts of partners who are honored for their exceptional support in the past year,” said Michelle Napell. “In such challenging times, JFCS has been fortunate to be supported by many partners, but we knew this year our volunteers were the true stars.”

The event will be honoring 70 individuals who volunteered throughout the pandemic, specifically in support of JFCS relief efforts in the most challenging times.

“Almost as quickly as the world changed, and JFCS pivoted programs, there were volunteers new and old reaching out to help,” says Eden Aaronson, Coordinator of Volunteers & Community Programs.

Since March 2020, a steady corps of volunteers has helped maintain new programs launched directly in response to the needs JFCS recognized among their clients and the community including making Friendly Weekly Phone Calls to isolated seniors, and grocery shopping for elderly clients unable or uncomfortable navigating the stores. When visits to the JFCS on-site pantry doubled and Mobile Food Pantry distributions ramped up, volunteers were there to pack bag after bag of groceries for distribution. And, twice a week, every week, Kosher Meals on Wheels volunteers show up to deliver hot meals to homebound seniors.

“While we look forward to the day we can welcome hundreds of guests into a ballroom, we are looking forward to creating a celebratory and community spirit through our virtual program,” says Jennifer Agran, JFCS Board First Vice President and Event Chair.

The virtual event will allow guests to select their beverage of choice – red wine, white wine, sparkling wine, Kosher wine or gourmet coffee – and beverages will be shipped directly to their homes. On March 25, guests are invited to join a live Zoom event during which they will be moved into breakout rooms based on their beverage selection and led in an interactive, guided tasting with a wine sommelier or coffee expert.

Event Information including sponsorships and registration can be found on our event site.

Presenting Sponsor: Personal Home Care of New Jersey.

Champion Sponsors Abrams Foundation/Nati Kushner, Crook & Marker, Pat & Ray Schlaefer and Troutman Pepper; Patron Sponsors Access Property Management and Homewatch Caregivers; and Supporter Sponsors First Bank, Gerhsen Group LLC, Hill Wallack LLP, and Orland’s Ewing Memorial Chapel.

How do we heal?

Healing, one of our agency’s three core values, is derived from the Jewish value Tikkun Olam.

Tikkun Olam – Healing the World, the concept can seem overwhelming in the best of times, for as much as we try, there is always healing needed.

Where do we even begin?

First, we must be sure we heal from within. We must prioritize our own mental health and well-being before looking to give of ourselves to others. Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup.

Then we look outward, we lend a helping hand – a mitzvah, a good deed. That act of kindness, gemilut hasadim, lends itself to another, then another. We all find inspiration in stories of “paying it forward,” continuing the good deeds.

When help is given…to an individual when kindness is shown to them during a personal crisis; to a family when neighbors rally together for them; to a community when we put the needs of our collective over our individual gains…there we find hope.

And when we have developed an emphasis on helping others, when we have sparked hope through united service for each other, that is where we start healing.

These small steps begin to heal, to repair our “world.” We then challenge ourselves to broaden who is considered our community, expanding the boundaries of our world, and together we will repair, restore, and heal.

Spotlight on Volunteers: Father-Son Dynamic Duo Delivers During Pandemic

Our new monthly feature – Volunteer Spotlight – will share testimonials direct from our incredible volunteers. JFCS Volunteers are critical to our delivery of core programs and services, providing everything from delivery of Kosher Meals on Wheels, to helping at Mobile Food Pantry distributions, and making friendly calls to isolated seniors.

Les & Ben Seifer

My son, Ben, and I form the perfect “dynamic duo” as we travel about Mercer County delivering meals to a wide assortment of JFCS clients. He drives and I navigate (with help from Waze). We have both been blessed in many ways and are happy to do our little bit to help the elderly and others who, even without a pandemic, find it hard to get out and about. We truly believe that though we cannot save the world, we can help save a little piece of it here in New Jersey. Plus, everyone at JFCS is extraordinarily cheerful and dedicated which makes the volunteer experience something we look forward to each week.

Ben, who also volunteers at the Plainsboro Public Library, learned about JFCS from me. I learned about the agency while volunteering at Cornerstone Community Kitchen at the United Methodist Church in Princeton. Every Wednesday at that church (pre-pandemic), a hot meal is served to about one hundred people. There is also a food pantry where attendees can “shop” for various donated foods. One Wednesday, JFCS came by and contributed a huge amount of groceries and that’s where I learned about their services. During the pandemic we have limited ourselves to just handing out hot meals and bags of groceries and produce, and JFCS has been there every week without fail with first-rate fruits and other healthy items.

The clients we support always greet us cheerfully when we make our deliveries.  On a recent miserable cold rainy day, I handed an elderly woman her meals and she said, “Wait… I have a little something for you.” Thinking she was going to try and give me a tip, or perhaps some cookies, I told her it was not at all necessary. She then handed me a plastic bag of garbage and asked me if I could drop it in the dumpster since she was unable to get out. Did I take it? Of course! We are making a difference each day, and providing that vitual social interaction and simply “check-in” on seniors who are feeling exceptionally isolated.

In a time when it can feel many people act only in service of themselves, it is rewarding to both Ben and I to see such generosity and compassion. We look forward to continuing to play a part.

IN THE NEWS! JFCS Recognized in West Windsor HOMETOWN HEROES Program

December 7, 2020

The West Windsor Hometown Heroes program was established to recognize the public and private groups that came together to help the community during the COVID-19 crisis.

To thank these groups, Mayor Hemant Marathe and the West Windsor Township Council have created an online exhibition to honor them for their service. 

The week of December 7, JFCS is being featured in the exhibition for our efforts across all programming – food pantry & distribution, senior services and mental health.

See our full page.