COVID – 19 UPDATES

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

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.

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.

A Holiday Message from JFCS: Sharing Thanks, Giving Support

In honor of the holiday, JFCS wants to share our thanks…

To our staff, thank you for giving your compassion, your care, your creativity in the face of unprecedented challenges.

To our Board, thank you for giving your commitment and guidance to keep the agency on a steady course.

To our volunteers, thank you for giving your goodwill and your time. We have multiple programs entirely dependent on our corps of volunteer who have been unwavering in their service through this difficult time.

To our collaborators in the community, thank you for giving us your partnership and proving that we can accomplish more together and support our community through a strong network of resources.

To our clients, thank you for giving your trust to our team to provide you with counsel, with resources, with support in the face of many challenges this year.

To our donors, thank you for giving your support. From the start of the pandemic, you, our supporters, never hesitated in reaching out to see how you could contribute, which programs needed help, always asking “how can we help?”

…And give support.

We want to share a few notes of advice on how to manage the anxiety and stress that accompanies holidays “in the time of COVID-19.”

  • Try to be realistic, the holiday does not have to be perfect. Choose a few traditions to hold on to and be open about creating new ones. This could mean that you have a virtual get together, or, weather permitting, dinner could be held outdoors.
  • Practice self-care: taking 5 to 10 minutes out of your day to go for a walk outside, listening to calming music, lighting a scented candle, doing breathing exercises, and drinking water.
  • Focus on what you are grateful for. Sometimes we need be thankful for what happens to us, sometimes we need be thankful for what does not.

Wishing everyone a safe, healthy and peaceful Thanksgiving.

Tips, Resources & Support for Holiday Season During COVID-19

This time of year is usually full of eager anticipation, cheerful gatherings, acts of kindness and charitable giving. Like so many aspects of life, this year the holiday season will look different than ones that came before. While we will all have to continue to be creative in how and where we gather with family and friends, observe holiday traditions, and participate in the season, we can still make this year meaningful and special.

Coping with Separation & Loss During Celebrations

Do you or your families need a refresher on Zoom? Don’t let anyone feel left out of the virtual celebration, share our step by step Zoom Guide.

Consider a drive-by potluck dinner. If you can’t bring yourself to reduce the recipe of your favorite holiday dish, coordinate with loved ones who may be within driving distance and organize a drop-off potluck. Make the full holiday serving size, divvy up into individual portions, and make a no-contact delivery to loved ones who are close by. OR, if you are far apart from loved ones, especially elderly family members, consider ordering them a prepared meal to be delivered.

Find more tips like this in…

Remember, this year, safety is most important to ensure future holidays celebrations can be shared together in person. Review the CDC Guidelines and Recommendations for Thanksgiving & upcoming holidays.

If you are a caregiver, this holiday can be extra difficult managing the stress of your role in the midst of the pandemic, and without the extra family support during this season. We are here for caregivers.

If you have experienced loss this year, this difficult and distanced holiday time can feel especially challenging to navigate.

  • For those of the Jewish faith, join us on December 9 for a special program “Light in the Midst of Darkness: Chanukah in the time of COVID for the Bereaved” Register in advance (fee $10)

Additional resources for the bereaved:

Time for Traditions

Practice gratitude. Here are a number of resources for nurturing gratitude for Thanksgiving and beyond.

Find comfort in the familiar of tradition. Put out the special tableware, the traditional recipes, and find religious services streaming online.

Embrace the nostalgia of the hand-written card. When we are all missing family and friends more than ever, a hand-written (or even hand-made if you want to avoid the stores) card can mean so much to the recipient.

Dress up! Even if you are hosting a smaller gathering than usual, or celebrating solo, dress up in your formal holiday attire. Wearing your holiday best can bring about the celebratory spirit!

Missing out on the cookie baking marathon with your loved ones? Set up a video call and bake “together.” This can be a special opportunity to record your family members passing down beloved family recipes which can be cherished for generations.

Find more tips like this in…

Community Event: Interfaith Thanksgiving Service dedicated in memory of Rabbi Feldman

Thurs, November 26 @ 11:00 AM

Join for a special interfaith service for the holiday. STREAM LIVE

Make this time Special with Service

This has been a challenging year for many – job loss, food insecurity, seniors feeling especially isolated. In this season of giving, find ways to make a difference in your community…

Participate or lead a Thanksgiving/Holiday Food Drive. Check with local pantries if they are collecting specific items for the upcoming holidays or if they are in need of pantry staples.

Want to get out into the community? Food banks, food pantries and soup kitchens continue to see rising demand. Reach out to organizations in your area and inquire about volunteer opportunities. Many organizations are relying on volunteers to facilitate large-scale grab and go meal distributions.

  • Help at JFCS! We welcome volunteers to help pack prepared bags of food for our on-site and mobile food pantries. Contact us: BethE@jfcsonline.org / 609-987-8100 Ext 126.

Share a smile with a senior. The restrictions of current quarantine orders dramatically impact older adults. Consider making holiday cards to be shared with isolated seniors. Reach out to local senior care facilities or organizations to inquire about how to best distribute holiday greeting cards to their residents/clients.

  • JFCS is collecting cards for our senior clients which will be distributed to those who receive delivered meals and food. Contact Eden Aaronson to learn more: EdenA@jfcsonline.org / 609-987-8100 Ext 113.

Make a donation. Find an organization close to your heart and make a gift that is meaningful to you to support them. Share with family and friends why this cause is important and encourage them to do the same.

  • You can help make the holidays special for JFCS clients by donating gift cards to our L.I.G.H.T.S (Love is Getting Holidays Gifts to Share) program. Learn more here.
  • By making a general monetary donation to JFCS, you are enabled us to continue our vital support to the community through our food pantries, senior support and mental health care. Make a donation today.
Embrace the Opportunity for NEW Traditions

Never had time to make a Turkey Trot before now? Most charity walks/races have gone virtual and can be completed from anywhere! Make a team with family and friends no matter how distanced you are, and embrace the chance to create a new tradition with them.

  • You can participate in the Mercer County Turkey Trot Nov 21 – 28! Proceeds help support Mercer County food pantries including JFCS. Sign up today!

Create a Secret “Snowflake” gift exchange through the magic of Amazon Prime (or any online store). Organize a gift exchange through a broad network using social media or keep it to a close-knit group with whom you may not be able to gather in person with this year.

Seek out virtual holiday concert or performances, coordinate virtual “watch parties” of your favorite holiday movies with your loved ones, enjoy outdoor, socially distanced opportunities like drive-through or walk-through light displays, and explore local opportunities like Palmer Square holiday weekends or Morven Museum & Garden Festival of Trees.

This Thanksgiving, enjoy an Interfaith Service, dedicated to the memory of Rabbi Adam Feldman. Stream the program liveThursday, November 26 at 11 AM.

Festive Foods

See a guided video by our very own Andrea Gaynor to make your own Sufganiyot (Jelly Doughnuts) for Hanukkah!

Our registered dietitan has shared tips and recipes for budget-friendly and time-conscious Thanksgiving dishes.

Check out additional family friendly recipes:

Games & Crafts

Get crafty and creative this holiday season with these activities fun for all ages!

Do What Works Best for YOU and Your Mental Health

It has been said that during the pandemic, sometimes it takes more effort to accomplish less. The emotional and mental toll of the past months may leave many feeling exceptionally fatigued by the holidays before they have even arrived.

If you need to keep things simple to protect your mental health, then take the time for self-care. If you’re feeling over-Zoomed before weeks of virtual holiday drinks, be honest with your family and friends and let them know you cannot join all of the engagements.

Find information & tips in our blogs:

And, if you need to talk to someone, reach out to JFCS

  • During our Drop-in Hours (Mon, Wed, Fri 10 AM – 12 PM or Tues, Thurs 5 – 7 PM) call 609-987-8100 Dial 0
  • Connect with our intake coordinator for ongoing counseling at 609-987-8100 Ext 102

Budget-Friendly and Time-Conscious Thanksgiving Tips & Recipes

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Thanksgiving is an exciting time to eat some of our favorite holiday foods. We could go on and on about Thanksgiving fare, but the reality is that making too many dishes can be stressful! Check out the following tips to spend less time and money in the kitchen.

  1. Keep it simple by focusing on favorites – choose your favorite 2 vegetable sides & 1-2 starchy side dishes to make and enjoy without going overboard. You can make other dishes any day of the year without the pressure of the big day!
  2. Make only what you will need – Thanksgiving leftovers are great, but buying too much can put you over budget and creates waste.
  3. Basic is best – Often our favorite recipes are the most simple. Choose recipes without extra ingredients. This saves time shopping AND in the kitchen. Making dishes from scratch is often less expensive too.

When it comes to Thanksgiving, thinking ahead can save the day!

Giving ourselves time to decide what’s really important minimizes holiday stress. Prioritizing can keep us focused and on-track to stay within budget and to make healthier choices.

  1. Prioritize only a few of your “Must-Have” favorite dishes and choose recipes in advance. You can make other dishes any day of the year.
  2. Purchase November’s in-season produce while it’s at the lowest price and its peak of freshness (winter squashes, collards, cabbage, sweet potato, kale, carrots, apples, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cranberries etc.)
  3. Make it ahead. Schedule a prep day where you can get some foods done in advance. Many can be stored in the freezer for weeks and just need to be reheated (soup, casseroles, pie, etc.)
  4. Use a slow cooker if you have one. Many recipes can be adapted to be made in a slow cooker. It takes up little space and reduces your active cooking time.
  5. Poultry swap. Turkey is often the most expensive item at Thanksgiving. Cut the cost by:
  • Purchasing store-brand turkey
  • Choosing a smaller bird and focus on the side dishes
  • Substituting chicken and prepare it with the same care you would for a turkey
  • Buying turkey pieces instead of the whole bird
Roasted Turkey Breast

For when you don’t want to cook a whole bird (try it with chicken!)

  • 5 lbs Turkey Breast, bone in & skin on
  • 2 tbsp Butter, softened
  • 2 large Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp Rosemary
  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • Black Pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups Water

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. In a small bowl, add softened butter, garlic, rosemary, smoked paprika, salt & pepper. Mix thoroughly.
  3. Rub turkey breast with seasoned butter all around, starting from the bottom with bone side.
    Place turkey breast side up on a rack and then put rack inside the baking dish. Pour water into the pan underneath the turkey.
  4. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes on a bottom rack.
  5. Loosely cover with foil and bake for 70-80 minutes more or until internal temperature in the deepest part of meat reaches 150 – 155 degrees F.
Cranberry Sauce

For a more naturally sweetened sauce

  • 12 oz Cranberries, fresh or frozen

  • 1/3 Cup Maple Syrup or Honey

  • 1/4 Cup Orange Juice (use zest of oranges if fresh)

  • 1/8 tsp Vanilla (optional)

  • 1/8 tsp Cinnamon (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Add cranberries, syrup or honey, and orange juice to a pot.
  2. Cover and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to medium and cook for 6 more minutes.
  3. Remove lid and add vanilla & cinnamon (optional). Stir and cook for another 3 minutes or until cranberries are broken down and the sauce has thickened.
Thanksgiving Stuffed Acorn Squash

For a new dish to serve featuring seasonal vegetables.

For the Squash

  • 3 Acorn Squash, small

  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil

  • Salt & Pepper, to taste

For the Stuffing

  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 lb Lean Turkey, ground
  • 3 Cups spinach/kale, chopped
  • 2 tsp Dried Rosemary
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Hard Cheese & Parsley for garnish (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Cut squash in half and scoop out the seeds. (save them to toast later)
  2. Place squash cut side up on a large baking sheet. Brush with 1 tbsp of oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, prepare the stuffing. Place a large skillet over medium-low heat.
  4. Add oil onion and garlic and cook until translucent and fragrant. Add turkey and cook for another 7-8 minutes while mixing and breaking up the meat.
  5. Add remaining ingredients. Mix together and cook for another few minutes.
  6. After the squash have roasted for 30 minutes, remove them from the oven. Carefully stuff the centers with the stuffing & sprinkle on cheese (optional).
  7. Return the stuffed squash to the oven and bake another 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown and the squash can be easily pierced with a fork.
Toasted Acorn Squash Seeds

For a crunchy & salty snack while waiting for dinner.

  • Acorn Squash Seeds

  • Oil of your choosing, enough to lightly coat

  • Salt, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking tray with foil.
  2. Remove squash pulp from seeds as best as possible.
  3. In a bowl, drizzle oil onto the seeds to lightly coat. Add salt and mix.
  4. Spread the seeds on your baking sheet in a single layer and place into the oven.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, tossing the seeds with a spatula once or twice during the cooking time.
  6. Remove once they are golden and fragrant.
Garlic Green Beans

For a deliciously simple vegetable side dish.

  • 1.5 lbs Fresh Green Beans, ends trimmed

  • 3 Tbsp Water

  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil

  • 3-4 Garlic Cloves, minced

  • Salt & Black Pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat large ceramic non-stick skillet on medium heat.
  2. Add green beans and 3 tbsp water. Cover and cook for 4 minutes.
  3. Remove the lid and if there is any water left, cook green beans until water has evaporated.
  4. Push beans to the side. Add olive oil and garlic. Cook for 30 seconds and then stir with green beans. Season with salt & pepper.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts

For a traditional & simple seasonal vegetable side.

  • 2 lbs Brussels Sprouts, fresh

  • 3 Tbsp Olive Oil

  • Salt & Black Pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Trim the ends and remove outer leaves from brussels sprouts.
  3. Place brussels sprouts on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Mix with hands to evenly coat with oil and seasonings. Spread into a single layer.
  5. Bake for 40 mins, tossing with a spatula 1-2 times after the 30 minute mark.
Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes

For a hassle-free slow cooker recipe (try it with sweet potatoes!)

  • 5 lbs Potatoes, peeled & cut into 1-inch cubes

  • 1/2 Cup of Lowfat or Plant-Based Milk

  • 1/2 Cup Low-Sodium Broth

  • 3 Garlic Cloves, smashed

  • 1/3 Cup Plain Greek Yogurt

  • 1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated

  • Salt & Black Pepper to taste

  • Sliced Green Onions or Chives for garnish (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Place potato cubes along with milk, broth, salt, black pepper, and garlic into a slow cooker. Toss to combine.
  2. Cover the crock and cook for about 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.
  3. When the potatoes are tender, mash them directly in the slow cooker to your desired consistency.
  4. Add yogurt and grated parmesan, and season to taste.
  5. Place the lid back on the crock pot and heat through for another 15-20 minutes before serving. Garnish if desired.
Seasonal Squash Soup

For a hearty seasonal soup you can make ahead (try with any winter squash!)

  • 1 Butternut Squash,  peeled, seeded, & cubed (save your seeds to toast later)
  • 2 Tbsp Oil
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 1 Stalk Celery, chopped
  • 1 Medium Carrot, chopped
  • 32 oz Low-Sodium Broth
  • Salt & Black Pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Add oil to a large soup pot. Add onion, celery, carrot and squash and cook for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  2. Pour in enough of the chicken stock to cover vegetables. Bring to a boil then reduce to low heat and cover. Simmer for 40 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender.
  3. Carefully, transfer the soup to a blender (or use an immersion blender), and blend until smooth.
  4. Mix in any remaining stock to attain desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

If Freezing…

  1. Allow soup to cool, and then pour into a freezer-safe container. Leave space at the top for expansion.
  2. Place in the freezer until ready to use.
  3. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator if desired. Reheat in a pot on the stove.
Baked Apples

For a healthy dessert that highlights beautiful seasonal apples.

  • 4 Large Apples

  • 3 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, softened

  • 1/4 Cup of Brown Sugar or Honey

  • 1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon

  • 1/8 tsp Ground Nutmeg

  • 1/3 Cup Whole Rolled Oats

  • 2 Tbsp Raisins/Dried Cranberries/Chopped Nuts (optional)

Instructions:

  1. In a bowl, mash butter, sugar/honey, oats, cinnamon, and nutmeg together until combined. Add raisins/dried cranberries/nuts, if using. Set aside.
  2. Core the apples: Use an apple corer or a sharp paring knife and a spoon. Cut around the core, about 3/4 down into the apple. Use a spoon to carefully dig out the core.
  3. Place cored apples in a baking pan with sides. Spoon filling into each apple p to the top.
  4. Pour water into the pan around the apples to cover the bottom.
  5. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until apples are to your desired softness.
  6. Remove apples from the oven and allow to rest 5 minutes. Serve warm.
Prep-Ahead Pumpkin Pie

For a traditional dessert you can make in advance

  • 1 Store-Bought Pie Dough

  • 3 Eggs, large

  • 15 oz can 2 cups pumpkin puree (not pie filling)

  • 1/2 cup your choice of milk

  • 1/2 cup maple syrup or honey

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

  • 1.5 tsp pumpkin pie spice**

  • 1/4 tsp salt

**Make & store your own pumpkin pie spice in a jar by mixing 1/4 cup ground cinnamon, 1 Tbsp ground nutmeg, 1 Tbsp ground ginger and 1 tsp ground cloves

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. In a medium bowl, add eggs and whisk for 30 seconds.
  3. Add pumpkin puree, milk, maple syrup, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, salt and whisk together.
  4. Pour your pie filling into pre-baked crust and bake pie for 55 minutes.

Freeze & Store…

  1. Let the pie cool completely.
  2. Wrap the pie tightly in a few layers of plastic wrap.
  3. Label the pie with the freeze date and place in freezer.
  4. Thaw overnight in refrigerator before serving.

JFCS Women’s Alliance Raises Over $80,000 to Help Support Food Insecure Residents of Mercer County

November 5, 2020

Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County [JFCS] held its second annual event for the JFCS Women’s Alliance, a membership-based collaboration of women focused on addressing hunger in Mercer County.

To date, the Women’s Alliance had raised $80,478 in donations and pledges. The funds raised can support over 10 weeks of distributions through the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry. The Mobile Food Pantry has benefitted over 11,000 individuals since its launch in January of 2020.

This year the JFCS Women’s Alliance introduced tiered giving levels to open membership to more women, particularly to include those whose giving abilities may have been impact by the pandemic, but still wanted to be a part of the group and support the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry.

“We were so impressed with the response to the Women’s Alliance this year,” said Michelle Napell, Executive Director of JFCS. “From the overwhelming response, it is clear people want to give, they want to have their dollars make an impact in their community.”

The pandemic has dramatically increased need for food across all communities, including Mercer County. According to Feeding America, the food insecurity rate in Mercer is expected to reach 13.6% by the end of 2020, representing over 50,000 individuals.

On October 29, all 126 Women’s Alliance members were invited to tune in live to the virtual event, “Community & Resilience” an interview with Joanne Canady-Brown, owner of The Gingered Peach (Lawrenceville, NJ) and Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Fellow, James Beard Foundation.

“When planning our event, we not only wanted to share about our mobile pantry program, but also take this opportunity to highlight the theme of ‘community and resilience’ through a local story,” said Napell. “Joanne, as a local, small-business owner, certainly showed resilience as she has kept her business going through the pandemic, and through the challenges of this year, she never hesitated to give back to her community despite facing her own obstacles.”

Canady-Brown shared her personal story including her journey in opening The Gingered Peach six years ago, the challenges of navigating the pandemic as a small business owner, and her family inspirations that led to her career in baking and developing a resilient spirit.

“Joanne spoke about her upbringing, and the role food played in building that sense of family and community. She reflected that her family was economically challenges and food was the ‘only vehicle to celebrate’ and used as a way to show love,” noted Napell. “This message resonates with how JFCS approaches our pantry distributions, it is not just about handing out food items, we give with care and compassion to those we serve. We take pride in offering fresh, healthy food items that can truly be a center of a family celebration.”

To learn more about becoming a member or supporting the Women’s Alliance, contact Helaine Isaacs at 609-987-8100 Ext 104 or HelaineI@jfcsonline.org.

See this story in the November 11 edition of Town Topics.

Feeling stressed about the election? How to cope with anxiety & uncertainty in the days and weeks ahead

You may be experiencing symptoms of Election Stress Disorder.

The 2020 election season would have been a stressful one even during normal times but, compounded with a pandemic it is creating, for some, incredible stress and frustration. If you find yourself experiencing what has been described as Election Stress Disorder you are not alone; according to a study recently conducted by the American Psychological Association, 68% of Americans are feeling significantly stressed by this presidential election. For some, tomorrow and the weeks ahead will be highly emotional, so it is essential to consider how to manage your mental and emotional wellbeing.

Below are a few suggestions that could provide you with a balance:

Try to keep things in perspective.

It’s common to experience strong feelings of distress related to elections. To help you cope, validate whatever emotions you’re experiencing, while working to reframe intrusive thoughts like hopelessness or despair. If you are feeling discouraged by current events, remind yourself that situations may shift in the future.

Set boundaries with family and friends.

Having boundaries means offering one another the space to celebrate, mourn, and process feelings as needed. Avoid minimizing or judging other people’s reactions, especially if those reactions are different than yours. Give people space to cope in the ways that best suit them.

Try not to dwell.

Instead of dwelling on fears by letting your mind run wild, ask yourself if there are any action steps you can take to improve the situation and/or your mental health. Anxiety functions to make us feel powerless; doing something – anything – can help empower and bring us back into healthy coping.

Self-monitor your emotions.

Prepare for delayed results; it may take days or weeks, self-monitor and respond appropriately to your emotions. If the outcome is not what you were hoping for, find peaceful and adaptive ways to advocate for what you believe in.

Limit your news consumption.

Make opportunities to disconnect from the media, particularly if you find yourself becoming distraught, anxious, or emotionally reactive. The news is sure to be more exhausting in the coming weeks, which is why a plan for consumption can be beneficial.

Tomorrow, Election Day.

On the day of the election, start off with a moment of gratitude and self-care; this may look like journaling, a short meditation or being in nature.

Shirley Bellardo, LCSW, LCADC (Director of Clinical Services)

JFCS Women’s Alliance Tackling Increasing Hunger during COVID-19

October 5, 2020

In 2019, Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County [JFCS] introduced the Women’s Alliance, a membership-based collaboration of women focused on addressing hunger in Mercer County. With 78 Founding Members and 25 additional donors contributing over $84,000, the group served as the largest collective founding sponsor of the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry.

Entering its second year, the Women’s Alliance is inviting new and returning members to support this initiative. The Women’s Alliance committee recognized it was more important than ever to support programs addressing food insecurity despite facing the obstacles of creating an engaging, group-based effort in the midst of a pandemic.

“In speaking with Michelle Napell, the JFCS Executive Director, I learned how drastically the pandemic has impacted already vulnerable populations, right here in our community,” said Robin Persky, founding member of JFCS Women’s Alliance and member of the Women’s Alliance Event Committee. “Not only are those populations facing greater challenges to accessing food, but now we have thousands more in need because of job loss and the overall economic impact of COVID. There are so many who never needed the support of a pantry and are now turning to JFCS and other community resources.”

The Women’s Alliance will once again support the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry, which launched in January 2020. The pandemic has accelerated the impact of the mobile program with 3-4 stops being made each week at partner distribution sites across Mercer County. In accordance with health and safety guidelines, the mobile pantry is delivering pre-packed bags of groceries in a contact free manner. JFCS continues to serve healthy options including meat, dairy and fresh produce in addition to non-perishable items. The goal is to return to an all choice pantry when social distancing restrictions are lifted and it is safe to do so.

“We are incredibly appreciative of the Women’s Alliance Committee members for remaining dedicated to their mission in the midst of this pandemic,” said Michelle Napell, Executive Director. “Their support is needed now more than ever.”

The Women’s Alliance Committee has tapped Joanne Canady-Brown to serve as the keynote speaker at their virtual event for members in October. Canady-Brown is the owner of The Gingered Peach in Lawrenceville, NJ and a James Beard Foundation Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Fellow. The virtual event will feature Canady-Brown being interviewed by Nora Muchanic, former Action News New Jersey correspondent (6abc Action News) to share her story of “Community and Resilience” from building up her current business, to navigating the challenges of COVID-19 as a small business owner, and how through it all, she has found support from her community, and in turn supported those in need.

This year, there are three membership levels: Contributing Member for minimum donation of $180, Supporting Member for a minimum donation of $540, and Sustaining Member for minimum donation of $1,000. All members will be listed on JFCS Website, in Annual Report and be able to attend the 2020 Member Event, being held virtually:                                    

Event: Community & Resilience – An Interview with Joanne Canady-Brown, owner of The Gingered Peach, by Nora Muchanic, former Action News NJ correspondent

Date: Thursday, October 29, 2020      

Time: 12 – 1 PM

Location: Held via Zoom

Private Event for Women’s Alliance Members Only, link provided upon registration

Find more information and additional benefits associated with each membership level on our Women’s Alliance Giving page.

To become a member of the JFCS Women’s Alliance for 2020-2021, contact Helaine Isaacs, Development Associate at 609-987-8100 Ext 104 or HelaineI@jfcsonline.org