Addressing anxiety & fear in the face of threats of violence in schools

Today’s threat on TikTok for potential school violence has spurred widespread concern and anxiety. NJ Gov. Phil Murphy has stated, “While there are no known specific threats against New Jersey schools, the safety of our children is our highest priority and we will work closely with law enforcement to monitor the situation and remain prepared.” However, many of us are still facing feelings of unease and stress whether you are a parent, a student, an educator, a school staff member, a relative of anyone in a school setting, or simply concerned for your community.

Threats or acts of violence that occur in schools can cause a great deal of confusion and fear in our children who start to worry about their own safety and the safety of their friends and family. 

Knowing how to have a conversation with your child or teen about school safety is critical and can play an important role in easing fears and anxieties about their personal safety. How do you address these fears and keep them feeling safe in school and at home? Here are some helpful guidelines:

  • Talk honestly with your child or teen about your own feelings modeling that they are not dealing with their fears alone.
  • Validate your child’s feelings. “Validating” means giving your child or teen that all-important, and seemingly elusive, message that “your feelings make sense.”
  • Empower your child to take action regarding school safety. Encourage them to report incidents such as bullying, threats or talk of suicide. Encourage older children to actively participate in student-run anti-violence programs.
  • Support your child’s efforts to work out scary thoughts and feelings through play, drawing, or other activities

Lastly, watch for warning signs that your child may suffer from anxiety. Some common reactions to anxiety are:  

  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Frequent nightmares or not being able to sleep
  • Changes in eating habits which could include loss of appetite or overeating
  • Lack of focus or ability to pay attention
  • Separation anxiety or unusual clinginess.

If symptoms should persist for more than six weeks or disrupts your child or teen’s daily routine, it is recommended that you seek professional help. JFCS can provide you the necessary support; please call 609-987-8100 Ext 102.

Shirley Bellardo, LCSW, LCADC Director of Clinical Services

JFCS: Moving Forward into 2022 with Help, Hope and Healing

The end of year is always a time to reflect and set goals for the year ahead. JFCS is sharing inspiring stories of how our programs have helped the individuals, families and community we serve move forward after another challenging year for all.

Valerie’s Journey of Healing…

Valerie reached out to JFCS after recognizing the severity of the anxiety and depression she was experiencing. After making the commitment to counseling and putting new skills into action, Valerie felt empowered to address the root of her most severe symptoms – low self-esteem caused by lack of boundaries in challenging relationships. By tackling the causes of her anxiety and depression, Valerie soon felt confident to move forward from therapy.

“My counselor was exceptional and did an excellent job listening without judgment and providing professional support. I am extremely grateful for this experience and am looking forward to moving past my anxiety.”

Helping Arthur and Ruth Move Forward with Confidence…

The JFCS senior service team received a call from Arthur, who lives out of state, and was concerned about his 90 year-old mother who lives alone in the Princeton community. While the son was in town, one of our geriatric care managers scheduled an appointment to meet with both Arthur and his mother, Ruth. The care manager did a thorough assessment including home safety, social supports, meal shopping/preparation and transportation options. A plan of care was developed to address these issues. Arthur left for home feeling like a “weight had been lifted from his shoulders.”

He knew he was no longer alone to deal with the challenges that lie ahead. JFCS receives many calls like this and our expert team of geriatric care managers is available to provide guidance and support to those in similar situations.

Melinda Finds Hope at the Pantry…

Melinda is a grandmother who serves as the primary guardian to both grandsons. She lives on a fixed income and is the full-time caregiver to both children, one of whom has significant physical special needs, requiring in-home therapy and care. It is difficult for Melinda to get out of the house, but thankfully, she is in counseling with one of our JFCS therapists who referred her to the pantry team. Our pantry team was able to identify one of our local mobile food pantry stops where Melinda can easily and conveniently pick up groceries. Melinda was also able to receive gift cards through the LIGHTS program so she could purchase holiday gifts for her grandsons, something out of reach without this support.

“With a resource coming right to my neighborhood, it is a huge relief. I face serious financial challenges as the sole caregiver for my grandsons, and I am so appreciative of any help. Even the smallest gesture makes a big difference in our lives.”

Stories like those of Valerie, Arthur, Ruth and Melinda are just some examples of the impact we have made, together, over the past year. You can read further about how JFCS has served the community this year in our latest Annual Report.

We thank all of those who have supported us, especially in these ongoing, challenging times. We hope you can once again trust JFCS to care for those in need with an end of year gift. Help us move into the new year with help, hope & healing.

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.

Caring for the Caregiver: National Family Caregiver Month

We salute all family caregivers for the love, support and day-to-day, day-in and day-out care that you give to your family members.

At JFCS we are always available to provide care for the Caregivers:

Contact Beverly Mishkin, Director of Senior Services, beverlym@jfcsonline.org or Chaplain Beverly Rubman, beverlyr@jfcsonline.org, for more information.

We share several readings below to support you as you take care of your loved ones…

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief.  I come into the presence of still water.
and I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light.  For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

–Wendell Berry–

CARETAKER’S PRAYER

Dear God, give me the strength to face this day,
To deal with the tension, anxiety and dizzying confusion of my life.
Teach me to focus, to prioritize, to see with clarity.
God of patience, teach me to be patient.
Forgiving God, teach me to forgive.
Bless me with the courage to face my loved one’s illness and pain, amidst my own fears.
Touch me with your spiritual light, your love, your wisdom
So that I can continue my task tomorrow, knowing that You are by my side.

–Based on the writing of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, appearing in The Gentle Weapon:  Prayers for Everyday and Not-So-Everyday Moments (Jewish Lights)–

“It’s funny: I always imaged when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox, fully of shiny tools:  the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience.  But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools—friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty—and said, Do the best you can with these, they will have to do.  And most, against all odds, they’re enough.”

–Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies:  Some Thoughts on Faith, page 103–

Birdsong at Midnight

Sometimes a bird will sing at midnight.
Perhaps restless, perhaps confused,
Perhaps so full of joy and love
That music bursts forth.

Fill me with song on sleepless nights.
Fill me with music in the lonely deep.
Let the promise of a new day
Bring comfort and consolation.

–Alden Solovy, This Grateful Heart

Stigma and the Words We Choose

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 35% of Americans who experience serious mental illness do not receive treatment; when we focus on those who experience substance use disorders the number is closer to 90% (Volkow et al., 2021). Given these high numbers it is crucial that we look for ways to remove barriers to accessing mental health care. While we often hear messages that promote the importance of mental health, there is also a long history in our society of treating mental illness and substance use as evidence of personal or moral failure. If we genuinely care about reducing the burden of mental illness on individuals, families, and society, then we must acknowledge that the stigma created by this mindset of mental illness and substance use as a character flaw can lead to barriers in accessing treatment for many people.

The language we use in our everyday lives can play a role in either adding to or reducing stigma around mental illness and substance use. For example, casual usage of words like “crazy’, “insane’, or “psycho” as pejorative descriptors in common conversation minimizes the significant challenges of those who experience mental illness and underscores the narrative that those with mental illness are somehow less worthy of being treated with respect and dignity.

Words used to describe people can influence not only how they view themselves but also the treatments they are offered. Studies have repeatedly shown that when patients are described as substance “abusers” or “addicts” physicians and other mental health clinicians are more likely to recommend punitive measures, such as jail time, instead of mental health treatment (Volkow et al., 2021). Using a term such as “substance use disorder” is clinically accurate and avoids the use of stigmatizing terms like “abuse” and “addiction”.

Many disability advocacy groups indicate a preference for the use of Person First Language (PFL) over the use Identify First Language (IFL) when describing diagnoses or disabilities that people experience. Using Person First Language to describe someone as a “person with Alcohol Use Disorder” instead of using Identity First Language to describe them as an “Alcoholic”, removes judgment and recognizes that the person is more than their diagnosis. However, not all populations have embraced Person First Language, and we should strive to use the terms preferred by those who experience a particular disability. One notable exception to the preference for Person First Language over Identity First Language relates to autism self-advocacy. In alignment with the Neurodiversity Movement, Identity First Language such as “autistic person” is overwhelmingly preferred by many autistic adults who consider the usage of Person First Language such as “person with autism” to be stigmatizing and invalidating of their lived experiences (Robison, 2019). They view autism as is intrinsic to their identity, not something that needs to be cured.

While it is always important to focus on the person not their diagnosis, it is also important to honor preferences about how certain individuals and populations prefer to describe themselves. The words we choose can either perpetuate stigma or honor the experiences of those who are struggling and need support.

Sarah Valerio, Clinical MSW Intern

References:

Robison, J.E. (2019), Talking about autism—thoughts for researchers. Autism Research, 12: 1004-1006. 

Volkow, N. D., Gordon, J. A., & Koob, G. F. (2021). Choosing appropriate language to reduce the stigma around mental illness and substance use disorders. Neuropsychopharmacology.

Individual Actions, Community Impact: A Message for the High Holidays

The high holidays are a time when we come together as a Jewish community in celebration and solemn observance; yet, when you consider the holidays, our observance is in fact very much focused on individual reflection, atonement, and giving. This time of year which holds great significance to our collective all begins with our individual choices and acts.

Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we reflect on our individual actions – what could I have done differently – and review our choices – what am I proud of this year – in an attempt to honestly evaluate ourselves. We evaluate, we redeem, we give, and we set our own path for the year ahead and, while doing so, we create a more connected, supportive, compassionate community.

This theme felt incredibly poignant given all we have endured and continue to face because of the pandemic.

It has taken each of us making individual choices – helping a neighbor, giving a donation, wearing a mask, getting vaccinated – to bring our community to a better place, a more hopeful place, this fall compared to last fall.

Over the past year, JFCS has witnessed first-hand how the generous actions of one individual can have far reaching effects, like the mother-daughter efforts of Sujaya and Anushka Majumdar who hand-sewed masks to donate to JFCS and other local organizations to distribute to clients in need, and Samantha Burnside, a local teen who rallied family and friends to raise almost $1,000 for the JFCS food pantries. This July, the entire world witnessed how the voice of an individual, Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, could raise awareness, and inspire others to prioritize their own mental health.

One person’s action can make all the difference to a neighbor, a community, a country, a world.

While we have come so far since last year, there are still many who need our help on the long road to healing. There are the seniors working through the impact of a year of isolation, there are the individuals struggling with mental and emotional turmoil, and there are families continuing to live in a state of financial uncertainty, unsure if they can afford their next meal.
We turn to you, to your power as an individual to act. In honor of the high holidays, we ask that you consider how you can make a small choice that can benefit the community.

A donation now means that when you reflect next year, you already know you have made a difference, an action to be proud of.

Michelle Napell, Executive Director
Jill Jaclin, Board President

Why Do I Feel Bad? Understanding Unjustified Guilt

Guilt is a normal, healthy emotion. Experiencing it when you’ve hurt someone or when you’ve made a mistake is a good sign—it means you have a conscience. But sometimes, you may experience unjustified guilt.

Unjustified guilt is when people punish themselves even though circumstances are out of their control, or they did not deliberately hurt anyone.

In the context of the pandemic, we are living in a period where we are reminded daily that our actions have consequences. There are several factors during this pandemic that have made us more vulnerable to unjustified guilt: guilt surrounding bereavement; guilt that your job is secure, or you are in a safe position, while others are not; guilt over parenting decisions; guilt because you cannot do more to directly help others; guilt after going to a social gathering; guilt for not going to a social gathering…the list goes on.

So, what can we do to avoid future guilt?

You may not be able to control the fact that you experience guilt, but you can control how you respond to it.

It is important to acknowledge that you are feeling guilty and identify the reason, then recognize the negative critical thoughts which can lead to a distorted idea of what happened or disproportionate levels of guilt. Try and reframe those negative thoughts with something you would say to a friend if they were going through a similar situation. If speaking to a friend, you would point out the good things they have done, remind them of their strengths, and how much you value them. You deserve this same kindness.

Be gentle with yourself. The ability to look at a situation from another’s perspective is incredibly powerful. It triggers a different set of emotions, the foundation of empathy that you need to be easier on yourself.

If you’re feeling guilty after a specific action, pause and evaluate what you can do differently in the future. It may help to identify what values you want to live by during the pandemic, even writing them down, so you can refer to them when if a situation arises. Remind yourself that you are doing this for your physical and mental safety which is another way of taking care of yourself.

Shirley Bellardo, LCSW, LCADC

September is Hunger Action Month! How Can You Help?

In 2008, Feeding America established Hunger Action Month, recognized during the month of September. As we continue to see the long-term impact of the pandemic, we know those who were already in vulnerable financial positions have been pushed even further.

In Mercer County, 1 in 10 individuals is estimated to be food insecure.

This September, how can you help during Hunger Action Month?

Taking Small Steps for a Big Impact

    • On your next trip to the grocery store, pick up a few extra items to donate to your local food pantry. The JFCS food pantry accepts Kosher food items and is always in need of healthy breakfast foods: hot & cold cereal, oatmeal, pancake/waffle mixes
    • Make a monetary donation to a local food pantry or food bank. If you want to support the JFCS food pantry and food distribution programs, make a gift on our donation page and include a Note: Hunger Action Month.
    • Plant-a-Row – harvest season is here! If you maintain a personal garden, consider donating excess produce to the JFCS pantry. All summer long our food pantry has benefited from donations from personal and community gardens that have allowed us to offer a variety of fresh produce to our clients. Want to know more about what to plant and how to donate? Connect with pantry coordinator Taryn Krietzman, RDN at TarynK@jfcsonline.org.
    • JFCS is the Stop & Shop Pennington Bloomin’ 4 Good Partner for September! All month long, for every Bloomin’ for Good bouquet (designated with red sticker) sold, the JFCS pantry receives $1. Support our pantry while spreading joy.

Group Efforts

    • Volunteer! You and your family or a small group can help pack bags at the JFCS pantry or provide support at a mobile pantry distribution. Connect with our volunteer coordinator, Eden Aaronson at EdenA@jfcsonline.org to learn more.
    • Organize a food drive! Whether you’re back to the office, back to school, or still connecting virtually, you can organize a food drive in your community. Learn about how to organize a drive for JFCS by connecting with Eden Aaronson at EdenA@jfcsonline.org.

Go the Extra *MILE*

    • Sign up to ride in the 1st Annual JFCS Wheels for Meals bike ride fundraiser on Sunday, October 3! This new fundraiser supports all JFCS food programs – the on-site and mobile food pantries and senior nutrition programs. This event is perfect for serious and not-so-serious riders with multiple route options. Learn more and register to ride at jfcswheels4meals.org!

How to Create Boundaries for Your Mental Health

The COVID-19 vaccine provides reassurances in keeping us physically protected, yet it does not automatically reduce or eliminate our anxiety, change in that way is going to take time and patience after all we have endured the past 18 months. Everyone is moving at their own pace when it comes to post quarantine; some folks have jumped at the chance to see a movie, go out to dinner, attend a sports event, or host a dinner party. For others, even if they are fully vaccinated, they are experiencing anxiety about relaxing their safety protocols. It is important to recognize and respect that we all have a pace that works best for ourselves.

So, how do you stay in your comfort zone and move at your own pace during this pandemic phase? This may be a perfect time to set and maintain boundaries that make you feel comfortable.

First, decide where you would like to draw the line for you and your immediate household. Do you feel comfortable asking about vaccine status? Do you feel comfortable with an outdoor, distanced, or masked get-together? Once you have discussed and made decisions, communicate this information clearly and with no apologies to your family/friends. 

Second, hold no judgment. It is not uncommon to have different opinions than your family or friends about moving out of quarantine. Using judgmental language or labels is not productive to having open and understanding relationships. Instead, use “I” statements to emphasize your needs rather than the ways you disagree with other’s choices. Centering your statement on yourself helps to take the sense of blame or negativity from the other person so they will not feel defensive. Last, practice what you are going to say so you can present your stance clearly and respectfully. Always remember, you have the right to make your own decisions and set boundaries that make you feel safe and comfortable.

Shirley Bellardo, LCSW, LCADC

Our Year in Review: Celebrating Community & Stories of Impact

JFCS was thrilled to host an almost “normal” Annual Meeting on June 1, welcoming staff, Board and community award winners and their families to an outdoor celebration held at JCC Abrams Camp.

We took the opportunity to recognize staff anniversaries, celebrate the winners of the Rose & Louis H. Linowitz Mensch Awards, and present our annual awards to community partners. We also reflected on the past year, sharing stories of impact across our programs, and what stories are coming in the next year.

View a short recap of the full event below:

2021 Rose & Louis H. Linowitz Mensch Awards

8th Grade Mensch-in-Training:

Zachary Miller

12th Grade Mensch Award Winners:

Jeremy Brandspiegel

Yoni Livstone

Mark Sheffield

2021 JFCS Community Award Winners

Tzedakah Award Winner:

Ilana Scheer

Kehillah Award Winner:

The Big Thinkers Group

Gemilut Chasadim Award Winner:

Hayley Aaronson