Aging, Elderly, Senior Citizens
Poor, Economically Disadvantaged, Indigent
The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Food Pantry at Jewish Family Service assists individuals and families facing hunger and food insecurity. For some, the pantry helps weather an emergency; for others, it provides supplemental food to make ends meet without sacrificing a family's health and well-being. The pantry provides a nutritionally balanced supply of shelf-stable food that is expected to last five to seven days. Individuals who utilize the pantry also receive case management services to evaluate other needs JFS may be able to assist with, such as employment support, mental health services, financial health classes, emergency financial assistance for rent or utilities, and more.
We are committed to ensuring that our community is equipped to stay healthy during the rapidly evolving COVID-19 public health crisis. In March 2020, the Weinberg Food Pantry started providing pre-packed boxes of food to anyone experiencing food insecurity with no documentation or sign up needed. To limit face-to-face interactions and promote social distancing, boxes of food are distributed through a pick-up system directly outside of the pantry.
Cynthia Williams, 59, first learned about JFS five years ago when she was in a transitional program through Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and needed food. She accessed the food pantry monthly with her two sons, Jamaal and Sebastian, and her grandchildren received food and school supplies through our Lunchbox Express program. She was struggling to find employment at her age. "I didn't know how to compete or stand out and didn't have the tools to create a proper résumé," Cynthia explains.
Then she learned about a workshop series JFS was offering led by Dress for Success. She immediately enrolled and learned vital skills to prepare for interviews, such as the importance of verbal communication, body language, how to dress, and to arrive early so you're not out of breath and flustered. In addition to the class, she worked individually with Heather Seiden, employment program coordinator, to perfect her résumé and cover letter and find the right types of jobs for which she could apply. During this time, her son, Jamaal, watched his mother struggle to have a place to live and put food on the table. He was determined to keep his kids out of the system and successfully started his own business, 5280 AutoZone.
Thanks to Heather's efforts and connections she made during the Dress for Success workshop, Cynthia was introduced to a hiring manager in the apartment leasing industry and got hired as a leasing consultant in 2016! She thrived at that job until she suffered from lymphoma last year and needed to leave. She and her husband recently started a commercial cleaning business called Purified Cleaning Service, and feels confident they can be successful, thanks to much of what she learned from JFS.
Not only has JFS helped Cynthia, her sons, and her grandkids, but Cynthia told her daughter-in-law, Jan about the leasing company she learned about through Dress for Success. Jan was then hired in a temporary training program with the company and became an assistant manager. "I am so proud of her," beams Cynthia. "Her success would not have been possible without the connections I made in Heather's class."
Cynthia describes herself as a humanitarian and is constantly seeking ways to help others, particularly people who are struggling with homelessness and don't know where to turn for help. She started a small nonprofit called Ask Me First, where she provides resources about community organizations, and helps people fill out forms for benefits and navigate systems. "I think about all the places that helped me and I want to give back by connecting others with these resources. I'm just grateful I know about the organizations and don't personally need their help anymore," says Cynthia.
She adds, "My family and I graduated to stability and self-sufficiency with the support we received from JFS. We feel safe about our survival because of what we learned from these services."
Mental Health, Substance Abuse
Adolescents/Youth (13-19 years)
Children (4-12 years)
Immigrants, Newcomers, Refuges
JFS places therapists in schools throughout the Denver metro area to provide free mental health services to students and their families through two unique programs-KidSuccess and International KidSuccess.
KidSuccess is an innovative program in which trained Jewish Family Service therapists work in Aurora and Denver Public Schools, providing children and adolescents access to quality counseling services. Our unique hands-on approach promotes a supportive school environment for students that fosters achievement, high self-esteem, resiliency, and personal responsibility. We recently expanded to provide more targeted services to parents and guardians of children in Early Childhood Education (ECE) classes as well.
International KidSuccess offers culturally sensitive school-based counseling services that help refugee children and adolescents adjust to their new school, culture, and home in the United States. An overarching goal of the program is to support refugee youth through the major life transition of resettlement so they are better able to focus on and succeed in school. The program serves refugee students at highly impacted Denver metro and Aurora public schools, utilizing psycho-educational and therapeutic activities and interventions.
Childhood trauma is a social problem that is present in every community. It is a problem surrounded by so much stigma that it is often left undiscussed. Many therapists on the KidSuccess team have worked with children who have experienced trauma. Two-thirds of American children and adolescents report at least one trauma. With the devastating outcomes that stem from childhood trauma, a successful treatment model needed to be developed, studied, and implemented.
Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) is an evidence-based approach designed to help children, adolescents, and families after experiences of trauma or maltreatment. TF-CBT is broken up into three phases. Phase one includes stabilization skills including components such education about trauma, relaxation techniques, and affective skills. Phase two is known for its use of trauma narration and processing. Components of phase three include in vivo mastery and conjoint child-parent sessions. Recent studies show that TF-CBT is the most effective approach to decreasing PTSD symptoms when compared to other methods of psychotherapy.
Techniques used to implement TF-CBT include in vivo mastery, narration formation, and relaxation techniques. In vivo mastery involves direct exposure to a feared situation. The first step is to rank feared situations on a ladder so that the client can slowly work up to the most feared situation. While this technique has proven to be helpful, it is not appropriate for all clients. In vivo mastery should only be used when the situations that the child is avoiding are necessary to resume normal functional behavior.
Along with in vivo mastery, narration formation is a technique that allows clients to experience success in TF-CBT. Narration formation, like much of the work surrounding patients with difficult trauma, is not an easy process for the client or the therapist. Narration formation involves the client describing increasingly detailed reports of the trauma they have experienced. While this process can be thought of as "speaking the unspeakable," the aim of this exercise is to enable the child to learn a mastery rather than avoiding these painful memories.
Lastly, relaxation techniques have been proven to be an important technique in TF-CBT. Progressive muscle relaxation and visualization can help traumatized children cope. These relaxation skills and techniques can change according to the client's developmental stage and interest. These skills are taught and practiced during therapy sessions, and the client should utilize them outside of therapy. If relaxation is utilized properly, the client will begin to develop the ability to manage symptoms of stress. Once several preferred techniques are identified, the therapist should model these relaxation techniques to the parents or caregivers and discuss how to utilize the relaxation techniques when the client appears distressed.
Food, Agriculture & Nutrition
Adolescents/Youth (13-19 years)
Children (4-12 years)
Poor, Economically Disadvantaged, Indigent
Lunchbox Express is a simple mobile food delivery system that brings fresh, nutritious lunches to children during the summer. The program targets residential areas with a high percentage of children who typically receive free or reduced-fee lunches at school during the school year. Meals are provided to all children under 18 regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability, and there is no discrimination in the course of the meal service. In addition to meals, children receive free books to promote reading and a love of learning.
In response to COVID-19, we made adjustments to our Lunchbox Express program in 2020. We delivered meals to seven locations that included large housing projects throughout metro Denver in "food deserts." These projects house immigrant, refugee, and other vulnerable working families - all of whom have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis. JFS provided approximately 11,000 meals; breakfast and lunch, to feed vulnerable kids seven days a week. Volunteers and staff went to each site twice a week and dropped off meals to last 3 to 4 days to ensure freshness.
"Most of my families have more than one school-aged child in their household, the vast majority have at least one parent out of work, and they're having to make tough decisions on whether to buy groceries, necessary medications, or pay rent," shares Amber Owens, the community resource navigator for Hope Communities' The Gardens, an affordable living community located in North Park Hill. "Food delivery is absolutely vital for our families and we feel very fortunate that Jewish Family Service uses our location as one of their Lunchbox Express locations."
Though Denver Public Schools provides lunches for children at school-based lunch sites, the public school lunch service doesn't offer a convenient pick-up option for many school children and their families. The residents of The Gardens have to travel about 2 miles, crossing busy Colorado Boulevard, to pick up a meal at Bruce Randolph School. For families with limited transportation options, who are also balancing work and childcare, this location simply isn't a feasible option for food pick-up, even though the service is desperately needed.
Jewish Family Service's Lunchbox Express program helps fill in these gaps, delivering lunches to families in need when kids are out of school. Due to the special circumstances surrounding the new coronavirus, Jewish Family Service (JFS) launched the Emergency Lunchbox Express program to respond to the large number of children who, for a variety of reasons, cannot access existing school-based lunch sites. JFS delivers meals to seven locations that include large housing projects throughout metro Denver in "food deserts" such as The Gardens. These projects house immigrant, refugee, and other vulnerable working families - all of whom have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Through the Emergency Lunchbox Express program, JFS provides 11,000 meals - breakfast and lunch - to feed vulnerable kids seven days a week.
"JFS volunteers visit each site twice a week and drop off meals to last three to four days to ensure freshness," stated Shelly Hines, Family Safety Net director for Jewish Family Service. "Furthermore, a parent or guardian simply needs to notify us how many children are in their home and we will hand over the meals. Children do not need to be present, thus ensuring older children are also fed during this pandemic."
In a typical year, the Lunchbox Express program delivers lunches at 21 sites throughout the Denver Metro area as part of the federally-funded Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and serves lunches to children during the summer when they do not have access to free or reduced-price lunches due to school closures for the summer. Summer meal sites typically consist of parks, libraries, apartment complexes, churches, schools, and recreation centers. The SFSP is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Services and allows all children, 18 years of age and under, to receive free meals at an approved site.
"The mobility of our program, our ability to bring food directly to apartment complexes and other sites located in food deserts, is what makes it unique and incredibly valuable to the communities we serve, especially during our current extenuating circumstances," continued Hines. "We are able to provide a full week's worth of meals, which now more than ever, is critical to ensuring greater food security to the most vulnerable families."
For the approximately 300 kids who live with their families at The Gardens, this resource is invaluable. The vast majority of the families living at The Gardens were already vulnerable and the shutdown created by the coronavirus has had a devastating impact on their financial security and ability to provide stable living conditions for their families.
"My families are scared, they're worried that the jobs that have been lost won't be coming back," continued Owens. "The Lunchbox Express program has provided consistency to our families. Our community is often offered one-time assistance or assistance that never lasts long. The stability provided by the Lunchbox Express program is so needed for our residents and we are grateful for the organization's ongoing partnership with our community."
Jewish Family Service offers a variety of disability support services in Denver. People with disabilities benefit from advocacy, social interaction, recreation, vocational assessment, training, work experience, job search support, and case management. We provide quick and easy access to comprehensive information about jobs for people with learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and developmental disabilities through SHALOM Denver.
We provide on-the-job training, vocational skill development, and real-world work experience to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities or other barriers to employment.
The Arts and Community Exploration program is a people-centered interactive day program for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It focuses on the whole person, community involvement, and integration, with stimulating activities tailored to each participant's needs and unique personality.
Jewish Disabilities Advocates (JDA) provides programming and coordinates resources to promote full participation of Jewish people with disabilities in the Jewish community and the community at-large.
The Behavioral Services department provides individualized applied behavior analysis (ABA) services and supports to increase independence and overall engagement in daily, community, and work life for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).
Eric Baylor was a job-seeker with a developmental disability who needed assistance showcasing his many job skills. Ekus Parts was struggling to find an employee who would thrive in their newest position. They both just needed the opportunity to connect.
Eric is a dedicated, hard worker who, with a little help from SHALOM Denver, is starting to realize his full potential. He has struggled with getting and keeping jobs in the past, so when he came to SHALOM Denver for employment support, that was the focus. He started working in the prevocational program sharpening his work skills and habits. It wasn't long before he was ready for a position in the community. He got that job and now he's thriving.
David Rapport owns Ekus Parts, a successful local small business that sells recycled and refurbished automotive parts, including visors, overhead consoles, plastic bezels, dashboard covers, and cargo covers. The company specializes in parts for late-model cars, 10 years old or newer. The majority of Ekus Parts' business comes from online sales.
David had a problem. Ekus Parts deals in used auto parts that usually come in dirty and grimy and not ready for resale. One of the business's biggest pain points was getting parts cleaned up. Each part must be meticulously cleaned before it is photographed and uploaded to the company's website for sale. It's a mission-critical task that no one on his team liked to do, so it often didn't get done, creating a bottleneck that was negatively impacting his business.
David was desperate to find someone who could help with the cleaning task. He consulted his wife, who suggested he reach out to SHALOM Denver. He called and was connected to Leah Wing, job developer, who arranged a meeting to assess David's needs and visit his facility. Once she had a good idea of the job requirements, she went to work trying to find a client with the right skills to be successful and the right personality to enjoy the position. David was surprised when Leah called back in two weeks with a great candidate. "I have the perfect person," she said. As it turns out, she was right.
When Eric arrived for his interview, he and David instantly clicked, and he was hired on the spot. Eric was offered $11.50 an hour, well above minimum wage. That was five months ago, and David is already talking about increasing his hourly wage to $12.00 an hour.
"Eric is super motivated and is already cleaning more parts than anyone ever has in the past," says David. "He takes great pride in his work and enjoys tracking the number of parts he can clean in a day. Plus, he's such a nice guy. He fits into our team well. Everyone enjoys working with him. It's been a win-win solution."
David encourages other business owners to consider working with SHALOM Denver and to hire people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. "If you've got the right position and are willing to work one-on-one to get them trained, it can be a great fit," he says. "Everyone needs a chance to succeed and this program is giving people with disabilities that chance."
SHALOM Denver also provides a coach to work with the employees it places to ensure they are meeting the needs of employers and training them on specific work tasks. Eric's coach, Kristopher Avila, used to visit every two weeks, but Eric's performance has been so on target that those visits have tapered off.
Eric loves working at Ekus Parts. "Sometimes I just want to cry because I got a job," says Eric. "I'm part of the team! I love it because the other workers are not just friends, they're my family. Everyone is so proud of me and it makes me happy."
Aging, Elderly, Senior Citizens
Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender
Jay and Rose Phillips Aging Care & Connections provides a variety of programs and services to help older adults stay supported, connected, and engaged. Our programs and services help older adults stay comfortably in their homes, where they want to be.
Based on our principles of inclusion, compassion, and social justice, JFS is committed to providing vital senior services to all older adults regardless of their faith, race, national origin, gender, gender identification, or sexual orientation. Our staff is sensitive and responsive to the special needs of all seniors.
Aging Care & Connections offers:
-Care Management and Consulting
-In-home support, such as homemaker services, Kosher Meals on Wheels, and Friendly Visitor volunteers
-Outreach to older adults in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and hospitals
-Serving Our Survivors Holocaust Survivors' Assistance Program
-Kosher lunches for older adults at JCC Denver
In mid-March when we began to see and feel the impacts of COVID-19, we made the difficult decision to suspend the homemaker service provided by our Aging Care & Connections (ACC) department. Since that time, the ACC team worked extensively to maintain contact with the older adults who typically receive homemaker assistance to ensure we understood their ongoing needs and could find ways to support them during this time.
While these clients appreciated our calls and assistance over the past few months, they greatly missed their homemakers and the service they provided. We received many requests to restart service. After putting together a plan to safely offer this service while protecting clients and staff, we resumed the program last month.
We believe this service is more essential than ever. Not only do these older adults need their homes cleaned and their laundry done, but our homemakers play a valuable role in reducing social isolation and increasing social connectedness.
Anna, or "Anna Banana," as client Miguel Lopez fondly refers to her, has been providing homemaker services to Miguel for about a year. "I missed her when she couldn't come due to the pandemic," Miguel says. "She came back at the perfect time as businesses and doctors' offices started to re-open. I don't know how I'd clean, run errands, or get to appointments on my own. I'm very grateful for the help and companionship." He adds, "I revere homemakers as much as any healthcare worker, as it is so important to have a healthy living environment."