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.
When Kim Evans came to Jewish Family Service (JFS) seeking rent and financial assistance, her life had been turned upside down. In six months' time, she had experienced severe trauma, violence, abuse, loss, unemployment, homelessness, and poverty.
After being homeless with her two teenagers, Kim was able to find housing, but needed help paying the rent and other bills. She learned about JFS when she called Mile High United Way's 211 Help Center.
She met with a member of JFS's Family Safety Net team. After assessing Kim's situation, JFS provided rent and utility assistance, helped her pay for expired license plates and car insurance, and got her signed up to use the food pantry. "I was so relieved and grateful when I qualified for the homelessness prevention program," Kim says with a smile.
On top of her other challenges, Kim was trying to adopt her four-month-old niece. Her JFS case manager wrote a letter to Child Protective Services on her behalf to assist with the adoption process. "They spoke so highly of me in that letter-it was refreshing to have someone say nice things about me. JFS believes in me," Kim shares. "I needed to prove that I could financially, mentally, and emotionally support the baby, and through JFS's help and support, I got custody of my niece!"
To help with formula for the baby, food, and other needs for her family, JFS also helped Kim sign up for several government programs, including WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly referred to as food stamps), and TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families). With the extra support, Kim can provide for her family.
Although Kim had a job when she came to JFS, it was too physically demanding, so she met with JFS's employment program coordinator, to look for something better. With an updated résumé, she was able to line up several job interviews. She applied for a housecleaning job and was hired on the spot! The job is near the baby's daycare and the schedule allows Kim to pick up her teenagers after school.
"It's been a long, hard road, but I'm proud of myself," Kim shares. "I am so thankful for the help I've received from JFS and don't know where I'd be without it. If it wasn't for JFS, I would've given up. I didn't want my kids to be homeless again."
Kim hopes her kids see how strong she is and learn that if you struggle, you can overcome those obstacles…and that it's okay to ask for help.
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.
At 10 years old, Grace Allen is smart, inquisitive, and loves to learn. Her big, warm smile complements her obvious desire to engage. Her favorite subject is math, with science a close second. Her dream is to become a baker (she loves cookies) or maybe a doctor. Fortunately, there's plenty of time to figure all that out.
Grace has some serious challenges that are limiting her ability to learn at school. A fourth grader at Samuels Elementary School in southeast Denver, she struggles to sit still, focus on her work, and control her emotions.
Grace suffers from Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, and anxiety. It limits her ability to regulate her emotions, hindering her ability to appropriately respond to conflict or frustration. She struggles to problem-solve for herself and has difficulty looking at the whole situation she is involved with. Her condition limits her ability to learn in the classroom and is disruptive to other children and her teachers.
Grace's issues were so severe that her previous school asked that she not return this year. The school wasn't equipped to respond to her needs and had to consider the welfare and education of the other students. That's when she transferred to Samuels Elementary School, that had the benefit of the JFS KidSuccess program on campus.
"Grace's behavior is not only disruptive to her teachers and her own learning but impacts the other 30-plus children in the classroom and limits their ability to learn," says Jessica Allen, Grace's mother. "Before Grace had access to the JFS KidSuccess program, it was also disruptive to my husband and me. We were frequently called to come and pick up Grace from school-regardless of what we might be involved in at work. In one instance last year, the school called the police to intervene even though Grace wasn't violent, which further escalated an already heightened situation. The school just didn't have the right people to help Grace and kids like her."
Grace's condition has significantly improved now that she has access to mental health therapy at school. Amanda Carter is a licensed clinical social worker who works for JFS at Samuels Elementary School, supporting children from preschool to 5th grade with a variety of mental health issues. She works with children, families, and teachers to treat children experiencing mental health issues to help them cope and ultimately succeed at school.
Now that Grace has the benefit of a licensed therapist at school, she's learning how to cope and manage her behavior. She is learning to understand the triggers that can upset her and works to keep herself calm before upsetting herself or other kids in her class. And she can get the help she needs when she needs it. "Because of the KidSuccess program, Grace has a shot at a normal education and the opportunity to stay in school," says Jessica.
Amanda meets with Grace on a weekly basis and whenever she needs extra support. Grace knows that Amanda is there for her when she needs her, which is a great comfort for her. "I love Miss Amanda," exclaims Grace. "When I feel mad, she always tries to help me. She helps me calm down." Amanda is working with Grace to help her control her anger and recognize the triggers that upset her. Grace is learning to take accountability for her own behavior. Amanda is always available if Grace is involved in an emotionally charged situation and can calm her down. Amanda has provided Grace with a variety of coping strategies that she can use to keep her emotions in check.
Amanda is helping Grace outside of school, as well. Based on her observations of Grace in the school setting, she discerned that Grace could benefit from another psychiatric evaluation. Amanda consulted with Grace's psychiatrist and suggested an evaluation by a JFS psychiatrist. All parties agreed, including Grace's parents. The evaluation resulted in a new diagnosis and a change in Grace's medications. The results were almost immediate. Teachers recognized a whole new Grace in their classrooms. She is calmer, more in control, and is learning to cope with distractions that previously triggered disruptive behavior.
Under Amanda's guidance, Grace is being evaluated for an individualized education plan, which includes more mental health support. Amanda will be working with Grace over the summer to ensure continuity of care and continued progress as she prepares for fifth grade.
"The JFS KidSuccess program is really, really important, not only for Grace, but for the other children at her school," relates Jessica. "To get quality mental health services at school is huge. Kids are getting access to services that they wouldn't get otherwise. Many of these kids can't afford it, nor do they have the transportation to get to a therapist. When a counselor is available at school, children are getting the help right when they need it. It's been a game-changer for Grace and for our family."
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 via repurposed mini school buses and static sites. 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.
The lunches are professionally prepared by cooks in a commercial kitchen every morning and include more than 60 varieties of salads, wraps, and sandwiches. The meals comply with USDA nutritional guidelines. Dedicated volunteers deliver and serve the lunches to program participants.
JFS served more than 25,000 meals to Denver-area children at 16 mobile sites and five static sites this summer.
Simone Groene-Nieto, diversity and inclusion coordinator for Jefferson County Public Library, says:
"We are so grateful to Jewish Family Service for bringing Lunchbox Express to our community. While at the surface it seems that Jeffco is an fairly affluent community, the truth is more complicated than that.
The face of poverty in Jefferson County is families with children. Jeffco Schools report that they have between 4,000 and 5,000 kids experiencing homelessness in their schools. That's only actual homelessness - thousands more live below the poverty line. In addition to the physical impacts of poverty - lack of access to nutrition, health care, adequate housing, etc. - there are also the psychological and social impacts of poverty. I can speak from experience when I say, it's hard being the poor kid. There is so much stigma associated with poverty that families here go to great lengths to disguise their situation. Many of them sleep in their cars instead of on the streets, and go to great lengths to have a cleaned up appearance. I frequently remind library staff that you never really know what someone is going through, so it's important to never make assumptions based on outward appearance.
This is why we are particularly glad to bring Lunchbox Express to libraries. By making free healthy food available in regular community settings that don't have the stigma of poverty associated with it, we are reducing barriers for our kids to stay healthy. Think about the difference it makes when there's a kid who's hungry and there's nothing in the kitchen to eat for lunch. Instead of going to a food pantry or soup kitchen, she's simply able to walk to the library with her friends, and they can all be treated the same, and all enjoy a nice picnic on the grass outside of the library. Her nutritional needs have been met and she hasn't been forced to "out" herself as the poor kid to her friends. Through our partnership with JFS, we've come to think of Lunchbox Express not only as making a positive impact on nutrition, but also on mental well-being and happiness of our low income youth."
A family who received lunches and books through the program wrote this thank-you note: "Thank you so much for the summer lunch box program. We really enjoyed the food and books, and the fun time having picnic in the summer. You guys have made our summer such precious memories for the first two summers since we moved to the US from China. We really appreciated your service with love and care. Hope you all have a good year."
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. This helps job seekers navigate available resources and network with others.
Our SHALOM Denver division provides employment and training to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and other people with barriers to employment. The facility handles digital printing, mailing, small parts assembly, packaging, and handwork for area businesses.
SHALOM Denver also provides area businesses with a large supply of qualified and vetted job candidates through small group employment teams and individual direct-supported employment services. These great job candidates are adult individuals with a variety of intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Through a partnership with the Denver Department of Human Services, SHALOM Denver offers the Colorado Works Employment Support Program. This program serves unemployed parents receiving Colorado Works (TANF) benefits with holistic case management and job-readiness support. Participants secure sustainable employment at competitive wages, resulting in a low recidivism rate.
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
The Jay and Rose Phillips Senior Solutions Center provides a variety of programs and services to help older adults in Denver and Boulder 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 older adults.
JFS Senior Solutions offers:
-Care Management and Counseling
-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
-JFS at the JCC recreational programs for older adults held at JCC Denver
More than five years ago when Andrew Cooperstock's aging parents decided to move to Boulder, JFS was there for them. "Our mother's health was declining, and my siblings and I thought it best for our parents to be close to me, but I didn't know how to get started in this process," shares Andrew. "I knew Jewish Family Services operated in other states where I had lived and was pleasantly surprised to learn there was a Boulder location." He worked with a JFS care manager who connected him to many resources and helped make his parents' move go smoothly.
Unfortunately, Andrew's mother passed away shortly after the move, and his father's health began declining due to dementia and Parkinson's. As a professor of music at the University of Colorado Boulder and a renowned pianist, Andrew travels often for performances. He is his dad, Bill's primary caregiver and needed help. Three years ago, Andrew contacted JFS again to request a Friendly Visitor volunteer to visit his father and give him some companionship.
Around that same time, Sue Tessler was seeking a volunteer opportunity. Her husband had passed away after a serious stroke. She took care of him for two-and-a-half years. "I felt so alone after that, and I wanted a way to give back and help someone else," Sue says. "I contacted Boulder JFS to become a Friendly Visitor and was matched with Bill. We had an instant connection. He reminds me of my husband."
Sue visits Bill once a week, usually during lunchtime. In the beginning, he would share many stories from his life. Now he doesn't talk as much, but he always smiles when he sees Sue. When Andrew travels, Sue visits Bill more often to make sure he's doing well. Bill also loves to go to temple at Congregation Har HaShem and Sue often accompanies him and his son.
"Sue is like another member of our family now," says Andrew. "She is a friend to me and my dad and gives our family peace of mind knowing that someone is looking after him when we can't. When Dad moved to a new facility a couple years ago, Sue offered to help. At first I didn't see the need, but it turned out while I was busy dealing with all the paperwork and logistics, Sue was able to sit with Dad through all the confusion and comfort him. Those are the kinds of things Sue thinks of and I am so grateful to have her in our lives!"
"You get as much out of it as you give," adds Sue. "My visits make a small difference to Bill and are a big help to the family."