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JFS continues to thrive and grow with its great leadership and staff

Twenty-five months ago, I stood here, excited to start the journey of becoming president of Jewish Family Services. I have loved every minute of guiding this fabulous organization. The best part is knowing that JFS is providing direct service to people in our community, which means sometimes you see the effect.


Two years ago I said I was lucky that I had a wonderful board to work with. {mprestriction ids="1,3"}In two years, I can only say it’s only gotten better. Every board member has stepped up in some way to make this organization become better.

The staff has excelled in their work. Our programs have grown, we’ve adopted new ones and every single program has exceeded benchmarks. That’s because the people who work at JFS don’t look at it as just a job. It’s not a job where you can punch your time card for the hours you’re here. You think of those people, the cases, the rides, the clients in the food pantry … when you’re not here. From part-time employees, the support staff, the program staff, the people with the titles, it’s a mission for us all. Just like the Royals, we all work together to make the end result happen. Each person has their very important job to fill with one end result, helping our clients, as the main focus of our mission to succeed.

We are all lucky to have a fabulous leader in Don Goldman. He, like Dayton Moore, found the right people — those with character — to help him succeed in this mission. Succeed is something he does every day. He leads with passion. He leads with business sensibility so that JFS can financially stay afloat. Cindy Ross, our COO makes it so the office and finances run smoothly. 

Rachel Krantz, our past development director, in the past two years helped JFS increase by 25 percent the money raised through the Friends campaign and grants. When Krantz started in 2011, our Friends campaign was $150,000 and now we raise $330,000. As change happens everywhere, in September we welcomed Kristin Schultz to JFS as Krantz is scaling back from full-time work.

Krantz will head up our capital campaign. We need it as JFS is growing and bursting at the seams! One of our missions is to find a new home for our Missouri office. Did you know that we have 23 full- and part-time employees in that office with just slightly more, 27, in our Kansas office? Many of you have visited or worked in our beautiful Kansas Food Pantry while the one in Missouri is really just an overgrown closet. We need to find that perfect space in Missouri, one with a loading dock capability for a Harvester’s delivery, near Waldo and the bus lines.

We began an endowment campaign in 2014 with a goal of $7 million and we’re well on our way with a start of almost $3 million. Many thanks to Stan Bushman for helping us realize the importance of an endowment fund.

Our older adult programs under Dawn Staton have grown. Jet Express, in the two years I’ve been president, have given 10,322 rides to seniors. We used one donated van for rides that volunteers couldn’t fulfill. Staff-driven rides have increased with the help of two more donated vans. Help@Home, in these two years, has added 128 households and as of today, 41 households are paying full price.

The food pantry in Kansas had begun just prior to my taking office. Jo Hickey, director of Food Pantry, has done a great job of managing the Food Pantry. The pantry has grown from serving 104 families in 2012 to serving an average of 230 families each month in 2015. Not only has the pantry grown by the number of families it serves, but also what it offers. It now offers pet food, diapers and incontinence supplies to those who need them. This growth has put a strain on our Missouri Satellite pantry, which helps provide food to 30 percent of our clients.

Care management has taken over a more thoughtful and new vision of helping our clients be more self-reliant by aiding them for success, instead of depending on us to thrive. We’ve transferred our clients to this and have helped many to find a way they can manage their everyday lives more successfully.

Chaplaincy, under the guidance of Rabbi Jonathan Rudnick, has grown as well. Now in addition to Rabbi Rudnick making hospital and caring calls to those that need it, we now have a whole team of volunteers that visit the sick and isolated. We have called on and provided spiritual care to more than 4,500 people during my presidency. 

As to my dream program of 101 questions about ... we had our first one, “You and Your Aging Parent” just a few weeks ago. Sixty five people came and heard five speakers as an introduction to that program. In the future we plan to have additional sessions with only one speaker so the program can concentrate more in-depth on one single topic at a time. We are considering ongoing support groups for those of us that are now caregivers.

I’m honored to be sharing this day with my mom, Shirley White, who is receiving the Alfred Benjamin Friend of the Family Award. Parents are strong influencers. Mine always volunteered and helped out in the community. They showed us the way to lead quietly, firmly and impact your community. I am proud to follow my mom in volunteering to help the Jewish community of Kansas City. It was my mom who told us that she’d never come out for a JFS breakfast, but she’d come to lunch. Now lunch is our biggest of two Friends event, all because Mom said it’s too early for her!

And so my role has changed. I’ll continue to offer ideas and suggestions, but it’s time to move on. I’m leaving our incoming President David Kaseff with a better, stronger JFS that will only, I’m sure, get stronger in your two years as president.

So to my JFS board, staff, and friends, I say adieu. It’s not goodbye, as I’m too ingrained to want to be done. I’m too passionate to not be a part, but it’s time for someone else to lead. I’ve enjoyed every moment with all of you, I’ll miss this role. But times change and it’s time for new. Thank you for your support, your friendship and for helping me to guide JFS to be the best it can be.

Sandi Fried is the immediate past president of Jewish Family Services. She presented this speech at the agency’s annual meeting on Sunday, Nov. 15.{/mprestriction}