Growth Drives Future Plans at JFS
JFS has been helping the community for almost 40 years. It has been the primary resource, and place to go for those struggling with mental health, food insecurity, domestic violence, parenting, and aging.
All of the programs and services are designed to engage, empower, and enrich with a goal of stabilizing and enhancing the lives of those it serves which is accomplished through four main areas of focus: Counseling and Domestic Violence Services, Senior Engagement and Holocaust Survivor Programs, Crisis Response and Assistance, and Community Programs and Education.
In order to deliver the most meaningful, relevant programs and services that meet the community’s need, JFS closely monitors and takes note of emerging patterns and trends. It’s what guides the agency and helps determine its offerings.
Over the past two years, there has been a significant rise in the number of inquiries and requests for services. This growth is not just in one main focus area, but from several. Increased calls for emergency groceries from our food pantry, people asking for assistance with finding affordable housing, help with navigating resources, and then there are those that are asking for increased dollars amount when facing a financial crisis. The call volume and the services delivered have grown immensely. For example, in 2018, JFS served more than twice the number of clients for therapy then the previous year, reaching an all-time agency high. According to Howard Olshansky, Executive Director, “As JFS has continued to respond to the growing needs of our community, it’s become clear that we need to establish a plan that allows JFS to grow its capacity in a way that ensures our ability to continue to meet the needs while at the same time maintaining the quality of our programs and services.”
In response to the growing demand, during this year’s strategic planning process, JFS identified priority areas for the organization. “When we looked at the data and trends, it became clear that there were a couple of significant, pressing areas of need for our community: older adults and those coping with mental health challenges,” stated Olshansky. The older adult population is growing in numbers and in geography. JFS is now responding to the needs of seniors down in Sun City, SC, across Union County, and in Lake Norman. And because people are living longer the issues related to aging are more complex, JFS is creating a Senior Engagement Department and has hired a Senior Engagement Therapist, who specializes in delivering services in a community- based setting, as well as providing traditional therapy services in the office.
At JFS, we are also seeing increasing levels of trauma in individuals, kids, and families. In order to respond swiftly and appropriately, JFS trained and certified its staff in the Triple P Positive Parenting Program, which helps families respond to issues affecting teens and children and issues related to topics such as social media, bullying, depression and anxiety. Rachel Green, Program Director, indicated “at JFS we are continuously looking at ways to develop and stay on top of best practices to enhance the competencies of our staff. In addition to the parenting training staff has received, training is being planned in areas such as trauma-informed care, diversity and aging and emotional health. We want to ensure that JFS is able to offer a diversity of clinical interventions to meet the diverse needs of our clients.”
Serving the community to the best of our ability means anticipating needs and being prepared. “I’m very proud that we have always been able to serve those in need, especially those in crisis. We have never had to create a waiting list for services,” said Olshansky. “When I started here in 2016 we had nine staff. We now have 14. In fact, just this past month, JFS acquired additional space on Shalom Park because we ran out of space in our existing offices,” he added.
Thanks to the generosity of our community, we have been able to grow our financial resources to support the increased staffing and meet the growing needs.
As the needs continue to grow, as we have seen in 2019, strengthening our infrastructure is also one of our strategic priorities. Ensuring that we are well staffed and have the administrative, financial, and technological tools needed in-house means that our clients will continue to receive the highest quality care and best services possible.Y