On a cloudy Wednesday in May, JCCA’s residential staff met on our beautiful, 160-acre Pleasantville campus for the first in-person Staff Appreciation Day since the COVID-19 pandemic began. After grabbing lunch orders from two food trucks parked outside, the staff streamed into the PCS dining hall, which was festooned with balloons, games, and gift bags.

Senior Vice President of Campus Services Trevor John spoke first, acknowledging the array of staff essential to carrying out our mission: residential counselors, safety officers, buildings and grounds staff, administrators, clinicians, recreation coordinators, and educational/vocational coaches. “Every day you make a choice to show up,” John remarked, “for the kids, for the organization, for each other.”

“This is not an easy job,” he continued, “but we’ve grown and found opportunity in these challenging times.” JCCA’s Executive Team and Senior Leadership were not the only ones to show gratitude to staff during the event: three young people bravely addressed the crowd to share their appreciation.

C., a Pleasantville Cottage School resident, described the staff as “energetic, funny, and honest.” He delighted in recalling the many times he’d beaten them at basketball and video games. With a mix of candor and wry humor, he noted that over his time at PCS, besides growing taller, he’s also grown into a more organized person. R., a resident in the START program, assured the staff that, “we care for you as much as you care for us.” D., from Edenwald, explained how the staff has helped her understand how much more to life there is.

When CEO Ronald Richter took the lectern, he emphasized the dedication and difficult work of campus staff. “You have been amazingly resilient,” he said. “You build stability and trust for kids who’ve lacked continuity in their lives.” He also took a moment to appreciate the multifaceted significance of the moment in which we find ourselves: finally gathered in the same room again, in our 200th anniversary year, launching a Capital Campaign to revitalize the campus, all working together to ensure that JCCA will thrive for another two hundred years.

As the DJ played on, staff unwound with dancing, jumbo-sized Jenga, Connect 4, and hula hooping. The ice cream truck soon rolled up and the sun even came out—a little!