We are so grateful for all the time, resources, and hugs you have generously given to our kids this year. We thought it would be nice to share some of the highlights as we prepare for a busy 2017-18.
- The JCCA Cottage Campus volunteer program expanded this year; we now have 22 Lunch Bunch groups and 32 Teen groups coming to the campus monthly for our kids. As a result, campus youngsters participated in an amazing 220 Lunch Bunch groups and 320 Teen groups.We continue to expand our community and corporate partnerships. WestMed hosted an Edenwald Field Day, with over 40 WestMed employees participating in water balloon tosses, a tug of war, relay races, and other fun games with the kids. Binghamton’s Alumni Association returned to the campus with their volunteers, helping to prepare our vegetable garden for the spring planting, then having lunch with our kids followed by a fun game of whiffle ball. Microsoft came to the campus and ran a five week DigiGirls program, teaching basic programming to PCS girls. PepsiCo employees continue to come to the campus and meet our youth at PepsiCo sponsored trips.
- Several volunteers come to the campus regularly to share their special talents with our young people. A local photographer has been giving photography lessons to our kids and is now taking birthday portraits of each of them; every child gets a professional portrait for their birthday. Two teen volunteers come to START 2 (for our older START boys) to teach them how to play chess, and thrill them with magic tricks. We have artists supporting our Art Therapist, and a playwright who helped the Gateways residents write and perform a dramatic play about a young girl who was a victim of sex trafficking. A girl scout is teaching the Edenwald Cottage 2 girls about the world by creating a passport to different countries, cooking and eating food from each country, and learning about that country’s customs.
- In January, we kicked off our new Tween Drop-In Center. This program is for tweens, ages 12 to 14, from the local communities. Commencing in January, they came once a month and played with many of our Edenwald children. They enjoyed games, completed crafts projects together, and had “free play’ in the Edenwald Recreation Building. The teens from the community and our kids all learned how to share, interact, and socialize with people they would not have otherwise known, while having a great time and establishing many new friendships.We will be expanding this program next year, offering it to two groups of tweens.
- Pet therapy has arrived on the campus. Several volunteer pet handlers bring their service dogs to the campus and the kids have the opportunity to teach the dogs new tricks, walk with them, and talk to them. This is a very therapeutic activity as interacting with a friendly pet can help physical and mental issues by releasing endorphins that produce a calming effect.
- The JCCA Cottage Campus continues to engage the local religious leaders and their congregants. In September we hosted an Interfaith Breakfast during which spiritual leaders from about 15 Houses of Worship came to the campus.Congregants from many of the local houses of worship come to the campus throughout the year. Larchmont Temple and Chabad of Bedford host fun holiday parties every year. Tweens from The Pelham Jewish Center come several times and play with the young boys from Edenwald Cottage 16, and the Shaaray T’filaa’s B’nai Mitzvah class has gotten to know the boys from Edenwald Cottage 16 during monthly visits. Additionally, Shaaray T’filaa, Congregation Sons of Israel, and Beth El continue their traditional Mitzvah Day projects on the campus.Holy Innocence Church in Pleasantville continues their long commitment to the campus. In addition to being a principal in the Interfaith Breakfast, Tom Conaty, its Youth Minister, has completed his seventh year bringing his teen ministry to the campus monthly, playing with the kids from two different Edenwald cottages. Tom has also started conducting non-denominational Christian services for the campus youth who are interested in attending. Several of our kids have been enthusiastically participating.
- UJA-Federation’s commitment to JCCA is demonstrated in many ways. In addition to the annual holiday party, the J-Teens come a few times a year for a Day of Service with our kids. This year, they hosted the 6th annual Autism Speaks Walk on the campus. Groups of local UJA leaders host special Lunch Bunches for our kids throughout the year and UJA is a significant contributor of holiday gifts for them.
- The kids celebrated the holidays this past year by attending one or more of the 10 parties that were hosted by volunteers and other partners of the campus, e.g., UJA, PepsiCo, and several local temples. As always, volunteers provided every child with the gift they really wanted, their “Wish List” gift, and also hundreds of additional gifts to our kids that they found under their Christmas trees upon waking on Christmas morning. The trees were generously donated by The American Christmas Tree Company.
- In celebration of Women’s Month, the female employees on the campus and those from other JCCA divisions participated in “HerStory, A Woman’s Day Breakfast, Recognizing the Leader Within.” With the theme taken from the film Hidden Figures, they heard from three powerful female leaders: Michele Brown, a Certified Life Coach; Lisa Gharley Ogundimus, Ass. Commissioner with NYS Office of Children’s and Family Services; and Rabbi Julie Hilton Danan shared their stories, backgrounds, and insights about how they became the influential leaders they are today. They then fielded some thought-provoking questions and were an inspiration to all. The breakfast celebrated the Hidden Figures within JCCA. Women were honored for the work they do every day to support our children, culminating in the Hidden Figure award going to Keturah Pierre, Senior Vice President, Community Services. We heard the story of Keturah’s career with JCCA, from her challenging beginnings as the agency’s first African-American Social Worker, to the amazing work she does leading JCCA’s Community Services division today. It was a truly inspiring morning for everyone.
- Children’s Hope Chest (CHC) continues to support the campus young people. As a sponsor of the Arts in Action program, 36 kids from PCS, START, and Gateways demonstrated their unique talents in our JCCA Campus Talent showcase. As you probably know, Mother’s Day is a very difficult day for the kids who reside on the campus. Thanks to a generous donation by Children’s Hope Chest, our children were able to go off campus to venues like Dave and Buster and Grand Prix. Kids feasted on Chinese food and treats from Coldstone Creamery and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. These activities helped make the day a little brighter for them.
- Children’s Hope Chest’s Junior Leadership Council held several fundraising events and purchased and donated sports equipment, toiletries, MP3 Players, and the newly popular finger fidgets. The CHC teens came to the campus to distribute the goodies and had a great time playing with our kids.
- Thanks to several donors, the campus youngsters have discovered the joy of reading. Twice this year, donors hosted JCCA Campus Book Grabs. Book Grabs give the kids the opportunity to select books that were specially chosen for them, based on their requests and other bestselling urban youth novels. The campus kids look forward to this bi-annual event.
Have a great summer. We can’t wait to welcome you all back to Campus in September!
Sandi and Bonnie