It’s no exaggeration to say that Sara Klein, a therapist working in New York City, wouldn’t be where she is today without having crossed paths with JCCA. Klein grew up in Westchester, not far from the Pleasantville Campus. “My parents always spoke openly with my brother and me about the role we could play in helping others, so volunteering became a huge part of who we were as a family.” Around age 15, Klein, then a regular volunteer with Children’s Hope Chest, participated in a drive to collect comforters and bedding for the children of the Pleasantville Cottage School.
Her first visit to the campus remains vivid in her memory. “One of the youngest boys came in to pick out the linens he wanted and was so excited that he was doing cartwheels and splits all around the room. He couldn’t contain his joy. After that, I looked for any excuse to get back to the cottages.” Klein’s family adopted a cottage for the holidays. Her mom joined a lunch bunch and Klein tagged along whenever she didn’t have school. “The residents were so sweet, appreciative, and overall amazing,” she remarks. “It’s truly one of the highlights of my childhood.”
During college and for a few years afterward Klein felt a bit lost. “After graduation I took a job as a publicist, which never felt like a fit. It was cold and cutthroat in a way that didn’t match who I was,” she says. “I was trying to volunteer on the side, in hopes of reconnecting with the joy I’d found at JCCA, but nothing really stuck.” Soon she quit her job, knowing she needed a reset. “One of the first things I thought to do was go back to the cottages.”
Although she still felt adrift, she was undeniably productive on the campus. She helped launch a tutoring program at Edenwald, and served as a tutor herself a few times a week. “I loved that ‘big sister’ type role,” she says. “I could’ve stayed on campus all day. Surprisingly, I had trouble connecting these feelings to a possible career path.” The staff helped Klein connect the dots. “It was obvious to them before it was obvious to me,” she says. “Have you ever considered a career in social work?’ they asked. I was mentoring the kids but the staff were mentoring me in a way I really needed.”
Klein took the hint and enrolled in a social work program. “They set me on the path I was meant to be on,” she notes. “I’ve never been so sure of anything.” After earning her LMSW, Klein worked as a social worker at a charter middle school for three years before entering into private practice. “JCCA was so pivotal to the person I became,” she concludes. “When I was lost in my own life, I found the purpose and community I needed on the campus.”