Chicago’s community of Jewish philanthropists has established some of the country’s most active social service organizations and charities. The Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago (JUF) alone distributed some $200 million in various grants in fiscal year 2015, a significant portion of which was reinvested in local communities. One of JUF’s partners, Jewish Child & Family Services (JCFS), took advantage of this banner year by forging new alliances, expanding its programs, and starting the construction of a new, state-of-the-art facility.
An organization dedicated to helping all those in need across Chicagoland, Jews and non-Jews alike, JCFS supports the mental and physical wellbeing of the neediest members of the community. Working with organizations like JUF, Jewish Community Centers of Chicago, the Chicago Board of Rabbis, and numerous national, state, and local authorities, JCFS offers comprehensive programs for the care of adults and children with developmental disabilities, along with a variety of other social services. Whether it’s helping to facilitate foster care for children with special needs or convening support groups for people struggling with grief and loneliness, JCFS works to live up to three core Jewish values: tikkun olam, kavod, and chesed.
A Banner Year: JCFS in 2015
Tikkun olam, or “repairing the world,” is a cornerstone of Jewish philanthropic philosophy, and along with chesed (compassion) and kavod (honor), constitutes a key part of the JCFS mission. JCFS strives to honor every individual and offer them compassionate care, all in order to protect and heal the world in which we live, one life at a time. JCFS has risen to the challenge set by these idealistic goals: in 2015 alone, the organization helped over 31,000 Chicagoans, nearly 4,000 of whom received direct assistance.
Spending some $30.6 million in FY 2015, the bulk of expenditures went towards programs designed to support the community, as well as counseling services and direct assistance to those in need. While JCFS’ costs only rose by about 3 percent, the organization vastly expanded its efforts in several areas; for example, 2015 saw JCFS overseeing the care of 50% more foster children. This increase was one of the reasons that JCFS has sought to add a new location from which to provide services: the Abe and Ida Cooper Center.
The New Abe and Ida Cooper Center
In June 2015, JCFS held a groundbreaking ceremony for the newest addition to the organization’s facilities: the Abe and Ida Cooper Center. Located in Chicago’s West Rogers Park neighborhood, the Cooper Center will be the new base of operations for JCFS programs that serve people with disabilities and their families. Scheduled for completion in 2016, the facility will be located alongside JCFS’ Joy Faith Knapp Children’s Center on the Esther Knapp campus. The building has been designed with LEED Gold certification in mind, and it will feature cutting-edge spaces like the Client Wing’s therapy gym and the Snoezelen Room, which will contain interactive technology for children with special sensory needs.
In addition, the Cooper Center will be the home of several of JCFS’ most vital services, including its wide range of programs for children and adults with disabilities, such as Integrated Pediatric Interventions, which offers speech language, occupational, and developmental therapies for children. The building will also be the new home of the Virginia Frank Child Development Center, which assists families with children who have special needs; and Encompass, a JCFS initiative that seeks to help adults with disabilities live fulfilling lives as part of the wider community. In addition, the Cooper Center will serve as the headquarters for JCFS’ Legal Advocacy Center.
The Wide-Ranging Work of JCFS
Of course, even after it is completed, the Cooper Center will only house a portion of the programs offered by JCFS. A significant amount of JCFS’ work takes place in the wider community; for example, its adolescent outreach program, Response, hosts workshops in schools and other settings in addition to offering counseling services. Other initiatives include Yad B’ Yad, a volunteer program based at the Knapp Children’s Center through which Jews with disabilities are given the opportunity to engage with their peers in the wider community.
JCFS also offers a number of programs through partnerships with other prominent Jewish philanthropies. With the help of Response and the Los Angeles-based Beit T’shuvah, JCFS’ Jewish Center for Addiction offers Partners in Prevention, a program designed to help young people avoid drugs. Other addiction and substance abuse prevention and recovery programs include Tu B’shvat Recovery Seder, Chesed Meditation, and Mussar Workshops. Another program made possible through JCFS’ partnerships, the Jewish Healing Network, utilizes the resources of the Chicago Board of Rabbis, JUF, and CJE SeniorLife in order to help community members who are dealing with grief, loss, or serious illness.
To learn more about the organization’s work, visit www.jcfs.org.