New Computer Lab helps neighbors in need

IMG_1888Angelique, a Family Stabilization Program client, is an ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constricted Employed person). Since losing her job last year, she has been working day labor jobs as a temporary worker. In some ways this has been great, she has been able to spend time with her children and have flexibility in her schedule, on the other hand she still has many bills to pay. The day labor company pays using a local shopping store’s money card system. Her paycheck goes into an account which she draws funds from similar to a bank’s debit card system. When she recently went to use the card, she noticed her balance was lower than what she recalled. Further investigation led to the discovery that someone had used her card number for fraudulent charges. After contacting the card company and the police, she was directed to file a claim on line. Angelique does not have access to a computer at home, but knew she could come to JFS Orlando’s new computer lab for assistance because she had previously utilized the computer lab during her search for employment. Angelique immediately contacted her FSP case manager who was there to assist Angelique in filing the claim with the help of JFS Orlando’s new technology.

Family Stabilization Program’s Lasting Impact

As found in the January, 2017 edition of The Park Press.























Click here to see the online version.

Family Stabilization Program’s Lasting Impact

The premise of the Family Stabilization Program is based on the adage “Give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day—teach a man to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.”

The Family Stabilization Program (FSP) is an intensive six-month case management program that uses a holistic approach to help low-income individuals and families achieve financial stability and self-sufficiency. This goal is accomplished byproviding participants with supportive services to mitigate immediate crises; and teaching them critical skills and tools to build a stable future.

Throughout their participation in the program, FSP clients receive a unique combination of services tailored to meet their individual needs, all of which are provided at no cost to participants: case management, financial education, individual financial counseling, financial assistance for basic needs (such as rent or utilities), employability skills training, mental health counseling, and food assistance.

The target population for the Family Stabilization Program is low-income individuals and families in Orange and Seminole Counties who are financially insecure and/or at risk of homelessness. In the most recently completed program year, concluded on September 30, 2015, FSP served 33 households, composed of 109 individuals, 58 of whom were children. Approximately 48% of these households were headed by single mothers. These 33 households experienced the following results:

  • 85% successfully completed the six-month program and improved their overall stability and self-sufficiency
  • 100% of clients who participated in the financial components of the program improved money management skills
  • 94% of clients maintained or improved employment status
  • 94% of clients maintained or improved housing

The Family Stabilization Program (FSP) clients receive services such as food assistance, financial counseling and employability skills training.

  • 9 clients participated in mental health counseling to improve functioning
  • 19 clients received food assistance to alleviate hunger
  • 23 clients received financial assistance to support basic needs

Since its inception in 2005, the Family Stabilization Program has served more than 550 at risk families, positively impacting more than 1,600 individuals in Central Florida. To date, outcomes have shown significant improvements in participants’ overall income, financial management skills, employability skills, housing stability, food security, emotional well-being and day-to-day functioning.

FSP is an outreach of the Jewish Family Services of Orlando. JFS Orlando provides social services and emergency assistance to struggling individuals and families throughout Central Florida. People

interested in learning more about the program can call 407-644-7593 or go to the JFS Orlando website –

JFS Orlando Open House

Mary Lee and David

Check out Christine DeSouza’s wonderful article highlighting JFS Orlando’s NEW LOOK in the Heritage!

JFS accepts new insurance!

TreeBehavioral health insurance is vitally important to those with occasional mental health or emotional needs and for those with more chronic mental health concerns. People most often need assistance with adjusting to life transitions such as job stressors, family concerns, grieving a loss, or managing changing relationships. Symptoms of anxiety and depression are often triggered due to these transitions. Having behavioral health insurance can assist with getting the help that is needed to learn coping skills and relieve symptoms associated with negative feelings. Unfortunately, some have behavioral health insurance that is underutilized because they do not know or understand that is included in their insurance plan.

Another important plan that is underutilized is Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). EAP can effectively reduce the adverse effects of depression, workplace stress and other mental health issues, but research has shown that most EAP-based mental health services are underutilized by employees.

Many people are not aware that their employer offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that often provides 3 to 8 counseling sessions at no charge to them. We often encourage potential clients to inquire with their employer or insurance company to verify if EAP is offered to them.

JFS Orlando’s Counseling, Growth and Development Program is excited to share the new insurance panels we are able to accept. The list below states the various companies JFS Orlando accepts:

  • Cigna
  • Aetna
  • Humana
  • Tricare
  • Medicare
  • Medicaid
    • Magellan
    • Cenpatico
      • Sunshine Health
    • Wellcare
      • Staywell
    • Beacon Health (Psychcare and Prestige)

In an effort to provide mental health services to the entire community, JFS Orlando also has a sliding scale fee for the uninsured or underinsured in need of counseling services. Please contact our Clinical Therapist Supervisor, Teresa Brown, LCSW  for additional information regarding our counseling services and insurance questions at 407-644-7593 x247.

NOW & LATER: Supporting JFS – sweet as candy!

Do you remember the candy called “NOW and LATER”? It was a combination of Laffy Taffy and Starburst and their slogan was “Eat some NOW and save some for LATER.” This is a great concept for candy, but you might be asking yourself, what does this have to do with Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando?

We all think about the future of the Jewish community. When speaking with JFS supporters and community members I reflect often on what JFS needs today – and what it will need three, five, and ten years from now. I always try to look at the big picture. While the Annual Campaign is what supports us today and will provide JFS with our operating funds in 2017, bequests and legacy gifts are what will sustain JFS in the future.LIFE-LEGACY-LOGO

I recently spoke with a member of our community regarding our Life & Legacy Program. She wanted to know the best way to leave a gift to sustain JFS into the future. We discussed the simplest method which is a notation in her will designating funds, life insurance, an IRA or some other asset to JFS upon her passing. We also discussed a Charitable Gift Annuity, which would provide her income now, with the remainder of her donation being left to JFS upon her death. To accomplish this, all she has to do is consult with me and her attorney and fill out a declaration of intent form advising us that she has left a legacy gift.  

Please consider speaking with your estate attorney, financial planner or me about the many ways you can leave a legacy to Jewish Family Services. We would love to add your name to those of our other Life & Legacy donors, and know that your legacy gift can be at any amount that is meaningful to you…there is no amount that is too small or too large when it comes to sustaining JFS. Speaking from experience, participating in the Life & Legacy Program is a positive and uplifting thing to do, for you, your family and JFS. It’s as sweet as candy to support JFS, NOW and LATER.

-Eric Geboff, MSW, Executive Director

For more information on the JFS Orlando Life & Legacy Program, please contact Eric Geboff, Executive Director, 2100 Lee Rd. Winter Park, FL 32789 or or 407-644-7593 x 238.

Meet Linda, A Family Stabilization Program Success Story

Linda BrownLinda’s family depends on her, including a 7 month old grandchild that she has custody of while her son is incarcerated. Linda suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. She went on disability when she was first diagnosed, but with the illness could only find temporary work. She came to JFS Orlando on the brink of eviction. Linda found hope when she enrolled in the Family Stabilization Program.

“Doors were closing. I didn’t know what to do. At JFS Orlando, I found positive people who wanted to help me out of my situation. They helped me catch up on my rent so our family could stay together. The classes showed me the road to recovery. They taught me how to write a resume, and how to get my credit back. I also learned about different schooling opportunities. I recently got my forklift operators certification and am working full-time at a warehouse. I am planning on getting my GED in the spring, and, as soon as my credit score improves, I plan on buying a house. Thank you, JFS.”

Meet Yolanda

“There is so much positive energy at JFS Orlando. Everyone here is so nice and wants me to succeed. They taught me that I was worthy of having people around me that wanted me to be myself. They see me as having value”, says Yolanda. “Life’s been hard. I’m a single mom. I have a job as a school crossing guard. I love what I do. I love waving at the children each morning, but I know I need to do more. JFS taught me that I can be more. The classes here have taught me different ways of looking at opportunities. They have taught me how to be more natural with networking and therefore, be more productive. I’m also getting my credit back on track. Thank you, JFS Orlando.”

Yolanda is one of many enrolled in the Family Stabilization Program, a six-month case management program for low-income families designed to improve financial stability and self-sufficiency.

The people who come to JFS Orlando are struggling. They are facing poverty, hunger, homelessness and other significant issues. Regardless of the circumstances that bring people to our doors, JFS Orlando is here to lend a helping hand. JFS Orlando takes a holistic approach to helping individuals and families, like Yolanda, improve their situation with an eye on the long-term solution.

Your donation allows us to continue to help repair the world, one person at a time.

We ask for your generosity to allow us the honor to serve those in need.

Giving families the tools for a brighter future


Sandy Mitchell, a middle-school teacher in Orlando, was helped by Jewish Family Services’ Family Stabilization Program. (Photo by Charles King/Orlando Sentinel)

Article by Matthew J. Palm, Orlando Sentinel Staff Writer, December 16, 2016

When Sandy Mitchell needed to get her life on track, Jewish Family Services was there.

Sandy Mitchell had a lot going for her: A doctorate degree, a career, a new daughter. But then she fell ill with sickle cell disease, a blood disorder. She lost her job at a Jacksonville charter school. Student-loan debt was ballooning. Mitchell ended up in Orlando. And in trouble. She found help in getting her life back on track through Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando, one of the agencies supported by the Orlando Sentinel Family Fund. “I’m still overwhelmed by the great turnaround they helped me make,” said Mitchell, who lives in west Orange County.

Mitchell’s story is not uncommon, said Jeanette M. Brownstein, director of programs for Jewish Family Services. Many people can be knocked down by just a bit of bad luck. “Most of our clients have had some kind of crisis,” she said. The agency, located in Winter Park, helps people pick themselves back up.

“I was getting doors shut on me everywhere,” Mitchell said. “But JFS wanted to help me. I wasn’t able to keep up with my bills. But we came up with a plan.”

Mitchell’s debt was around $60,000, she said, and JFS found her financial counseling. But that was just one piece of the assistance Mitchell received. The JFS Family Stabilization Program takes a holistic approach to helping individuals and families improve their situation with an eye on the long term.

“It’s a whole package deal to help them gain skills for a stable future,” Brownstein said. Along with credit counseling, clients also receive training in employment skills and mental-health support for six months. The program also addresses urgent needs, such as rent and food. Taking care of those essentials makes the long-term education more effective.

“If someone comes in for counseling and they don’t know where their next meal is coming from, that’s what will be on their minds,” Brownstein said. To provide the different services, JFS partners with other organizations such as Christian Help, which manages employment-related coaching, and Consumer Debt Counselors, which handles financial education. While clients participate in the workshops and counseling sessions, day-care is available for children — a service that helped Mitchell provide for her young daughter. Brownstein calls it “a one-stop shop” to “address all of the clients’ financial and emotional needs and empower them to gain stability and self-sufficiency.”

For Mitchell, it was a godsend. Faced with sleeping in her car, she instead used JFS to find a place a live — a daunting task for those with damaged credit. She was able to get a job, teaching business education for Orange County schools. “It’s a passion,” she said of educating children. “I truly, truly enjoy it.”

Mitchell is far from alone in being helped by the agency. Since its inception in 2005, the JFS Family Stabilization Program has served more than 550 families. In the most recent program evaluation, 100 percent of clients demonstrated improved money-management skills, 94 percent maintained or improved their employment status and 94 percent maintained or improved their housing situation.

Mitchell is making progress in paying down her debt, she said. She was able to furnish her home with help from The Mustard Seed, an Orlando furniture and clothing bank. She joined a supportive church in north Orlando and is enjoying her job. Jewish Family Services has a special place in her heart.

“I’m very thankful,” she said. “If it wasn’t for them, I know I wouldn’t be where I am now.”

Click here to read the article in the Orlando Sentinel’s website.

JFS Orlando Open House

The renovations are complete!

On Thursday, December 15, 2016 JFS Orlando’s doors (automatically!) opened up to over 100 donors, volunteers, community partners and new friends to see our building renovations and the exciting new computer lab funded by the Frances and Joseph Victor Fund at the Central Florida Foundation. Big thanks to all of our wonderful supporters including e2 Homes, Orange County, Florida Housing Community Development Division, Landry’s, Inc., and Moxē for helping make this night a huge success!

Eric Geboff, Executive Director, welcomes guests.

Eric Geboff, Executive Director, welcomes guests.

Missed the festivities? Please contact us if you, too, would like a private tour!

Katina is an ALICE

With your help, JFS Orlando can help the growing number of ALICE households, like Katina’s.

With your help, JFS Orlando can help the growing number of ALICE households, like Katina’s.

Katina wakes up in the morning and takes her three children to school, earlier than most, to ensure they get to eat breakfast. Katina has peace of mind knowing her children won’t go hungry today as she makes her way to work as a corrections officer.

When I was married I stayed home with the children. When I divorced, I was hard pressed to find a job. I took what I could get to bring in money.”

ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed person. Katina represents the growing number of individuals and families who are working, but are unable to fully afford the necessities of housing, food, health care and transportation. She is employed and receives child support for her three children, but still struggles financially.

“Being a mom is hard. Being a mom raising kids alone, is even harder.”

In Florida, 40 percent of low-income working families are led by women. ALICE households, such as Katina’s, hold jobs, pay taxes, and provide services that are vital to the Florida economy.

Katina was referred to JFS Orlando by a friend participating in the Family Stabilization Program. Once enrolled in the 6 month intensive case management program, Katina learned career and life skills such as job search tactics and how to create (and stick to) a budget.

“The classes gave me the know-how on what’s out there. The resources I was given are amazing. I had no idea there were so many opportunities for me.”

Katina knows that there is still work to do to improve her situation. Technology is always being upgraded and she knows that she needs to sharpen her skills in order to get a better paying job.

“I heard about the computer lab opening up at JFS Orlando. While I know the basics of working a computer, I’m not really good at it. I can see where classes will be a benefit.”

JFS Orlando knows that mental health also plays an extremely important role in the overall well-being of individuals and families. In addition to the workshop classes, Katina was provided with counseling to help her deal with the stress associated with being a single parent and child rearing.

Her family was also provided with food and rental assistance so Katina could focus on improving her situation and could sleep better knowing there would be a roof over their heads and food on the table. Katina is a proud and humble person. She learned it was okay to ask for help.

People come to JFS Orlando during the most trying times in their lives. JFS Orlando provides a holistic array of services in an effort to wrap our arms around our community’s most vulnerable citizens.  All services are offered to those in need regardless of their religion, race, ethnicity or any other demographics. JFS Orlando’s goal is to repair the world one person at a time.

Katina is an ALICE. Katina is your neighbor.

Katina’s family represents the thousands of families JFS Orlando helped this past year. Please continue to allow us this honor to serve them and repair the world one person at a time.