Category Archive: Whats Happening

Volunteer Spotlight: Issy Beham, Harold Plessner, Dolores Indek, and Joan Schwebel

(Left to Right) Issy Beham, Harold Plessner, Dolores Indek, and Joan Schwebel

From Orlando or South Africa, retired or in their 20s, volunteering for one month or for five years, JFS Orlando volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. However, all can agree on one thing: volunteering at JFS is worthwhile and meaningful.

“It just feels good!” says Harold Plessner, who’s volunteered in the Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry for over two years. Originally from South Africa, Harold grew up in the States and has lived in Florida most of his life. He started volunteering for JFS after he retired a few years ago. “Living in Orlando for seven years, we’ve always contributed to JFS because we like what they do. And then finally, when I retired, I had free time. I thought instead of just contributing, I’d physically do something.” Harold volunteers in the Pantry on Tuesdays, usually teaming up with long-time JFS volunteer, Dolores Indek.

Dolores has volunteered with JFS for over five years and works in both the Pantry and with babysitting for the Family Stabilization Program (FSP). After working for Lockheed Martin for 50 years, she is now retired and volunteers around various Jewish agencies in the community. Like Harold, she is a JFS donor and loves volunteering “because you see where all your donations and your money goes. The people come to the door, you hand them the bag. When people come in a wheelchair, or they take a bus, or they had to call a cab or ride a bike just to get here to get the food, it’s those kinds of things that really stand out.” She says she gets a great feeling from helping her community out and, as an added bonus, gets to work with friendly people while she does it. Friendly people like new volunteer, Joan Schwebel.    

Although Joan has only been volunteering in the JFS Pantry for a month, she already feels connected to the agency. Like Dolores, she likes to volunteer around the community, including for volunteer organization, Hadassah. When she came to JFS to drop-off Hadassah’s end-of-year donation, she had the opportunity to speak with Cherryl Faye, JFS Volunteer Coordinator. “Cherryl said they needed volunteers and I said ‘I can do that!’ so that’s how I got started.” So far, Joan has liked working in the Pantry because “we’ve been very busy and I like being busy. I like to feel like I’m doing something. And I like interacting with the people. We’ve had a constant stream of people.” Joan has been able to see first-hand how many families the Pantry serves and how great the need is, something that former Pantry Assistant, Issy Beham, knows all too well.

Issy first came to JFS when she was 20 and in college. Looking for a nonprofit to volunteer at for a class, she found JFS and immediately knew this was where she wanted to volunteer. “JFS is so efficient and organized and everyone is super nice. It’s a great community and it’s a really well-run organization.” She loved it so much she soon became the Pantry Assistant. In this role she had the chance to see and do it all, everything from carrying 2,000 lbs. of donated Matzah to seeing the quality of food in the pantry improve. “Over these five years I’ve seen how much healthier the food has gotten. We’ve gotten some more produce, and when I started we didn’t even have a produce fridge.” Although Issy’s tenure as the Pantry Assistant ended in 2016, when she recently moved back to Orlando she decided to continue volunteering at JFS. She says there is value in volunteering here because “you see things from other people’s perspectives. Because we have so many different volunteers from so many different backgrounds. And so many clients from different backgrounds, it really challenges you to see things from other people’s perspectives.”

Thank you to Dolores, Joan, Issy, and Harold for your time and support and for adding to the diversity of backgrounds and experiences in our volunteer program. JFS truly couldn’t run without the work of amazing volunteers like you!

Want to be a part of the JFS volunteer team? Join us in fighting hunger and giving back to your community by becoming a JFS volunteer! Several types of opportunities are available, including in the pantry and office assistance. To sign up, contact Cherryl Faye, Volunteer Coordinator, at 407-644-7593 ext. 239 or

5 Hacks to Survive This Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is upon us once again. This time of year can bring out many emotions in people, both positive and negative. Even being with someone can bring up feelings of disappointment, despair, and regret. Here are some survival tips for dealing with difficult emotions surrounding Valentine’s Day.

1. Be honest about your feelings.

For some, this holiday brings on a vast array of emotions—sadness, loneliness, irritation, disappointment, regret, envy, but also positive emotions like happiness, closeness, joy, and connection. Be honest with all of those feelings. Oftentimes trying to suppress feelings makes them come out when you least expect it. Try expressing them verbally or even expressing them through creative means, such as art, movement, song, or written word.

2. Don’t isolate.

Isolation and just ignoring the day completely may seem like a good coping skill, but inevitably you will run across a co-worker receiving a bouquet of flowers, a grocery store brimming with colorful, heart-shaped goodies, or even a surprise proposal. Instead, grab a friend, go out, and enjoy yourself. It’s perfectly alright to celebrate “Galentine” or “Palentine” Day with friends. Not all businesses celebrate Valentine’s Day. Laser tag anyone? It’s important to remind yourself that having a mate doesn’t define your worth and that depriving yourself doesn’t change the situation.

3. Be more assertive with your needs.

For example, do you really want to receive a gift? For many of us, there is a lot of anxiety and mixed feelings regarding gift giving and receiving. Just remember to listen to your partner to get ideas, hints, or feedback surrounding gifts. If a gift isn’t important to you but time spent with your partner is, tell them that. Or if it’s the opposite, that’s okay too. If we aren’t assertive or clear with our needs we are more likely to be frustrated or disappointed when they aren’t met, despite knowing that our partner isn’t a mind reader. Assertiveness isn’t confrontation—assertiveness can be a suggestion, “Would you consider we…”, or it can be more direct, “I was thinking this year we would…”.

4. Take some time for yourself. 

Either with your partner or without, it’s important to take time for yourself so you can be more present with others. Time with yourself doesn’t have to be bubble baths or long walks on the beach. It can be anything you personally enjoy or want to spend your time on.

5. Show your love year-round.

Remember to not just celebrate the love for your partner or for others on Valentine’s Day. Spread it throughout the year. Even small gestures of affection or acknowledgement can go a long way.

Many people view Valentine’s Day as a day that will make or break your relationship or as just another corporate holiday solely focused on couples in love, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Seize this day as an opportunity to show some self-love, spend time with friends and family, or as a building-block for an honest and open relationship with your significant other.

Managing emotions in a relationship or on our own can be hard, but JFS Orlando licensed counselors are here to help. Trained in a variety of areas, including codependency, self esteem, and marital and premarital therapy, counselors can meet with you one-on-one or as a couple. JFS accepts Medicare, Medicaid, most commercial insurances, and even provides a sliding fee scale to clients who qualify. To schedule an appointment, call 407-644-7593 ext. 247 or email today!

Author: Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW

Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW is the Clinical Therapist Supervisor and a licensed clinical social worker at JFS Orlando. Ashlyn has worked in a variety of settings including outpatient community based mental health, inpatient/admission psychiatric hospital, substance abuse/DUI, dialysis/medical, and in home/office outpatient therapy.

Volunteer Spotlight: Tom Lucas

From bag boy to owner, Tom Lucas has worked in grocery stores for over 58 years. He owned one of the top independent supermarkets in the country back home in Pittsburgh. That’s why it only felt natural when he started volunteering for the food pantry at his church. When Tom decided to retire to Orlando, he wanted to continue fighting hunger in the community. He found out about JFS Orlando’s Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry and right away knew it was right up his alley. “I started volunteering at JFS about two years ago. I do it because you should always give back to the community. I’ve done so well in my life, now I want to help others.”

One moment that has really stood out to Tom from his time at JFS was when an older lady was having trouble getting her food to her car. Tom went out to help her and he remembers how she was just so grateful. “She prayed for me, and that was just the best feeling.” He felt good knowing that this small act of kindness had really made an impact on someone.

Working in the pantry, Tom has seen all kinds of families and individuals come in for food. From families living paycheck to paycheck who need the food pantry as a meal solution to hold them over, to homeless individuals currently living on the streets who don’t even have a stove and need a special set of food that they can eat without heating up. “You should volunteer with JFS to simply help people who need help. If there’s anything we can do to help we should do it.” Thank you, Tom, for volunteering with JFS and helping feed the needy in our community!

Looking for a way to fight hunger and give back to your community? Become a JFS volunteer! Several types of opportunities are available, including in the pantry and office assistance. To sign up, contact Cherryl Faye, Volunteer Coordinator, at 407-644-7593 ext. 239 or

Six Ways to Beat Loneliness during the Holidays

During the holidays, we tend to think that everyone is happy and joyous, surrounded by family and friends. But often the opposite is true. The holidays can be a time where the lack of support, family connectedness or friendship is magnified the most. Dealing with loneliness during the holidays can be difficult, but below are six ways you can cope with the holiday blues.

1. Be kind to yourself—It might seem like the selfish thing to do, but really taking care of you can be selfless as well. We have all heard you can’t pour from an empty cup. Well, it’s true. It’s always good to have something to look forward to, even if that’s a cup of tea in your PJs at night while you read a book. Self-care doesn’t have to be bubble baths and facemasks, it can be anything that brings you joy. It doesn’t have to be big things either, even micro breaks as small as 3 minutes pushed away from the work desk with your eyes closed breathing can make a difference. Checking in with yourself on what you need is important to do.

2. Connect where you can—During the holidays you may have extra opportunities for connections. Send out a holiday card, make an extra phone call, let those neighbors know their lights look great, or call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. They might be feeling lonely as well, and having someone reach out to them might help you both feel more connected. 

3. Focus on what you have control over—Think of all your energy for the day as a gas tank. As you move through each item on your to-do list, you use up energy (or gas). What you want to focus on is only using gas on things for which you have control over and not on those situations or areas for which you don’t. That includes what we think about. How much energy are you wasting thinking about old things you can’t change? That doesn’t leave you a lot of gas to work on the things you can change or positively affect. That family feud that has been going on for the past 20 years and that always seems to ruin the holiday gathering doesn’t have to steal up your energy. Instead, try to identify the level of control you have in the issue and make your decisions based on that. This might include how long you plan to stay in the situation or if you want to go at all. It is okay to make a decision that will limit your interactions with toxic situations.

4. Know that you are not alone in feeling lonely—Many people, for many different reasons, feel lonely during the holidays. We often wish that the holidays could be something out of a movie, where everyone comes together for a fight-free night of food and fun. The reality is, families are often split geographically, don’t always get along, or have other limitations that can’t make this want come true. And that’s okay! Try reaching out to a friend or family member that you do feel close with, and talk with them about your feelings and how you like to be connected with them.

5. Be careful with expectations—Just like previously mentioned, our actual life often isn’t what hallmark movies are made of, so be careful of perfectionist expectations. The turkey might not come out just right or the cat might knock over the holiday decorations right after you finish them—those things happen. Be patient with yourself and don’t be the one to put on the pressure.

6. Give to others—A great way to connect with others is to give your time through volunteering. The holidays often present more opportunities through your place of worship, JFS Orlando, other non-profits, soup kitchens or homeless shelters—take the opportunity to give back to your community. If you don’t have the opportunity with time, you can find other ways to volunteer or give back even with your own family. Maybe there’s a family member who could use help babysitting to get some last minute shopping done, or some help putting up decorations, or even help getting something to the post office. Small acts of kindness can really lighten up someone’s day.

If you start to feel lonely this holiday, just remember these few tips to still enjoy the festive season and even use it as an opportunity to take care of yourself and connect with new or old friends.

And if you are still feeling overwhelmed, always know that JFS Orlando has professional counselors who can help in a safe, confidential, and caring environment. JFS accepts Medicare, Medicaid, most commercial insurances, and even provides a sliding fee scale to clients who qualify. To schedule an appointment, call 407-644-7593 ext. 247 or email today!

Author: Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW

Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW is the Clinical Therapist Supervisor and a licensed clinical social worker at JFS Orlando. Ashlyn has worked in a variety of settings including outpatient community based mental health, inpatient/admission psychiatric hospital, substance abuse/DUI, dialysis/medical, and in home/office outpatient therapy.

A Letter from the Executive Director

Dear Friends of JFS Orlando,

I am reaching out to you today to announce that Eric Geboff has formally resigned from his role as Executive Director of JFS Orlando.  Eric came to JFS approximately seven years ago.  During this time, he diligently led JFS through many positive changes.  Eric’s incredible work ethic, talent, and his caring heart for those in need will be missed.  Although I speak these words of gratitude on my behalf, I am certain that I can also speak the same on the behalf of the Board of Directors, staff, volunteers, donors, and clients.

My name is Mike McKee.  I have been a JFS Board member for the last decade, half of which I’ve served as the Board President.  Because of my love for JFS and hope for a smooth transition with Eric’s departure, I have agreed to resign from the Board to take on the role of Interim Executive Director, pro bono.

Eric’s legacy is intact. His efforts have helped guide JFS to where we are today.  As a result, I am happy to tell you that we are ready to “spread our wings” like never before.  The future of JFS is shining bright!  I cannot wait to see what 2019 will bring.  One thing is for certain, however.  JFS will continue its mission to provide a handup to families and individuals in crisis.  The Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry, the Counseling, Growth and Development Program, the Family Stabilization Program (FSP), the Emergency Services program, Reliable Independent Drivers for the Elderly (RIDE), Chaplaincy, and all of our other programs will continue to be there to enhance the lives of thousands of Central Floridians in need.

I encourage you to get involved if you are not already.  We need you.  We need Board members, Committee members, volunteers, and donors.  Together we must share our time and treasure.  Both are essential elements for the important work that needs to be done.  There is always a place for you in the JFS family.

Please join me in thanking Eric for his time and dedication to JFS as we certainly wish him the best.  Go JFS!


Mike McKee
Interim Executive Director
407-644-7593 ext. 238

Winter Park Holiday Parade 2018

On Saturday, December 8, 2018, JFS Orlando participated for the first time in the 66th Annual Winter Park Holiday Parade, the oldest continuous holiday parade in Central Florida. JFS was one of more than 80 organizations that participated. 34th in line, the JFS Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry van rolled down the parade along with shopping carts filled with food to represent the vital role the pantry plays in feeding the hungry in the Winter Park community. 29 volunteers, staff, and Board members accompanied the van waving and handing out cards describing the mission of JFS and encouraging onlookers to visit and volunteer.

“It’s a great opportunity to get the word out there about JFS and the good work that we do,” said Interim Executive Director, Mike McKee. “Although we’ve been a part of the community for over 40 years, many people still don’t know about JFS. We’re still ‘the best kept secret’ in the neighborhood. We hope participating in the parade will introduce us to some new folks and remind others that we’re still here, whether you need our help or are looking to help.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with Pittsburgh

Dear Friends –

The horrific events at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday, October 27, 2018 cut deeply at the soul of all peace loving people. We are greatly saddened at the events that took the lives of 11 innocent people and injured many others. We share the grief with those who have lost loved ones or have been injured. Further, we express our deepest appreciation to the first responders who placed their lives on the line for others and our solidarity with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh.

JFS Orlando condemns acts of violence in any form and stands strongly for an open and inclusive society.

The safety and security of visitors and clients to JFS Orlando remains our priority. We have been in contact with our local law enforcement and have confirmed there is no active threat against our facility or users. We have ongoing security measures in place to assure the safety of all who walk through our doors and continue to provide a safe and sound environment for all of our clients and guests.

We invite you to join us as the community comes together in solidarity on Tuesday, October 30, 2018 at 7:00 PM for “Stop The Hate: Remembering the Victims in Pittsburgh,” an interfaith and multicultural memorial service, coordinated by Central Florida Jewish organizations and the Greater Orlando Board of Rabbis. The service will be held at Congregation of Reform Judaism, 928 Malone Drive, Orlando, FL 32810.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at 407-644-7593 ext 238.

May the souls of those lost at Tree of Life Synagogue be bound in the bond of eternal life.

Eric Geboff, MSW
Executive Director

New JFS Building Sign

We just installed a brand new building sign! Displaying our updated purple and green agency colors, we hope it will help JFS standout to let people know we’re here and ready to help our Greater Orlando community. Keep an eye out for it the next time you drive down Lee Road!

A Special Goodbye

A special goodbye to our Office Manager, Bonnie Haas. Bonnie joined the JFS Orlando team 21 years ago, making her the longest serving JFS employee in the history of the organization! Responsible for managing the day to day building operations including technology, security, supervising the front office, tenant management and all building-related issues, she has been an integral part of the JFS family. We will all miss Bonnie and wish her the best of luck in her next chapter. Thank you for everything you have done for JFS and the community we serve!

Bonnie Haas

Hurricane Irma

hurricane-irma-satellite-noaa-ht-jc-170905_12x5_992Hurricane Irma Update: Irma has left many Central Floridians without the most basic of needs: food, water and shelter. JFS Orlando has addressed those exact needs for nearly 40 years and we continue to open our doors and outstretch our hands to lift up those in need. After a natural disaster, it is amazing to see a community band together and help neighbors in need. Now that we have begun to pick up the pieces, many of you are asking how you can help. We have listed our most urgent Agency needs below and appreciate your support!

1. DONATE NON-PERISHABLE FOOD. Our Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry is expecting numbers to continue to rise as power is restored and citizens are able to replenish their food that spoiled. Donations can be dropped off at our building located at The George Wolly Center 2100 Lee Rd., Winter Park, FL 32789.
2. MONETARY DONATIONS. Much of the food we give out through the pantry is purchased from a local food bank. Every dollar donated turns into $6 worth of purchasing power to supplement what we do not get donated from the community. Donations can be made online at or by calling Amanda Benedit at 407-644-7593 ext. 227
3. VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME. Our food pantry is staffed by a wonderful core group of volunteers, however, with increased numbers of clients we will likely extend our pantry hours and need your help to distribute food to those in need. You can apply to become a volunteer by calling Amanda Benedit 407-644-7593 ext. 227.

For additional information on how you can help with Hurricane Irma Relief, please visit or call 407-644-7593.