Category Archive: Whats Happening

Volunteer Spotlight: Ruth Wallace

Ruth organizes the shelves with food for the hungry in JFS Orlando’s Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry.

Sweet. Caring. Motivated. These are just some of the words that describe one of JFS Orlando’s newest volunteers: Ruth Wallace. Originally from Syracuse, NY, Ruth got married, raised her three children, and now has four grandchildren all in Florida. Thirty years after starting her family, Ruth decided to go back to school for her Masters in Nursing from the University of Florida.

Even after graduating, Ruth continues to stay busy. She volunteers at the Winter Park Library. “I scan history documents. They have all documents about Winter Park history and they’re trying to make them accessible online. So I sit there and scan!” She also attends some classes at Rollins. One day she ran into her friend, Sue Katz. “I’ve known her forever. I went to a class with her at Rollins and she mentioned that she’d volunteered here [at JFS Orlando] for a while.” This past spring, Ruth decided to follow her friend’s suggestion and started volunteering in the Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry.

Every Monday through Thursday, the Pantry is moving. Individuals and families across the Greater Orlando area come by to pick-up food. Whether it’s because hours were cut at work and their paycheck just didn’t stretch far enough, or an unexpected car or house expense came up, the Pantry assists people with one of their most basic necessities: food.

Ruth loves working in the Pantry “because you get to see the people you serve. They’re always so thankful.” She also loves seeing her fellow volunteers, like Pantry volunteer Matthew and Legal Aid Society volunteer and former judge, Leonard Fleet. “I just wish the community knew about JFS’ various services. And I hope they know this is open to everybody, not just the Jewish community.”

Thank you, Ruth, for supporting JFS and the Pantry. From filling-in when we need an extra hand to sharing your smile with clients as they come pick-up food, it’s a pleasure to have you on the JFS volunteer team!

Interested in helping your community by volunteering with JFS? Several roles are currently available, including helping out in the Pantry and behind-the-scenes office assistance. To sign up, contact us at 407-644-7593 ext. 249 or

The Fine Art of Forgiveness

Earlier this month, I was doing some paperwork one evening with the television on, news running in the background. Stories came and stories went. As I finalized a document by adding my signature with the flourish of a pen, one story in particular caught my attention. A young man, only 18 years old, was on the stand delivering a victim-impact statement at the sentencing of the woman convicted of killing his older brother. He was anxious, tugging several times at his collar to loosen the grip of the tie around his neck. As he spoke, he told the woman he forgave her and wished no harm to her. His words wobbled with emotion. Towards the end of his brief statement, he expressed that he loved this woman and asked the judge if he could embrace his brother’s killer.

Surprisingly, the judge agreed to his request. The courtroom fell silent except for muffled sobs as the two embraced. The sight itself was raw and emotional. Even looking back at it now, I can feel the intensity of it.

This tender moment was excruciatingly poignant, particularly set against the backdrop of a society which feels as though it has forgotten the art of forgiveness. It feels as though every effort is made today to embrace animosity, hatred, indifference to others, and in finding new ways to be offended. It feels as though precious little time is spent on breaking down walls, finding commonality, and forgiving those who offend us.

Though the mention of the word forgiveness tends to carry religious or spiritual overtones, there is an element of forgiveness which ties directly to psychology, to our mental health and wellbeing. There is a growing body of empirical research studying forgiveness, led by clinical psychologists like Everett Worthington. Research shows people who forgive those who offend them report decreased levels of anger, anxiety, and depression as well as increased patience and improved satisfaction with relationships. Research also shows that the process of forgiveness is stressful and requires work before being able to fully reap the benefits.

So, what is the secret to forgiveness? Why is something which carries with it such positive rewards so difficult to accomplish? I believe the answer to these questions, and the answer as to why society feels as though it is eschewing forgiveness in lieu of anger and vengeance, lies in the understanding of what forgiveness is and what it is not:

Forgiveness is a process.

Forgiveness takes time and energy and work.

Forgiveness is a willful conscious choice, not something that just “happens.”

Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness. Anyone who has forgiven another for wronging them understands that it requires great strength and courage to do so.

Forgiveness is not about absolving or pardoning the offender or forgetting what was done to you. In fact, if the offender is a dangerous or toxic person, it is not advisable to reinsert yourself into that person’s life in order to demonstrate that you have forgiven them. It is always important to protect yourself from further offense.

Forgiveness does not require the offender to apologize or ask for your forgiveness. In some instances, the offender is quite unrepentant and would keep offending if given the chance. It is much simpler to forgive a person who asks sincerely for it; it is far more difficult to forgive a person who refuses to accept responsibility, is not contrite, and who even blames you for “causing it in the first place.”

Forgiveness is all about you. Not about them.

When we are on the receiving end of a verbal, emotional, or even physical offense, there is a lot of negative emotion tied to it. We will likely become angry, and may harbor feelings of resentment, hurt, or even hatred towards the offender. And rightly so. These emotions are quite normal responses to being hurt. They tend to be powerful and are supported by natural desires for revenge or justice. When we are slighted, we are tied negatively to the offense and the offender. We may think about it frequently, almost obsessively. In psychology, this is referred to as rumination. We may reach out to others in order to validate our anger, or we may turn inward and try to find a reason why we deserved such treatment. The more frequently we ruminate, the strong our tie is to the offense. That tie becomes thick and heavy, like a rusted metal chain which binds us. The longer we ruminate, the more we feed negative emotions. And in the end, we are what we eat.

If we feed negativity, it will grow within us. If it grows, it will eventually spill out into other parts of our lives, impacting our mood, our relationships, and our health. The chain we carry binds us to the offense. As we move throughout our day, we are reminded about it continually with each step, reliving the moment and continuing to feed our anger, animosity, and other negative emotions associated with the offense. The weight of such a burden can be almost overwhelming.

This is where forgiveness can benefit us most. Remember, it is a process. Forgiveness includes defining the offending behavior. It entails examining all our emotions tied to the offense, bringing them to the surface to explore and process. This is the difficult part where many get stuck. Processing pain might require some assistance from someone else if you feel stuck. It is sometimes preferable to do such exploring in a safe environment with a therapist who can guide you through the process and help you make sense of the senseless.

This process may help you find that the chain which binds you to the offense is not fastened securely to your ankle or neck, locked and immovable. Upon closer examination, you may find the chain is held in your hand. You might be more affixed to the chain than the chain is affixed to you. Forgiveness, in its basic form, is about consciously deciding to release yourself from resentment and anger. It is a process which takes effort and strength and courage. When you are ready, you will be able to let the chain drop free from your hands. The burden of rumination replaced with peace. That peace is yours and is not contingent upon the offender at all. Forgiveness is for you, not anyone else.

Thankfully, we will likely never have to face the prospect of forgiving someone for killing a loved one like the young man from the story above. But even if this were the case, his example was inspiring in that it demonstrated the potential power for healing within us all. We have the keys to happiness within us. We have the keys to unlocking the chains which bind us.

Interested in more wellness counseling? Call 407-644-7671 to schedule an appointment with a JFS counselor today! Medicare, Medicaid and almost all commercial insurances are accepted. In addition, we’re one of the few remaining agencies in Central Florida that operates on a sliding fee scale (as low as $55 per session) for those who do not have insurance or have an insurance we do not accept.

Author: Jason Krause, MA
Jason Krause, MA is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern. He gained experience working for 10 years within the mental health field following graduation with his Bachelor’s Degree before returning to the University of Central Florida to follow his passion by earning a Master’s in Clinical Psychology.

Jason works with adults and children ages 12 and up to address a variety of concerns including anxiety, depression, self-injury, stress, substance abuse, and trauma. Jason utilizes unconditional positive regard, non-judgment, and empathy in a person-centered approach to help you discover and highlight your own personal strengths. Jason believes no one knows you better than yourself and he provides individualized care in a warm environment to help you actualize your potential.

The Kehillah Exhibit is Now Online!

Explore Orlando Jewish history, and that of JFS Orlando, by visiting the new online Kehillah exhibit! Thank you to our friends on the Kehillah task force for your amazing efforts in putting together this resource that not only records but commemorates the impact the Jewish community has had on Central Florida. Mazel Tov!

JFS Orlando Staff Receives Suicide Prevention Training

The JFS Orlando Counseling, Growth and Development Team

On average, one person dies by suicide every three hours in the state of Florida. In fact, suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in the state. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Data & Statistics Fatal Injury Report for 2017) That is why this summer JFS Orlando’s mental health counselors and front-line staff participated in the Florida Implementation of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (FINS) Project.

FINS is a collaborative partnership between the University of Central Florida, Advent Health, the Statewide Office of Suicide Prevention, and the University of South Florida to build upon Florida’s comprehensive suicide prevention plan. The FINS Project was designed to enhance services to reach at-risk populations and ensure that adults, ages 25 and up, receive timely and appropriate services. 

Staff from the FINS Project worked with JFS to develop a strategy for suicide prevention and intervention, which will be implemented immediately agency-wide. The project, which consisted of four trainings, taught non-clinical staff gatekeeper skills to detect if someone might be suicidal; and clinical therapists how to conduct suicide risk assessments, safety plans, care coordination services, and, for select therapists, even clinical training to treat suicidal clients.

Many times patients in emergency rooms do not have access to therapists who are properly trained in suicide prevention. The FINS Project is aiming to build a system-wide approach where agencies partner together to ensure that care transitions are taking place between agencies. FINS Care Coordinators at Advent Health will be connecting with the clinical therapist team at JFS Orlando to help ensure continuity of care for clients/patients.

JFS is proud to have participated in the FINS Project and is grateful for this vital training that was provided at no cost to the agency thanks to the project’s collaborators and supporters. For more information regarding the JFS Orlando Counseling program, please contact Clinical Director, Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW at or 407-644-7593 ext. 301.

Four Summer Fun Ideas for Your Family

One more month before kids go back to school. It comes before you know it. Sometimes in our busy schedules we forget about the importance of summer for children (and ourselves). What were some of your favorite childhood summers and why? For adults, unless you are a teacher, summers are business as usual. We easily get caught up in our to-do lists and forgo time for summer fun. But we shouldn’t let our summers pass us by.

Use the summer as an opportunity to nourish your relationship with your children. Not only is it fun, but you’ll benefit by investing quality time with them that has nothing to do with chores and grades. It also is a way to tap into your own inner child who might not get enough recess!

Below are ideas about how to create summer fun for your family:

1. Movie and popcorn night: take turns picking the movie and watch it together once a week; and be sure to add a nutritious snack or popcorn with butter; whichever you like. Simulate the theater as much as possible by turning off phones and turning down the lights.

2. Beach day: we have an amazing playground in our backyard – the ocean! Take the kids to the beach and have them help create a picnic basket for when you arrive. Planning and creating a nice day for the family is not only rewarding, it also models to your children how to do self-care.

3. Home hands-on projects: it is very therapeutic for an activity to be hands-on and physically creative because we need this to balance out all the electronic time spent on phones, videos and games – parents included. This could be scrapbooking, gardening, or painting. Ask your children what they would like to do – they don’t often get the power of choice, so give them an affordable amount to work with. This enhances their feelings of empowerment and allows them to be the one to decide.

4. Summer brainstorm: when school is near, get together to strategize on the year ahead. This is a good time to come up with a verbal contract of agreement on how the next school year will be; ideas such as setting their own homework and/or chore schedule. Collaborating helps build trust and teamwork and encourages parents to be proactive instead of reactive. Don’t forget to ask your child what you can change to help with the process.

It may feel overwhelming if your days are already busy, but this makes it even more important. To slow down and have quality time away from stress for everyone in the family is modeling good mental health. Your children will get the message that having fun together as a family is important, and that learning the self-discipline to make the time for self-care is healthy.

Interested in more parenting or family wellness advice? Call 407-644-7671 or email to schedule an appointment with a JFS counselor today! Medicare, Medicaid and almost all commercial insurances are accepted. In addition, we’re one of the few remaining agencies in Central Florida that operates on a sliding fee scale (as low as $55 per session) for those who do not have insurance or have an insurance we do not accept.


Author: Brenda Chappell, LMHC

Brenda Chappell, LMHC is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. Brenda has worked with children at home and at schools, domestic violence shelter, and with adults in office outpatient therapy. Brenda holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from Palm Beach Atlantic University with a specialty in Play Therapy.

Brenda Chappell specializes working with adolescents, children, and their parents with a variety of issues such as child defiance, depression, anxiety, poor school performance, divorce, domestic violence, substance abuse, and grief. Brenda utilizes Adlerian Child Guidance Principals to enable parents to be more effective, Play Therapy to children to explore their feelings and problems, and specific treatment approaches appropriate to the child or adolescent’s reported issue. Brenda has special training in Domestic Violence Advocacy.

Brenda’s therapeutic orientation is client-centered, family systems, mindfulness and cognitive behavioral. Brenda utilizes Adlerian Child Guidance Principals to enable parents to be more effective and to build stronger relationships with their children. Brenda’s strengths lie in her ability to connect parents and children or adolescents through building a shared understanding and partnership.

Volunteer Spotlight: Leslie Plotkin and Debbie Shelton

Leslie (left) and Debbie (right)—working in the Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry

Meet lifelong friends, Leslie and Debbie—JFS Orlando’s newest volunteer power duo. Both locals to the area, Leslie and Debbie became friends way back when in 11th grade at Winter Park High School. “Our 50th high school reunion is next March 2020!” Although they’ve remained in the same area, both agreed it’s been hard to find time to see each other. “Life gets in the way…”

Debbie, a mother and grandmother, recently retired from working for 30 years at a law firm. Now she enjoys a host of pastimes, including watercolors, calligraphy, growing her own vegetables, and spending time with Leslie.  Leslie, a wife, a mother, and a grandmother, has been a supporter of the Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry and fighting hunger in Central Florida for years. “I’ve always supported JFS”, says Leslie. “I have wanted to volunteer for a long time and I finally, at the beginning of the year said, ‘I’m going to make this a priority.’ And I came in and I loved it! And now I’ve got Debbie to come do it too!”

“I think we’re a good team,” says Debbie. One day, Leslie happened to mention to her that she had started volunteering at JFS. “I asked her and she said, ‘Yeah, come with me,’” Debbie recalls. “She’s teaching me and it’s such a quick study. I only started a couple weeks ago and we’ve gone 0 to 60!”

Leslie shared that she likes working in the Pantry because of the food it gives out and how welcoming it is. “It amazes me the quality of the food that we get. This is good stuff! And it’s open to everybody. It’s not faith based only. It is anyone in need. Anyone and everyone.” There is, however, one thing that both Leslie and Debbie like more about the Pantry: the people they are helping. “The people are so appreciative,” says Leslie. “I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been blessed and it’s a very fulfilling experience. I’ve really enjoyed it.” “People at the door are grateful. Appreciative,” says Debbie. She explains how she always tries to make them feel comfortable, not ashamed or judged in any way. “I try to just be bright and happy!”

Thank you, Leslie and Debbie, for those bright, happy smiles and all of the hard work you both put in every week at the Pantry. We’re so appreciative of you and we know our clients are too!

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 the Babysitting Team. To sign up, contact Cherryl Faye, Volunteer Coordinator, at 407-644-7593 ext. 239 or

Volunteer Spotlight: Eileen Meyer Schwartz (In Memoriam)

Eileen (left) and fellow volunteer, Dolores (right), working in the Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry

Dedicated volunteer and friend of JFS Orlando, Eileen Meyer Schwartz passed away on Thursday, May 30, 2019.

Originally from Brooklyn, NY, Eileen dedicated her life to helping others through her work in the legal field. She was a legal assistant for over 50 years, first in New York and later in Orlando after she moved in the 80’s. In August 2017, she married Jerome M. Schwartz.

Eileen loved to support her community by volunteering. In January 2017, she became a Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry volunteer. “Eileen was always smiling,” said Cherryl Faye, JFS Volunteer Coordinator. “She brought such a ray of sunshine to the Pantry; to her fellow volunteers and the clients she helped serve. She just spread happiness to everyone she touched.”

JFS is greatly saddened at the loss of such a beautiful and caring friend. Please join us in sending heartfelt condolences and prayers for Eileen and her family and friends.

Volunteer Spotlight: Holiday Meal Delivery Volunteers

Susan Lazarus (left) and Susie Stone (right) getting ready to deliver Passover holiday meals

Volunteering is good for the mind, body, and soul. This couldn’t be truer for JFS Orlando’s Holiday Meal Delivery volunteers. Although on the surface their job is to simply deliver food to seniors in need, it’s their generosity, dedication, selflessness, and drive to go the extra mile for people they don’t even know that truly impacts the community, (and benefits their own mental health as well!).

The Holiday Meal Delivery Program delivers meals free of charge to homebound, low income seniors in the Greater Orlando area three to four times a year, during Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Thanksgiving and/or Hanukkah. It is part of JFS’ core Jewish value of communal responsibility, to honor our parents and care for older adults. In 2018, the program delivered more than 170 meals to 67 homebound seniors.

JFS is very fortunate to have a big group of dedicated Holiday Meal Delivery volunteers. They’re one of the main reasons the program is able to continue. Although there are many more, at this time JFS would like to spotlight the following volunteers from the recent 2019 Passover meal delivery:

Julie Auerbach

Randi Cunningham

Len Fleet

Susan Lazarus

Lauren Roth

Rachel Selber-Krops

Susie Stone

Dena Wild

David Wittenstein

Susan Lazarus has volunteered with JFS Orlando since she retired back in 2012. “What I like the most about volunteering at JFS is meeting other volunteers, greeting the clients and knowing that I am making a positive impact in their lives.” She volunteers with the Holiday Meal Delivery Program and in the Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry. “I was a Guidance Counselor in Winter Park for 30+ years. A few times in the last 7 years I’ve opened the pantry door and seen one of my school family members that I told about JFS and the food pantry. That is my paycheck—Great feeling!”

In addition to volunteering at JFS, Susan volunteers at many other organizations around town, including the Ronald McDonald House, the gift shop at Ohev, and the Jewish Pavilion. She enjoys people and helping others, hence, volunteering is an important part of her daily routine. Not only does it help others, but it brings her joy as well. “When you give to others…it makes you smile…sign up, you will love helping!”

Thank you, Susan, and all our other Holiday Meal Delivery volunteers for taking the time during the holidays to deliver much more than meals, but also kind faces and kind words to seniors in our community!

Want to be a part of the JFS volunteer team? Join us and give back to your local community. Several types of opportunities are available, including pantry, office assistance, and holiday meal delivery. To sign up, contact Volunteer Coordinator, Cherryl Faye, at 407-644-7593 ext. 239 or

The Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry Van Gets a Facelift!



The Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry van is a vital tool in the work that the Pantry does everyday to feed the hungry in Central Florida. Our Pantry Assistant, Audrey, uses the van to visit and pick up food from local grocery and community partners. Until recently, we used large magnets on the van to distinguish it as the JFS Orlando Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry van. However, the magnets would usually either melt onto the van under the hot Florida sun or would fly off in transit. We knew we needed a better way to brand the vehicle while also ensuring Audrey’s safety during food pick-ups.

Thanks to The Pearlman Family and to FastSigns of Orlando, the Pantry van got a facelift! Sporting the JFS Orlando colors and information, it’s ready to continue travelling around the Greater Orlando area picking up food for the hungry. (Not to mention, it is now a great marketing tool to get the word out there about JFS and our work in the community.) Keep an eye out for it when you’re on the road!

Volunteer Spotlight: Dolores Indek, Ashley Urquhart, and Wendi Szafran

JFS babysitting team (left to right): Dolores Indek, Ashley Urquhart, and Wendi Szafran

Most of the time it’s the big life-changing gestures we remember, but truly it’s the behind-the-scenes helping hand that makes it all possible. The same can be said about the JFS babysitting team.

The Family Stabilization Program (FSP) is a long-term case-management program that requires individuals to attend several educational workshops on Tuesday afternoons. Although the workshops are vital in helping participants get back on their feet, many of these clients are single parents who cannot attend without childcare. That’s why JFS began a volunteer babysitting team to watch FSP children while their parents attend workshops.

“I am providing a service for families so they are able to improve their lives. It is one less item they need to think about or stress over,” says volunteer, Wendi Szafran. Wendi has called Orlando home for most of her life. While earning her Masters in Social Work at UCF, she volunteers at various agencies around town, including JFS. She says she began volunteering on the babysitting team back in 2017 because “I was becoming much more involved in the community. I wanted to volunteer with children in different ways.” One particular moment that stood out to Wendi was when a young girl she was taking care of wanted to return to her to continue learning kids yoga instead of staying at home. “That was a heartening moment.”

Another FSP babysitting volunteer is Dolores Indek, who also volunteers in the Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry. Dolores helps out with childcare once a month or when needed. After working for Lockheed Martin for 50 years, she is now retired and volunteers around various Jewish agencies in the community. She particularly likes volunteering at JFS because of the “great feeling you get when you come here. And everyone is friendly. You feel like you’re really helping the community out. I wish the community knew what a wonderful job they do here.”

Similarly, volunteer Ashley Urquhart chose to volunteer with JFS because she wanted to help out her community and do something good. “I started volunteering about a year ago,” says Ashley. “I wanted to do something more productive with my time.” Born and raised in Florida, Ashley works full-time and enjoys hanging out with friends and staying active. She heard about JFS and thought it would be a great opportunity to give back. She loves working with the kids and coming up with fun activities for them to do. “A year ago, around Easter, I brought in Easter eggs to decorate with stickers and markers. It’s a good activity. I really liked it.” Not only does she enjoy the work she is doing, but she has connected with her team. “Everyone here is really friendly, really nice. The other volunteers I work with, they welcomed me right in, and we have our own little email chain going on. It’s a great way to give back and everyone here is super nice. It’s a great place to be.”

Thank you Wendi, Dolores, and Ashley for taking care of our FSP children and, in turn, giving their parents the chance to learn, grow, and get back on their feet. Your help is truly vital to their success!

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