Category Archive: Whats Happening

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



The George & Madeline Wolly Center

JFS Orlando re-dedicates building “The George & Madeline Wolly Center” at A Brunch for Madeline

On Sunday, March 31, 2019, JFS Orlando hosted A Brunch for Madeline. This was a special event held in honor of the late Madeline Wolly and all of her love and support of JFS over the years.

George and Madeline Wolly, long-time supporters and great friends of JFS, worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for the less fortunate in the community. They began their Jewish communal work in 1985 when they both joined the JFS Board of Directors. George served as Board President from 1987 – 1989 and Madeline from 1996 – 1998. For many years, they raised funds and awareness for their beloved JFS so that the most vulnerable in the community could be helped.

To recognize their efforts, the JFS building was named in honor of the late George Wolly in 2001. When Madeline passed away last year, it only seemed fitting to add her name alongside her husband’s. Included in A Brunch for Madeline was a re-dedication of the JFS building as “The George & Madeline Wolly Center”.

“Sometimes affectionately called ‘Mrs. JFS’, Madeline was the epitome of what JFS Orlando stands for,” said Executive Director, Mike McKee. “Madeline loved JFS for a reason and it’s not hard to see why. This humble building on Lee Road makes the world a better place.”

More than 10,000 individuals are positively impacted annually by the programs and services they receive at JFS. In 2018, the Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry provided food for more than 68,000 meals, the Counseling, Growth and Development Program provided nearly 2,400 counseling sessions, and the Reliable Independent Drivers for the Elderly (RIDE) program transported elderly and disabled adults to more than 600 doctor’s appointments.

JFS is proud to name its building after the Wollys and to continue the legacy of this remarkable couple by serving those in need in the Central Florida community.

A Tribute to Stanley Shader

Long-time friend and supporter of JFS Orlando, Stan Shader passed away on Sunday, March 24, 2019 at the age of 93. Stan was a native to Orlando—born at Florida Hospital. Given his family’s commitment to Judaism and serving the community, he was destined to become a great contributor to the Jewish Community. Stanley’s grandfather, Israel Shader, brought the first torah to Orlando from Pittsburgh, PA. Growing up, Stanley was an active member in AZA which led to his interest in the Association of Jewish Family and Children’s Agencies where he served on the National Board and Executive Committee. He also served on Temple Israel’s Board and was a JFS Board member for over 15 years.

Stan’s dedication to JFS was great, so much so that he and his wife, Anne Shader, were honored during a JFS 1999 Evening of Tribute. The Orlando community was very fortunate to have such a dedicated supporter. Please join us in keeping Stan and his family in our thoughts and prayers.