Category Archive: Whats Happening

5 Strategies for Handling Food over the Holidays

As we head into the end-of-the-year holidays, you may be strategizing for all the holiday parties, family meals, work engagements, and friend get-togethers. Remember, there are 93 meals in the month of December, so treating yourself to a social event surrounding food will not derail you in the way we think of during the holidays.

1. Don’t deprive yourself, skip meals, or punish yourself with exercise.

The underlying theme of these strategies is shame. These types of behaviors encourage disordered thinking and behavioral patterns surrounding food. If you deprive yourself, your temptation to eat will start a shame cycle—“I shouldn’t eat this. If I do that means X (i.e. I’m out of control, I have no will power, I can’t be trusted)”. The reality is food is tasty, it holds memories for us, and it feeds the part of our brain that regulates pleasure. Don’t skip meals to “make up” for later calories. This will most likely result in eating more food than planned. And lastly, don’t punish yourself with exercise. We have all seen those images with the amount of exercise we need to “earn the treat”. Again, this continues the shame cycle—“only good people who exercise get the treat”. You don’t have to earn treats, you can walk or not, or eat the doughnut or not, but you don’t have to “earn” it.

2. Pace yourself and stay mindful.

The slower you eat the more you can enjoy the food. Mindful eating consists of really savoring the bites you take, tasting the food, and enjoying the process. Sometimes, particularly when we are very hungry, our brain takes a moment to catch up to the fact that we aren’t hungry anymore. This leads to overeating. So take a little bit of everything you want, really taste the food you are eating, and enjoy yourself! Have you ever noticed how easy it is to eat an entire container of anything while you watch TV at night? The same applies with holiday eating. If you are sitting at the snack table chatting with friends, you are more likely to mindlessly eat the snacks, versus if you looked at the snacks, chose what you really liked and wanted, and then mindfully ate those snacks. You will be less likely to overeat and more likely to feel mastery over the situation and feel less shame surrounding eating.

3. Bring a dish.

When you are not sure what your options will be, particularly if you have dietary needs that might leave you with few choices, bring your favorite dish. Being prepared can help you feel more in control of your eating options. Often we can’t choose what food is being prepared or presented. If you bring a dish, you can pick something you know will be filling or satisfying so it can be your main dish, while everything else is merely taste-size portions.

4. Watch the alcohol.

Be careful with alcohol use. After the first glass you are more likely to not make the best food decisions. Be sure to eat first and then drink as alcohol can hit you fast and cloud your judgment, especially on an empty stomach. Alcohol is more likely to cause you to overeat or make different food choices than when you’re sober. Also, alcohol is not calorie-free! It can be loaded with calories and its nutritional facts are usually hard to find, leading to less than well-informed choices. Alcohol might also bring up stronger feelings surrounding family dysfunction, relationship problems, or stress in general. It can increase tension and the holidays are stressful enough sober!

5. Don’t feel you have to be a part of the clean plate club.

Take a little bit of everything, but if you taste it and it’s not what you thought or not all that tasty, don’t finish it. If you’re in a culture or family where it is rude not to take a little bit of everything, including Aunt Betty’s aspic or your grandmother’s ambrosia fruit salad (with marshmallows and mayonnaise), take a little but don’t feel obligated to finish it. Often when we don’t make a big deal about it, no one will even notice. You can offer to clear the table or take your own plate to the sink.

The holidays can be a tough time for many reasons. Don’t make food one of them. Just remember—no shame, be mindful, and have fun. Happy holidays!

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: Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW
Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW is the Clinical Director 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: Sandy Weiss

Sandy Weiss prepares sets of food in JFS Orlando’s Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry for our hungry neighbors in Central Florida.

“I think it’s a privilege to work in the Pantry.” Sandy Weiss has volunteered with JFS Orlando since 2018, first as a RAISE coach and now as a full-fledged Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry volunteer. “I helped somebody with the RAISE (Recognizing Abilities & Inclusion of Special Employees) program here and I got to know the job description. So it just evolved.” Sandy has always had a big heart and a love for helping others.

Before moving to Orlando from NYC 48 years ago, Sandy started her career in teaching. “I taught elementary school—4th grade mostly. I was a teacher for 28 years!” While teaching, Sandy and her husband raised their two sons in Maitland (“We’ve lived in our same house for 43 years!”), and their family has now grown to include five grandchildren, some living in the area and some in Charlotte. Now retired, Sandy enjoys volunteering with RAISE and with JFS Orlando’s Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry.

“When I say I volunteer at the Pantry, people’s eyes light up. It just seems magical because it’s something that everybody is for—it’s not this thing or that thing, what people believe or not—we’re feeding and helping the world. And people are hungry!” Sandy notes how the people who come to the Pantry are always so grateful and almost a little embarrassed; they’ve just fallen on hard times. “These are people who are reasonable and they are reaching out. Working here grounds me and it helps me understand more of what’s behind the four walls of our lives. It just shows you that there is another world—you know about it, but when you actually see it, you just become so grateful.”

There have been many moments from working in the Pantry that have left an impression on Sandy, but one particular one stands out the most: “One gentleman came, 20 or 22-years old. That day we had a lot of produce and it was all over-flowing. I opened up the door and his eyes widened. He said, ‘Wow…I haven’t eaten in three days.’ Luckily we had a few bars to hand him. And at that time also, he had no way to get his food home. I said ‘How did you even find us?’ He said ‘I guess when you’re hungry.’ He had gone on the computer and he found us. He said ‘I promise I’m a really good person and I don’t do this kind of thing normally. I’m waiting and I had an interview with Taco Bell.’ All he wanted was a job at Taco Bell….”

Sandy had always wanted to volunteer at the Pantry and, now that she does, she wishes more people would support it too! “I just think people really don’t know. They know it’s a pantry and they say ‘Oh, that’s wonderful’, but they really don’t know. It’s a very happy and fulfilling place. It fills your heart with positivity in a world that is full of so much negativity. Volunteering at the Pantry is something that you can do that’s positive. It makes you happy and you’re putting a smile on someone’s face.”

You put a smile on our faces, Sandy. You are such a sweetheart and you provide such a warm, bright presence to everyone that come up to the Pantry door. We appreciate all that you do for the people we serve and we love having 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 Audrey.Cohen@JFSorlando.org.

The Bully Within

Bullying is an issue which has captured the national spotlight in recent memory. What once was seen as an unpleasant rite of passage for many in their formative years, is now analyzed and studied with a tender, urgent care. The US government, through the Department of Health and Human Services, has even contributed to the proliferation of information on prevention geared towards children, parents, schools and communities. And for good reason.

It is estimated that approximately 25% of students experience bullying in a given year. With the advent of social media, bullying has moved beyond the boundary of schoolyards and now reaches anywhere a phone, tablet, or laptop does, effectively edging out any place of solace from perpetrators. And the cost can be devastating. Not only has an increase in rates of depression and anxiety been noted but suicidal ideation and attempts have doubled as a result; given that suicide is the second leading cause of death among students in middle school and beyond, the clamor for answers is quite understandable.

Bullying is far more pernicious than even these studies and prevention programs suggest. It is a human behavior which is not solely reserved for prepubescent students. And the extent of its scope can reach far beyond school or social media.

What if a bully’s reach was so vast as to be inescapable?

What if there was no place of comfort to be had from taunts, jabs, and jeers?

What if the bully were able to follow you relentlessly no matter where you turned?

What if your biggest bully lived inside your own mind?

Our minds are always abuzz with thought. More frequently than we might like to admit, those thoughts about ourselves are less than positive. If we were to hear anyone else be spoken to in the manner we sometimes speak to ourselves internally, there is little doubt we would classify it as bullying. But there is likely more to our cognitive traffic than we might realize.

Aaron Beck, the father of cognitive psychology, noted when working with depressed patients that they tended to experience negative spontaneous thoughts which he coined automaticnegative thoughts. The other thoughts we have are part of our conscious stream of thinking and are referred to as self-talk, our inner dialogue.

Beck noted that automatic thoughts tend to be negative and center around the self (“I’m so pathetic”), the world (“everybody ignores me”), and the future (“nothing is ever going to improve”). Automatic negative thoughts are plenty as well as repetitive. Since they generate in our own minds and sound as though they are our own thoughts, it can be easy to misinterpret automatic thinking as reasoned rational arguments or observations about ourselves. A constant barrage of negative cognitions can lead to low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. If we then accept such thoughts as truth, then it becomes much easier to adopt them as value judgements and incorporate them into our conscious stream of thinking, thus becoming negative self-talk. This can easily plummet us downward into a sinking spiral of depression.

The silver lining to this darkening cloud of depressive thought is that it is a very typical experience shared by all; there is nothing abnormal about you for being subject to automatic negative thoughts. In fact, they are the reason behind the truism that we are our own worst critics. No matter how harsh the criticisms are which come from others, the voice inside our own minds is up to the task of topping them. Which leads into another positive which can allow us to poke holes through the clouds to let the sunshine in: we have the ability to control our own thinking. If we choose not to accept the negative automatic thoughts as true, then we can disrupt the tendency to add fuel to the fire by doubling down on negativity through our conscious self-talk.

So, how do we silence the bully within?

This can be accomplished by identifying, challenging, and then replacing the automatic negative thoughts in your mind. The tricky part is to become aware that you are being subjected to automatic negative thoughts before you incorporate them into your own conscious self-talk. One trick to accomplishing this is to give a name to your internal critic. This will allow you to distance who you are as a person from the automatic thoughts which pop up in your mind like so many prairie dogs of negativity. Labeling things comes naturally to us as human beings. If you give your critic a name, it becomes separate from you and gives you more power to challenge what it says about you. Make that nickname a silly or preposterous one and you take away its power, like “pantsing” the bully mid insult.

Once you have identified and named your inner bully, you can begin challenging the veracity of its claims. This is where automatic negative thoughts are at their weakest. When we accept them as true, we are often engaging in distorted thinking which we would not apply to negative comments about someone else. Here are three examples of how these distortions trick us into believing them.

1) All-or-nothing thinking:

These include evaluations about ourselves which are extreme, either black or white, with no gray in between. You can recognize such misleading thoughts because they use words like “always,” “never,” and “every.” It is one thing to be wrong in a given situation, nobody is perfect. But engaging in this kind of distortion would sound like “I am always wrong” or “I will never get this right.”

2) Selective abstraction:

This involves holding onto one detail taken out of context and ignoring everything else. This could be a form of perfectionism in which you believe you ruined a recital because of the mistake you made on one piece, or thinking that you are a failure in school because of the one “D” amidst the “A’s” and “B’s” on your report card.

3) Arbitrary inference:

This means drawing preliminary conclusions without sufficient evidence. An example of this would be thinking that your friend no longer likes you because they did not like your comment or return your text right away. It includes an arbitrary deadline and ignores other potential reasons for your friend’s inaction.

These automatic negative thoughts can be replaced once they are identified and challenged. This process silences the internal critic who bullies us into thinking that we are less than we really are. Life is challenging enough as it is without those sabotaging thoughts. Silencing our inner bully leaves us more emotionally whole and reduces our chances of developing low self-esteem, depression and anxiety. We owe it to ourselves, and to our emotional wellbeing, to be just as vigilant in preventing our inner bully as we are at preventing the schoolyard bully from causing pain and suffering to others.

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.

Volunteer Spotlight: Robin and Marty Katz

Robin and Marty Katz working together to fight hunger in JFS Orlando’s Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry.

Teamwork makes the dream work! Robin and Marty Katz have volunteered together with JFS Orlando for about a decade. “I do it with Marty because he does the heavy lifting and I do the sorting and putting away,” says Robin. “And so we have a very good teamwork!”

Robin, originally from Chicago, and Marty, originally from New York, met in Arizona. They ran their own restaurant there until they decided to move to Florida in 1997. They sold the restaurant and bought a new business in Florida, a tea distributorship. At the same time, Robin was also a counselor and teacher. Now both retired, they enjoy working out, staying healthy, and their individual hobbies. Marty plays the trumpet with the Maitland Symphony Orchestra and Robin enjoys playing Mahjong. Additionally, they both enjoy volunteering in JFS Orlando’s Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry.

“We’ve always known about JFS!” says Robin. “Actually, Marty started volunteering several years ago. I started to do it with him. We like volunteering together. It’s such a good thing. We feel so good about doing it.” Robin and Marty volunteer the first and second Monday of every month for a couple hours in the afternoon. “It’s the easiest way for you to do community service,” says Marty. “It’s do-able. It’s a two-hour stretch,” says Robin.

The Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry serves clients of all walks of life who have run into an emergency and simply need a “hand up” to make ends meet. People come to pick-up food in their car, on the bus, and even on bicycles and wheelchairs! It’s something that has made quite an impression on Robin. “It really gets to me when I see people going on the bus, carrying all of these things, on a rainy day. What they have to go through to get food is enormous!”

When asked what they like the most about volunteering with JFS, the answer is clear: “Feeding people!” says Marty. “And we really like connecting with the people,” says Robin. “We like the generosity of the donors. And we love the blessings and the thankfulness from the people who get it. It’s just a really good thing.”

Besides our wonderful Pantry Assistant, the Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry is almost entirely run by volunteers. It simply couldn’t function without them. That’s why, when asked what she wishes the community knew about JFS, Robin says “That they need more volunteers. And there’s a lot of people that volunteer, but they’re always calling for more. I wish more people would come and see how nice it is to do it…if they would just give it a try!”

Thank you Robin and Marty for caring so much for the Pantry and the people we serve. You two are the perfect example of a power couple and we love having 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 Audrey.Cohen@JFSorlando.org.

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 Audrey.Cohen@JFSorlando.org.

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 Ashlyn.Douglass-Barnes@JFSorlando.org 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 Sonja.Pollard@JFSorlando.org 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.


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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 Volunteers@JFSorlando.org.