Jewish Family & Career Services doubled up on the nachas Thursday afternoon, March 17, celebrating its first annual meeting under CEO Rick Aranson, then breaking ground on its campus expansion and upgrade with the successful completion of a 16-month capital campaign.
That campaign started in November 2014 with a goal of $5.1 million, and JF&CS President John Perlman acknowledged skepticism about being able to raise that much during a slow recovery from recession in a Jewish community being asked for money for several major capital campaigns.
Last fall JF&CS revealed that rising construction costs had pushed the target to almost $5.5 million to complete the project as envisioned — consolidating services at the agency’s Dunwoody campus by bringing all the Tools for Independence training there, improving confidentiality in counseling, creating an area for internal and community collaboration, and generally ensuring, as Aranson said, that the facilities match the quality of the services JF&CS provides.
Campaign co-chairs Perlman and Cherie Aviv, backed by honorary chairs Lois Blonder and Ann and Michael Kay, more than did their job: Perlman officially closed the campaign March 17 with a total of $6.6 million raised.
The extra money will enable JF&CS to include some options in the project, such as new paint for the entire exterior, so that the old areas of the 1970s-era complex fit with the top-quality additions. Construction is expected to take nine months, with the new facilities ready in January.
Donors embraced the capital campaign and kept giving even when the goal was reached because JF&CS represents a Jewish community of caring, Perlman said. “People recognize it’s important to support that.”
The crowning gift of the campaign came from the Walter and Frances Bunzl Family Foundation, represented at the Dunwoody groundbreaking and the earlier annual meeting at Congregation B’nai Torah in Sandy Springs by matriarch Frances Bunzl and her daughter, Suzy Bunzl Wilner, who were the first recipients of the ceremonial yellow hard hats for the celebration.
The meeting included the announcement of two annual awards: the Herbert Kohn Meritorious Service Award to Cherie Aviv, the agency’s vice president of program, planning and evaluation, and the Stacy G. Fialkow Staff Appreciation Award to Chris Greer, a graphic designer.
All the good news came as JF&CS marked the 125th anniversary of its first predecessor agency, the Montefiore Relief Association, created in response to the influx of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. The annual meeting also provided an opportunity for Aranson to lay out his plans for the agency after nine months as CEO.
He said three things will drive JF&CS into the future: impact, adaptability and sustainability.
For impact, JF&CS wants to help clients achieve self-sufficiency and improve quality of life.
For adaptability, the agency is shifting from trying to deliver all services for which it finds a need to focusing on integration and collaboration with such partner agencies as Jewish Home Life Communities, the Marcus Jewish Community Center, the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and the Atlanta Community Food Bank.
Sometimes such collaboration will lead to something more: Aranson noted that JF&CS officially acquired One Good Deed, a nonprofit agency serving the elderly, on March 1.
As for sustainability, Aranson said it will be a consideration from Day 1 for any program JF&CS takes on. Fiscal responsibility and entrepreneurial innovation will go hand in hand as the agency strives to meet the needs of new clients, new volunteers and new donors.
After 125 years, JF&CS is moving confidently into the future, Aranson said. “We will get there.”