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JFS Perspectives

News, stories, events, and ideas from Jewish Family Service of Colorado.

Seniors Matter: The Powerful Impact of Pets

Friday, July 31, 2015
By Buffy Sophinos, JD, MSW, Jay and Rose Phillips Senior Solutions Center care manager

senior and dogMany people consider their pets to be an integral part of their family. For seniors and those living alone, pets can have a profound impact on quality of life. By owning a pet, seniors can:
  • Improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Some studies have shown that the act of petting immediately reduces blood pressure.
  • Find a sense of purpose.
  • Reduce loneliness and depression.
  • Have someone to talk to.
  • Increase physical activity—pets require food, water, exercise, and medical care.
  • Have motivation for self-care out of a sense of responsibility for the pet.
I recently visited a client who became lonely and isolated after her husband passed away. A few weeks ago, a family member asked if she would adopt his cat. She never expected to develop much of a relationship with her new furry roommate, but now she loves having someone to cuddle and feed. She likes to take the cat outside on a leash where they can both enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. She talks to the cat to break up the quiet and says it has helped her cope with the loss of her husband.

With all the potential benefits of having a pet, losing a pet can be heartbreaking. Pets are sometimes lost due to death or illness, but people who are sick or aging may lose pets for other reasons. Seniors may choose to give up a pet that they can no longer physically or financially care for. When people move into apartments, assisted living, or nursing care, beloved pets may not be allowed to join them.

For many seniors, loss has become a consistent experience. As they age, they lose friends, family members, and neighbors. They face the possibility of losing physical abilities or mental faculties. Having left the workforce and/or having seen their children move out and start families of their own, seniors may lose a sense of identity or purpose. Pets help fill some of the gaps that are left by these losses. The added loss of a pet can lead to loneliness and depression—the very issues that pets help address.

As family, friends, and caregivers, we can provide support to seniors who face the loss of a pet. If possible, we can help prevent loss by providing assistance like changing the litter box, walking the dog, taking the pet to the vet, or even assisting financially. If a senior does lose a pet, the best thing you can do is provide a safe place where he or she can grieve and talk about this loss, and any other loss, without fear of judgment.

Buffy SophinosBuffy Sophinos, JD, MSW received her master’s degree in social work in 2010 and Juris Doctor in 2011 from the University of Denver, before joining Jewish Family Service in 2012. Her experience is focused primarily on assisting clients and families as they make decisions about the future. She has also worked at two assisted living communities, an elder law firm, and the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado.

Record Attendance at 2015 Celebrate JFS

Friday, June 26, 2015

Nearly 300 people—our biggest crowd for this event—attended Celebrate JFS, Jewish Family Service's annual meeting and celebration of volunteers, board, supporters, and staff held this past Monday evening. Guests of all ages gathered at Palazzo Verdi near Fiddler’s Green, and sampled sumptuous hors d’oeuvres and drinks while mingling and enjoying the art in the adjacent Madden Museum.

Para-chaplain Elliott Magalnick and Rabbi Gruenwald.

After about an hour, the guests were seated for a short program. Rabbi Salomon Gruenwald, JFS board member and rabbi of Hebrew Educational Alliance, gave an inspirational D’var Torah (commentary) about the important work JFS does for the community. Para-chaplain Elliott Magalnick beautifully sang the Shehecheyanu blessing, a common Jewish prayer said to celebrate special occasions and to be thankful for new and unusual experiences.

Nancy Benyamin and Maury Kroopnick with the award.

Nancy Benyamin, director of volunteer services, thanked all of our volunteers, gave some highlights of volunteer achievements from the past year, and introduced the Max
Frankel Volunteer of the Year Award recipient, Maury Kroopnick. Maury is a volunteer with the Jay and Rose Phillips Senior Solutions Center at JFS who has already dedicated more than 1,000 hours since the end of 2013 and spends 15–20 hours per week at JFS. He graciously accepted the award and said he feels fortunate to give back to a great organization during his retirement.

Yana Vishnitsky presents the gavel to Eric Pollock.

President & CEO Yana Vishnitsky gave an update from the past year’s programs and events, and educated guests about the latest agency news. She presented a gavel to Eric Pollock to thank him for his two-year term as board chair. Eric eloquently thanked everyone for the last two years' successes and shared that his grandmother was the JFS board chair more than 60 years ago. Then he used the new gavel to conduct the official board business by thanking outgoing members Marc Cohen, Alan Mayer, Rob Naiman, and Michele Right. Then he introduced the new board chair, Jane E. Rosenbaum, who briefly spoke and, as her first official act as board chair, installed new board members David Feiner, Leanna Harris, Carol Karshmer, and Mindy Levy Peckar.

Thank you to David Lissy of Lissy Brenner Photography for taking wonderful event pictures! View more here…

Thank you everyone who attended this event! We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. If you were there, please leave your comments—we'd love your feedback!

-Alaina Green, JFS Marketing Department

Community Members Lend a Hand at Colorado Senior Connections Edgewater Day of Service

Friday, June 05, 2015


On Saturday, May 16, community members from Edgewater, Colorado and those from the surrounding areas came in force to meet up, team up, and do great things for seniors in Edgewater! The Colorado Senior Connections Edgewater annual Day of Service began two years ago in the fall to help local seniors tidy up their properties, as it is getting harder to do it themselves.

This year, we added a Spring Day of Service so we could provide a much-needed yard clean up after the winter months. Our first spring event was a huge success; more than 50 volunteers from in and around Edgewater served 13 homes!

The volunteers included neighbors in Edgewater, Jefferson Unitarian Church members, Jefferson High School students, Edgewater City Council members, City of Edgewater Community Services staff, Jewish Family Service staff, and others!

Our strong tradition of helping seniors in the Edgewater area was proven once again. Without the support of wonderful volunteers and the trust the residents give us, we couldn’t make it happen!

-By Felica Goett, MAEd, Colorado Senior Connections Edgewater Activities and Volunteer Coordinator

Mental Health Matters: How to Deal with a Personal Crisis at Work

Friday, May 29, 2015


Guest blog post for Mental Health Awareness Month by Laura Grushcow, MSSA, LCSW, JFS Mental Health Specialists Therapist

In April 2013, I received the telephone call that all of us dread: a close family member, who lives out of state, had been diagnosed with a potentially terminal illness and treatment options were being explored and pursued. As I look back over the last two years, I think about the various demands that were presented by this. Although there were endless family challenges, one of the biggest challenges for me was figuring out my role as an employee/coworker during an extended period of unpredictability, anxiety, and sadness brought on by personal circumstances.

In my situation, the trauma was family illness. However, I believe the same process and challenges exist in any family-related difficulty and in any profession. Challenges exist whether you are a clinician, teacher, bookkeeper, secretary, or attorney. The difficulty might be prolonged unemployment of a spouse, marital issues, unresolved legal matters, significant financial problems, aging parents living in another state, or ongoing psychological problems of a spouse or child. These are difficult situations that don’t completely turn off the moment you leave your house for work. They all have the potential to generate a variety of emotions throughout the day.

In my situation, the questions that arose included:
  • With which coworkers do I share this personal information and how much should I share?
  • What do I do when I am feeling overwhelmed with sadness and have a meeting to attend in the next few minutes?
  • Do I want colleagues to inquire about my family member, clearly showing concern, but potentially triggering sadness in a place where I need to focus and work?
  • Do I want colleagues not to say anything?
Each of us in these varied situations probably has different questions and different answers. The one common thread for every employee dealing with ongoing family-related stress at work is the need to take care of him- or herself, both at home and at the office. In my experience, I felt that the most important coping mechanism I could use at work was understanding myself and valuing what I needed each workday, sharing this with my supervisor, and identifying what I needed from my coworkers and communicating this to them (i.e., “This moment isn’t good and I don’t want to talk” or “Let’s get a cup of coffee”).

Coworkers want to be sensitive and helpful. By directly telling them what you need, it opens a path for them to follow and allows you to maximize your strength as a professional throughout the crisis. Mine was a significant family trauma, but each of us has personal life challenges which we carry and with which we need to deal on a regular basis.

Laura GrushcowLaura Grushcow, MSSA, LCSW has been a JFS therapist since 1997. She focuses her practice on clinical work with children, adolescents, families, and adults. She works extensively with adults dealing with life transitions, including “empty nest” issues, partner relationship issues, and older adults struggling with redefinition of roles. In addition to her therapy practice, she participates in the KidSuccess school-based counseling team, working with students at Thomas Jefferson High School.

Keeping It Kosher: Space Available in Kosher Meals on Wheels Program!

Friday, May 22, 2015

This blog post is part of our series for Older Americans Month in May. We receive funding from the Older Americans Act for our Kosher Meals on Wheels program.

JFS currently has room in its Kosher Meals on Wheels (KMOW) program for more seniors to receive kosher meals delivered to their homes. To receive meals, an individual must be at least 60 years old and assessed as homebound. He or she must be Jewish or have a spiritual need to receive kosher food. There is no cost to receive meals, but an optional monthly donation is appreciated.

A hot meal is delivered Monday through Friday and special meals are delivered prior to Jewish holidays, such as Passover and the High Holy Days. Clients get nonfat dry milk powder twice per month and a small emergency box of shelf-stable items in the fall. If JFS will be closed for a holiday, a frozen meal is pre-delivered. Each meal consists of a cup of soup, entrée and sides, such as vegetables, fruits, and breads, which are needed to provide at least one-third of the recommended daily nutrients for older adults.

However, this program is about so much more than food; it is also about reducing social isolation and increasing peace of mind. Buffy Fox, JFS care manager and KMOW coordinator, says, “The participants like that someone [the driver] comes to their home every day and that they have someone to talk to. There is also the comfort of knowing that someone is checking on them and that there is a support system in place. Many clients develop a personal relationship with the driver and look forward to their daily visits.”

One KMOW recipient, says, “My driver is wonderful. I love seeing her smile every day. She really cares how I am doing and always helps if I need it.”

Also, KMOW has an important safety component. The driver can’t leave the meal outside; he or she must deliver it to the client personally. If the client doesn’t answer, the driver calls the emergency contact. “In most cases, the senior doesn’t answer because he or she is asleep,” says Buffy. “However, we have had a few cases where someone had fallen and our driver was able to help.”

A spousal caregiver of her wheelchair-bound husband says the KMOW program “takes away the stress. Especially when we have a hard day getting him showered and dressed and ready to go, it’s nice to know I don’t have to make lunch, too.”

Those who are not assessed as homebound but need kosher meals and want to socialize with other seniors, can go to the Volunteers of America (VOA) kosher lunch program each weekday at 11:45 a.m. at the JCC for a recommended donation of $2.50.

This program is a collaboration among Volunteers of America (VOA), Jewish Family Service (JFS), Shalom Cares, and JEWISHcolorado.

For more information or to sign up for Kosher Meals on Wheels, please contact Buffy Sophinos at 720.248.4665.

-Alaina Green, JFS Marketing Department

11th Annual JFS Executive Luncheon Featuring Earvin “Magic” Johnson Raises Record Amount

Friday, May 15, 2015

Our office is still buzzing with excitement from last week’s amazing JFS Executive Luncheon! Basketball legend and businessman Earvin “Magic” Johnson entertained and inspired a nearly 1,000 business and professional leaders attending Jewish Family Service’s (JFS) 11th annual JFS Executive Luncheon held on May 7 at the Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center.

Magic surprised everyone (including JFS staff) by auctioning off packages including: autographed Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and his own basketball jerseys; seven seats (including one floor seat) to Lakers games; and dinner with Magic if he’s in town. Five groups of people purchased these packages for a total of $125,000 and Johnson donated an additional $25,000 to Jewish Family Service. Attendees donated more than $64,000 in the room to make an anonymous $50,000 challenge grant match. In total, the event raised $815,000, making it the most successful fundraiser in JFS history.

Before Magic took the stage, the audience was moved by Christy Morris, a JFS client who shared that JFS gave her the tools to take her life back after struggling with alcohol abuse, job losses, and hunger. Christy was previously a donor and as she wrote the first check at the event, she pronounced that she came “full circle” by becoming a JFS donor again. She said, "I'm on the path to success and it feels good!" Watch the powerful video in which Christy bravely shares her story.

Magic Johnson, one of the most powerful businessmen in the world, addressed the audience with life lessons he’s learned on the basketball court and in business. He shared pearls of wisdom, such as, “How successful you will be in life is measured by how much you help others” and credited his father for giving him a strong work ethic and values. He also said that competition makes you better and specifically, “Larry Bird made me better. He was the best and smartest player I ever played.”

He engaged the audience by bringing children up from the crowd to illustrate some of his points. A Celtics fan in the room asked if he would ever consider running for office, to which Magic answered, “No. I don’t want to be put in a box by being in politics; I want to be out raising money in the community like I am today.” He then proceeded to the auction and enlisted six kids to hold the basketball jerseys while he raised money like a professional auctioneer.

Thank you to more than 100 companies, organizations, foundations, and individuals supported the event through sponsorships. Thank you to our event co-chairs Alan Mayer, Meyer Saltzman, and Sam Zaitz, who helped us sell sponsorships and fill the room. Dave Logan, former NFL wide receiver and voice of the Denver Broncos, served as the emcee.

And thank you to everyone who attended the luncheon! We’d love to hear your feedback—please post comments here!

Check out more event photos…

Check out photos and tweets from the event on Twitter using hashtag #JFSEL15.

-Alaina Green, JFS Marketing Department

JFS Homemaker Services Are a Blessing

Friday, May 08, 2015
This blog post is part of our series for Older Americans Month in May. We receive funding from the Older Americans Act for our homemaker program. Below is a story of one couple that receives homemaker services and how it helps them stay independently in their home.

Charles Bell, Sharon Bell, and JFS homemaker, Phaleacha Shinault.
Standing in back is JFS home-based services coordinator, Ron Crowell.

Charles Bell, 68, is a proud man. He’s proud that he was able to work hard and support his family. He’s proud that he was self-sufficient and took care of himself and his wife Sharon. Charles was a truck driver and worked long hours on the road. The money was good and he made enough to put a little aside for his retirement. He looked forward to his golden years when he could enjoy his favorite pastime of fishing.

All that changed in 2007 when he needed a hernia operation.

Today Charles is dealing with severe dementia, which he believes was initiated by the excessive medications he took following his operation. As a result of the surgery and the related complications, he was never able to return to work. He is in constant pain from the mesh material that was used to repair the hernia, and has undergone a number of additional surgeries. He avoids taking any pain medication because it will exacerbate his dementia. All of this has been very difficult on him—physically, mentally, and emotionally. He can hardly talk about it before tears start to roll down his cheeks.

As Charles’ primary caregiver, the situation has also been difficult for Sharon. As 65, she has her own health issues and struggles to properly care for Charles and their two-bedroom apartment in Denver’s Windsor Gardens.

That’s where Jewish Family Service (JFS) has been able to help. Thanks to a grant from the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG), JFS has been able to provide a homemaker who comes to the Bells’ apartment for a couple of hours every other Monday. Phaleacha does all of the cleaning that Sharon can no longer do. She deep cleans the bathroom and kitchen, changes the sheets, vacuums, and straightens up the apartment and takes out the trash.

JFS also takes care of some little things that make life easier for the Bells. Their JFS care manager recently provided a stool for their shower to help prevent falls and ensure their safety. JFS staff checks in on them frequently, just to make sure they’re doing okay.
For Sharon, it’s a godsend. “Having this little bit of help has meant that we can continue to live in our apartment,” she says. “With all of Charles’ healthcare needs, I don’t have the energy or ability to keep things up like I used to.”
The Bells live on a fixed income, with little money to spare. Their sole source of income is social security, and it isn’t enough to support them. To make ends meet, Sharon volunteers at her church’s food pantry where she can also take home some food. The couple couldn’t possibly afford to hire a homemaker.

“Our kids help a little, but without this program, I don’t think we would make it,” says Sharon. “This allows us a little independence so we can stay here. Who knows where we would be without it.”

Caring for Charles is Sharon’s top priority, and it’s a full-time job. “His memory-loss issues have been so hard on him,” she says. “I want to make sure he is treated with the dignity and care he deserves.”

While fishing is not Sharon’s favorite pastime, she does her best to get Charles out to Cherry Creek Reservoir with his fishing rod whenever she can. “He enjoys that and as long as I can bring along a good book, I enjoy it, too,” she confesses.
Sharon and Charles are very grateful for the help they get from Jewish Family Service and DRCOG. “Everything is a blessing,” she says.

-John Kayser, JFS Marketing Department

Older Americans Month 2015: “Get into the Act”

Friday, May 01, 2015
Older Americans Month logo

Older adults are a vital part of our society. Since 1963, communities across the country have shown their gratitude by celebrating Older Americans Month each May. The theme of this year’s celebration is “Get into the Act,” to focus on how older adults are taking charge of their health, getting engaged in their communities, and making a positive impact in the lives of others.

The theme also reflects on the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Older Americans Act into law in July 1965. Since that time, the Act has provided a nationwide aging services network and funding that helps older adults live with dignity in the communities of their choice for as long as possible. These services include home-delivered and congregate meals, caregiver support, community-based assistance, preventive health services, elder abuse prevention, and much more.

By promoting and engaging in activity, wellness, and inclusivity, more Americans than ever before can “Get into the Act.” While Jewish Family Service (JFS) provides a variety of programs and services to help older adults stay active, healthy, independent, and cared for year-round, Older Americans Month offers an opportunity to emphasize how older adults can access the home- and community-based services they need to live independently in their communities. It is also an occasion to highlight how older adults are engaging with and making a difference in those communities.

JFS receives funding from the Older Americans Act for several of our senior programs and we will highlight a few of those in blog posts during the month of May. We invite you to learn more about the programs and services offered through the Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation Senior Solutions Center at Jewish Family Service!

-Alaina Green, JFS Marketing Department

Top 10 Reasons to Attend JFS Executive Luncheon Featuring Earvin “Magic” Johnson

Monday, April 20, 2015

Jewish Family Service of Colorado's annual fundraiser, the JFS Executive Luncheon, featuring Earvin "Magic" Johnson will be held on Thursday, May 7 at noon. If you haven't already bought your tickets, here are the top 10 reasons to attend!

10. The program is short and sweet and you’ll be back to work (or your next stop) by 1:30.

9. All your friends are going and you don’t want to be left out!

8. The chance to network with more than 1,000 business leaders in Denver.

7. No rubber chicken will be served!

6. You can brag to your friends and family that you were in the same room with a basketball and business legend.

5. The Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center is easily accessible by light rail or the 16th Street Mall shuttle if you don’t want to park downtown (but there are plenty of good places to park, too).

4. View an inspirational video about a JFS client whose story and experiences could happen to anyone.

3. Hear the “Power of Magic” from Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who is so much more than just a former basketball player!

2. Learn how Magic Johnson, the business mogul, has successfully parlayed his skills and tenacity on the court into the business world, propelling his company, Magic Johnson Enterprises, to the status of the number one brand in urban America.

And the number one reason to attend the JFS Executive Luncheon on May 7 is...

1. To support JFS's important work in the areas of mental health counseling, senior and adult in-home care, disability and employment services, and family safety net services.

I hope I convinced you to get your tickets today and tell your friends to do the same!

-Alaina Green, JFS Marketing Department

Let’s Go Fly and Make a Kite: Grandparents Must Be Supervised

Friday, March 27, 2015


This week was spring break in Wheat Ridge and we know many grandparents are charged with figuring out how to entertain their grandkids during their break. A “Grandparents Must Be Supervised” program is our solution. In this program, we create fun, interactive activities for grandparents and grandkids to enjoy together over extended holidays. It is an opportunity for seniors to connect and kids to play.

This spring break we partnered with the Wheat Ridge Kite Flite Festival. They approached Colorado Senior Connections to ask how they could get more seniors to their event on April 25. Of course the answer is simple — with their grandkids! Kite Flite sponsored a kite making workshop this week and provided a kite expert to teach the kids and grandparents how to build and fly their beautiful, colorful, homemade kites. Everyone left with a kite and string ready to hit the park and continue the fun.

Colorado Senior Connections knows that fun, lifelong learning, and access to information are some of the secrets to healthy aging. We feel lucky that we can help create intergenerational opportunities, fostering fun memory-making experiences, and support seniors wherever they are in their own aging process.

-Alison Joucovsky, MA, LPC, Colorado Senior Connections program coordinator

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