11th COMMUNITY OF CARING LUNCHEON
Ken Weinberg, CEO
"Our Roots Run Deep"
Our theme today for the 11th Community of Caring Luncheon is "JFS in Full Bloom." I will address my remarks to this theme in a few moments. First, I cannot fail to address the fact that this is the last time I will be talking with you at our Luncheon as the CEO of JFS. 38 years have gone by since I came to this agency and to this community -- for 29 years I have been its Executive Director/CEO. And in that capacity, I have addressed you at each of our 11 Luncheons. This is not my farewell get together, which is on June 4th, but I will not be seeing all of you there -- so I will use this moment to thank you for many things.
The world spins each day. In its rotation, there is much pain and anguish. So I see all of us as healing a wounded world. Through our efforts, the world spins with a little less suffering. You have changed this world of ours by improving and nurturing our community -- that is no small feat. We all have righted more than one wrong, and I know we all will continue to do so for the rest of our lives. For your help, support, strength, goodness, sense of obligation and commitment, for being a JFS partner and for being my partner, I thank you!
Now on to our theme: "JFS in Full Bloom." When I picture a tree in full bloom, what comes to mind is the seed for such a tree. In and of itself at that moment, it is a seed -- almost nothing. But a seed is about potential, about viability, about survival, about the future, about expectation. I think of JFS -- like the people we serve and the donors who support us -- both as a seed and a grown tree. The seed is in all of us, it is our future potential and we can be, and are, blooming at the very same time.
"As long as we are persistent in our pursuit of our deepest destiny, we will continue to grow. We cannot choose the day or time when we will fully bloom. It happens in its own time." (Waitley)
What is blooming? It is about reaching; about reaching, stretching, almost hurting our arms and mind and soul. Reaching for the better. Reaching for wholeness, for contentment. Reaching for sun. For the light that sustains all living things.
Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equivalent or even greater benefit. But this benefit is illusive when we are in pain. I know this to be true for me, for you and those we help. When I was a kid, a seedling, I had an abusive father, an alcoholic grandfather and learning disabilities that landed me in special ed. classes "for slow learners." This seed did not fade but pushed through the earth, I moved aside the stones in my way and broke through the ground and planted myself and grew into who I am today. Not perfect -- not that I couldn't use some pruning -- but a tree that does at least periodically, bloom.
I recently read the following quote and I wish its intent for all of us here and for those we love and care about.
"I hope you go out and let stories happen to you, and that you work them, water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you see yourself burst into bloom."
Burst into bloom - what a glorious image that is. JFS programs are about offering safety and emotional and physical sustenance to those who seek shelter. But as we know so well, storms occur. They can be devastating. They can create an environment where nothing can bloom or stand strong against the wind. The storms are here; potentially enormous cuts in social services in our State, the Federal government sequestration plans and more to come. Where will it end? Where will our clients seek refuge? How can a seedling survive? How can a tree, as strong as it might be, not bend or even break against such a storm?
There was a film my wife and I saw last year called "Take Shelter." I think we were the only two people who saw this less than popular and depressing movie. However, we were moved by it -- moved by watching a man obsessed with building a storm shelter for his family, for what may be the greatest storm to ever strike. As he is ridiculed for his obsession at a community meeting, he yells to the group, "A storm is coming! A storm unlike anything you have ever imagined. What are you doing to get ready, to prepare? Don't you understand? The storm is coming!"
Well, a storm is coming. And it will hit ground fall. JFS has built a strong and mighty shelter for our community:
A shelter for families who are hungry, homeless, poor;
A shelter for victims of domestic violence and persons with addiction issues;
A shelter for families in crisis and older, vulnerable adults;
A shelter for the oppressed coming from other countries;
A shelter for those with disabilities;
A shelter that served 13,461 people this year!
There are those who care for the trees that provide shelter...and those people are each and every one of you. Your work, your support, your help provided our community with a tree whose blossoms are bursting. And, unfortunately, bursting too are the vast numbers of people who need our help, need you and need your commitment.
As I have gone around the community sharing my thoughts and feelings about retiring, one of the most critical things I say is that in my 38 years, the individuals and families in this community have never let this JFS down. If we tell the community what our clients are facing, what our challenges are, and you have responded. Never once have you failed. It is a profound response by you that I take away with me as a precious gift.
You planted this tree called JFS 121 years ago. You planted the seed that has allowed this Agency to stretch and grow into a mighty tree and a mighty shelter. You have fulfilled that which is stated in Isaiah:
"It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day and refuge hiding place from the storm and rain."
On behalf of our clients, on behalf of those who have gone through perilous times, and with the help of JFS, have come through to the other side, on behalf of the staff who work tirelessly through your support -- THANK YOU. I wish that each and every one of you burst into bloom and help those who struggle, just to feel the sunlight.