Jewish Family, Career Services to expand facilities for wide array of social services

By David Pendered

Following the success of building a new Ben Massell Dental Clinic, the Jewish Family and Career Services of Atlanta is preparing to complete its campus in Dunwoody as it continues to collaborate with other social service agencies.

JFCS family day

At a family fun day in October, the staff and their families joined with clients and their families to celebrate the work being done by the JFCS’s Developmental Disabilities Services – Tools for Independence division. Credit: JFCS

“We need to band together to make sure the social needs that are important to us are provided,” said John Perlman, president of JFCS’s Executive Committee and co-chair of the agency’s Campaign to Complete the JFCS Campus. “We need to work with others so we don’t duplicate efforts.”

The organization is nearing the end of a $5.1 million fund raising campaign. Perlman said the campaign is now being opened to the general public in order to raise the final few hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to complete the planned construction.

The organization serves a client base that’s about 50 percent Jewish and 50 percent who aren’t Jewish. The board of directors was diversified to represent the evolution of the client base, Perlman said. The Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta awarded JFSC the Managing for Excellence Award in 2012-2013.

The capital campaign, and the expansion it is to fund, was started under the leadership of former CEO Gary Miller. Miller led the organization for 24 years and stepped down in July to take a strategic advisory role. Miller was succeeded by Rick Aranson, who had served as COO for 11 years, according to a statement released in January.

At the time, Miller wrote:

  • “We are building needed and specialized space for the vocational training/support programs serving adults with developmental disabilities. In addition the plan includes the reconfiguration of space serving counseling clients with psycho-social service needs that embraces a private practice model. I am, indeed, proud to continue to participate in this exciting expansion.”
JFCS, Entrance

A new entrance to the JFCS building will increase privacy of clients by having one entrance for career counseling and another for other social services. Credit: JFCS

According to Perlman, modifications to the existing building are intended to increase the confidentiality of clients and increase physical security. A new building will provide services for clients with developmental or intellectual disabilities. Perlman serves as president of Adams & Co. Real Estate, Inc., and has overseen JFCS properties and buildings for many years

At the existing center, the work includes adding a new entrance for those seeking career counseling. This will prevent the need for them to interact with those visiting for help battling substance abuse or for educational testing.

Cameras that will be linked to a secure Internet connection are to be added to enable parents to watch their child’s test from a remote location. Currently, parents must attend with the child and watch the procedure through a one-way mirror.

Electronic door locks will be added to counseling rooms, to increase the level of security. Perlman said safety has not been an issue. Sound-proofing will be enhanced.

The new building is to provide room for programs that already have prompted the center to expand. Services were moved from the basement of a house to a 3,300-square-foot facility in Chamblee. The new building will provide 8,300 square feet of space on the main JFCS campus.

JFCS, The Hub

JFCS plans to build a structure to provide additional space on campus to provide services for clients with developmental or intellectual disabilities. Credit: JFCS

“We’re building a state of the art facility where we can help each and everyone reach their potential,” Perlman said. “We’ve needed more space and better facilities. A lot of clients are in wheelchairs and use public transit. We need a covered space where MARTA can be out of the way and where clients won’t get wet in the rain as they’re brought into the building.”

JFCS has grown significantly since moving to Dunwoody in 1995 from the basement of a homeless shelter in Midtown. The organization has reshaped its programs over time to focus on needs that aren’t being met elsewhere, and downsizing or eliminating programs that are better handled by others, Perlman said.

“We used to do homeless, but we don’t do it as well as others,” Perlman said. “Similarly, Meals on Wheels. We used to make an effort to deliver kosher, but we discovered that kosher wasn’t important – they wanted good, fresh and hot. So now we collaborate. They take care of clients we used to have, and if they have clients who needs counseling, they bring them to us.

“The Atlanta Community Food Bank lets us get kosher stuff to put in our food pantry,” Perlman said. “We collaborate with the Jewish Community Center, where they have an afternoon program where our guys can go play basketball, play sports. We send clients to visit at senior housing nearby. Anything where we can collaborate is good.”

Based partly on the success of the Massell Dental Clinic, Perlman is confident the new facilities will enable JFSC to help meet these other needs of the community. The clinic provides comprehensive dental care with social service and health screening supports.

“The Massell Dental Clinic is the largest in the country,” Perlman said. “It has 150 dentists and 10,000 individuals who come for everything from cleaning to dentures, and even implants. That was our capital campaign 10 years ago. We’re probably 40 percent over our initial goal.”

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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