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Donor Spotlight: Aetna’s Commitment to Healthy Communities

Pictured above is Karen Sivel, senior account manager at Aetna, speaking at this year’s JEVS Strictly Business event.

On November 1, 2019, JEVS Human Services held Strictly Business, marking the organization’s 21st annual fund-raising and networking event. This year’s luncheon honored four remarkable JEVS clients who have faced challenges, but found the strength to achieve their personal and career goals with help from JEVS.

Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we raised $341,000 to fund scholarships to JEVS’ vocational assessment, job readiness, skills training, and career management services for individuals in need.

We would not be able to make hope happen for the nearly 30,000 individuals we serve each year without the support of our donors and volunteers.  They selflessly donate their dollars and time to support our mission of providing the most vulnerable in our community with the resources they need to reach their potential and achieve the highest quality of life.

This month, we want to shine the spotlight on a very special donor and partner—Aetna.

JEVS’ partnership with Aetna began five years ago and has continued to flourish. As a company committed to improving the overall health and wellness of its members, Aetna shares the same goal as JEVS: strengthening our communities by providing individuals with the tools and resources they need to lead a healthy, successful life.

“Through investments in organizations like JEVS, Aetna is committed to supporting and empowering the work that empowers and benefits our members and communities.”-Karen Sivel, Senior Account Manager, Aetna

Not only has Aetna generously sponsored our annual Strictly Business event, but they have also participated in many of our volunteer activities. Over the past year, Aetna employees have volunteered their time as mentors in JEVS’s new 3 Cups of Coffee program, which helps job seekers expand their professional network and discover new career opportunities.

In April, Aetna helped to sponsor the JEVS Prom event for members of our programs that are re-engaging Philly young adults facing uncertain futures. Then in August, Aetna donated to JEVS 600 crayons and pencil cases to put into backpacks for children of needy families enrolled in our programs so they could have a great start to the school year.

Aetna—thank you for your continued support. It is partnerships like the one we share that allow us to truly make a difference in our communities.





3 Cups of Coffee® is Brewing Connections for Local Job Seekers

Pictured is Brianna Goebel, a 3 Cups of Coffee mentee, at her local Saxbys. Saxbys provides free coffee for our mentors and mentees during meetings at their locations. 

Whether you are fresh out of college, looking to change careers, or currently unemployed, it can be very challenging to find a new job these days. With all the competition out there, it can be difficult to rise above the crop and really stand out.

Expanding your professional network can help accelerate your job search and open doors to more (and unexpected) opportunities. Like they say, it’s “who you know.”

How can you do that? The answer is in 3 Cups of Coffee®.

3 Cups of Coffee® is a short-term mentorship program, created by Pennsylvania Women Work and operated in Philadelphia by JEVS Human Services. The program pairs job seeking individuals with volunteer mentors in their desired field of work. The pair meet three times for an hour at a local coffee shop over a six-week period. Together, they create a customized plan that identifies career goals and employment possibilities, while connecting the mentee with others in their field.

The program in Philadelphia is celebrating its one-year anniversary and has matched 62 mentor/mentee pairs since its launch. After meeting one of these pairs, it’s clear that there are perks to being a mentor or a mentee in 3 Cups of Coffee®.

Meet Brianna and Stephanie

Brianna Goebel was in her last semester at the University of Pennsylvania when she stumbled upon a 3 Cups of Coffee® flyer at the Saxbys on campus. It was during finals, and she had already been stressing about securing a job post-graduation.

Goebel knew she wanted a career in health care policy, but after applying to many jobs and not receiving any response from the employers, she wanted to know what she was doing wrong. With a desire to get advice from someone in her field, she decided to give 3 Cups of Coffee® a try.

A couple weeks later, Goebel was matched with Stephanie Ledesma, COO of Aetna Better Health of Pennsylvania. Ledesma was able to offer Goebel a unique insight into the health care field and connect her with people in the industry.  During their first meeting, Ledesma informed Goebel of an internship opportunity with Aetna. Goebel jumped at the opportunity and landed the office assistant position.

For Goebel, the best part of this program was learning about Ledesma’s experiences throughout her career and gaining valuable advice to help her reach her career goals.

“It’s an extra support,” said Goebel. “It was really nice to get that outside perspective.”

For Ledesma, the most rewarding part of being a mentor is knowing that those three hours of her time are helping someone move toward that next step in their career.

“Reflecting back on my career and some of those earlier experiences, I felt it was a good opportunity to pay it forward,” said Ledesma. “When you have had some level of success in your career, you recognize that it didn’t happen without hard work and others helping you. I want to give someone that leg up that others gave me.”

Since Goebel did an exceptional job as an intern, Ledesma informed her immediately when a full-time position was available. Goebel will be starting her full-time job as a project coordinator with Aetna next week.

> Interested in joining 3 Cups of Coffee as a mentor or a mentee? Learn more here.

Honoring Our Direct Support Professionals: The Unsung Heroes of JEVS

JEVS Human Services would not be able to carry out its mission of making hope happen without our dedicated, compassionate employees. Each of our employees plays an important role in helping the most vulnerable in our communities achieve independence and the highest quality of life. One of the most vital positions at JEVS is that of the direct support professional.

Direct support professionals (DSPs) provide around-the-clock care and support to individuals with disabilities so they can achieve their full potential and independence while remaining engaged with their community. DSPs assist our community home residents— with daily challenges that many take for granted—by providing personal care (dressing, feeding, bathing, etc.), assuring they are taking necessary medication, bringing them to doctor’s appointments, supporting their involvement in community activities and more.

To our staff, being a DSP is more than a job. It’s about establishing relationships with the individuals and caring for them as if they are a part of a DSP’s family. It’s putting the residents’ needs and interests before their own. It’s making independent decisions to ensure each person’s health and safety.

September 8-14, 2019 was celebrated nationally as Direct Support Professional Recognition week, and we would like to thank all of our DSPs for their unwavering commitment to our clients. You are the heart and soul of our Community Supports & Adult Residential programs and we appreciate all that you do.

Meet Our DSPs

We had the pleasure of speaking with Linda Womack and Carolyn Allen, direct support professionals who have both worked for JEVS for an amazing 30 years! They became friends when they started working together as DSPs in 1989 and have remained close ever since.

Womack explained that when she first started out, she didn’t think this job was her calling. But it didn’t take her long to fall in love with it.

“Interacting with the residents is my favorite part of the job,” she said. “I would like to think I make a difference in the lives of the individuals I support.”

And while the job is very rewarding, it can also be really tough. When a client that Womack helped for 27 years passed away, she said it was like losing a member of her family.

When we spoke with Allen, she also emphasized how the residents grow on you and become a part of your family.

“I chose this field because I love helping people,” she said. “The residents become family, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world.”

Interested in becoming a direct support professional at JEVS? Apply HERE.

Meet Jabari: A JEVS Personal Coach Helping Students Overcome Barriers to Success

JEVS Human Services has partnered with nonprofit Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) to offer a unique post-secondary education to help residents in the Delaware Valley earn their degree. With flexible, affordable and supported online degree programs, students can graduate with a SNHU degree in as little as 18 months.

One thing that separates this new partnership between SNHU and JEVS from other college degree programs is assistance from a personal coach. Once a student is enrolled in the program, a JEVS coach will be provided to support them along the path to earning a degree.

Many adults would like to earn their associate or bachelor’s degree, but have barriers that are preventing them from achieving their educational goals. This is where Jabari comes in. Jabari, a JEVS post-secondary success coach, is here to help students overcome the challenges that may hinder their progress in the SNHU degree program. He explained that there are a variety of roadblocks that adult students face including financial aid, housing, child care, literacy and more.

“The goal of the program is to become a one-stop shop for SNHU students and provide them with the resources they need to stay on track with their projects and graduate,” he said. “We have been speaking to other organizations about what our program does and how we can work together.”

The SNHU + JEVS degree program, featuring a personal coach, benefits the following types of individuals:

  • working adults who need a degree to move up the corporate ladder
  • college students who may not have completed their degree
  • young adults seeking alternative degree programs
  • those who want to tackle college online

The Personal Coach

The personal coach provided by JEVS is different than an academic coach or a tutor. In addition to providing students with resources, Jabari helps them fill out their application and walks them through the financial aid process. He also assists students with time management and would like to initiate office hours so students can have a quiet space to work.  In the future, Jabari would like to develop workshops for the students that would discuss topics such as “how to start a business” or even “how to purchase a home.”

About two weeks ago, Jabari went to a friend’s house for a cookout and learned that one of his best friend’s sisters could really benefit from the program. He said he will be meeting with her to talk about how the program can fit into her schedule.

“The fact that I can personally reach people I know that don’t have a degree to help them advance in their career is extremely rewarding,” said Jabari.

Ready to advance your career? Learn how Southern New Hampshire University, powered by JEVS, can help you earn your degree HERE.

Watch our explainer video to learn more about the dynamics of the JEVS coach:

How powerful are three cups of coffee? For these mentors and mentees, java leads to jobs.

Photo by Jessica Griffin / Inquirer Staff Photographer

By Shaun Brady / Philadelphia Inquirer

When Liberty Gaither moved to Philadelphia in January, she had a lot going for her: a degree in finance from the University of Pittsburgh; experience in sales and marketing; and a wealth of disparate interests, from writing poetry to political advocacy to launching a fashion-critique website.

One thing the Atlanta native didn’t have was a professional network in her newly adopted city. Seven months after Gaither’s arrival, that lack has translated into an ongoing — and often frustrating — job search.

“People say, ‘It’s all about who you know.’ And if I’m in a place where I don’t know anyone, that doesn’t bode very well for me,” Gaither said. “When I got here I jumped right in and started applying for jobs, going to job fairs and networking events, having a few interviews. But I’ve found it difficult to make [inroads] in a new city that’s much bigger than the one I’m used to.”

Gaither’s situation made her an ideal candidate for 3 Cups of Coffee, a new short-term mentorship program launched in Philadelphia last October by JEVS Human Services. The program pairs people seeking jobs with volunteer mentors in their desired line of work, who agree to three meetings at local coffee shops to share their experience and advice.

“Everyone’s had someone who’s helped them along the way,” said Nora Cothren, program manager of 3 Cups of Coffee. “We look for people who face some small barrier to finding that next [position]. Whether they started in one industry and want to change careers, or need to find their next spot due to downsizing layoffs, or took some time off to take care of a sick parent or a kid — that resumé gap can be a barrier. We give people the little boost they need to get over that barrier and find a job that’s going to be the right fit.”

Since the program launched, 13 mentor/mentee pairs have completed their trio of meetings, with many continuing to meet and talk well past that point. More than 30 pairs are currently involved. “It’s an easy way to help someone help themselves,” said Nancy Astor Fox, JEVS chief development officer. The program “brings people together who might never have met otherwise, and allows [our mentors] to make a real impact on someone’s life.”

The program was launched in 2014 by Pennsylvania Women Work in Pittsburgh, the brainchild of executive director and CEO Julie Marx-Lally. The organization was already helping job-seekers with interview and computer skills, resumé-honing, and time and money management through its New Choices career program. But the program wasn’t resulting in high placement rates in the job market.

“It hit me square in the face that a lot of the people we were serving just didn’t have the social capital they needed to get jobs,” Marx-Lally explained. “A lot of them had not been in the professional job market for a long time — or had never been in it in the first place. There was no ‘who you know.’ ”

The beauty of 3 Cups of Coffee is how the mentor/mentee interaction unfolds in the relaxed realm of a coffee shop.

“There’s no imbalance of power,” Cothren said. “Even in an informal meeting, going to someone’s office can be anxiety-provoking. A coffee shop is more neutral, which allows people to open up a little bit more.”

(Although mentors/mentees can meet anywhere, JEVS has partnered in Philadelphia with Saxbys Coffee to provide free beverages to those who meet in their stores.)

The structure of the program is a definite incentive for potential mentors. Stephanie Ledesma, COO of AETNA Better Health of Pennsylvania, has met with two mentees since the JEVS program’s launch in October. One was looking for a late-career change; the other, a recent college graduate, was exploring the possibilities of health-care policy.

“It allows you to have that coffee-shop banter,” Ledesma said. “You’re not feeling like you have to be somebody you aren’t, as you might in a job-interview situation. I’ve done a lot of hiring and see people focus too much on trying to fit a job description and not on allowing their own strengths to shine through. Sometimes, a little bit of encouragement and a lot of reassurance go a long way.”

JEVS paired Gaither with Rachel Zatcoff, a media relations specialist at Vault Communications, a Plymouth Meeting PR and marketing agency. The two, both 29, have forged a friendship and continued their relationship beyond the three meetings.

Gaither has high praise for 3 Cups of Coffee.

“It helped give me a concrete direction, with action steps to get where I want to be. My ultimate goal is to own my own business,” she said. “But right now I would just like to continue doing something I’m good at and that would be useful to society — and to this new city I’m in.”

> Read this story in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

> Download a PDF of this story.

Celebrating 20 Years of the Franklin C. Ash Summer Internship Program

20 years ago, Frank Ash had a very special birthday. But instead of another golf shirt or other memento, he had a very different idea of the present he would like to receive.  This present translated into a gift for our community and our future.

Thanks to Frank’s gift, this summer marks the 20th year of the Franklin C. Ash Summer Internship program. Two decades of providing 238 college students with an opportunity to intern at a Jewish non-profit agency, learn about Greater Philadelphia’s Jewish community, and gain the experience of giving back.

What started out as a program with two interns has grown to include 16+ interns a year. Ash never dreamt it could be so successful.

“In my charitable endeavors, it was the best thing I’ve done in my life,” he said.

As the success of the program continues, many of the interns each summer are coming from referrals and the same families.

“It shows how important the experience was in their lives,” said Frank.

When asked if he had a favorite memory from the internship program over the years, Ash responded by saying that every year is a great experience.

“The graduations are always a treat for me. They are such great kids. I get letters every year from the kids expressing their appreciation.”

Over the past 20 years, Frank has raised over $1 million for the Ash program. His unwavering dedication to young adults in the Jewish community ensures that the Franklin C. Ash Summer Internship program will continue for a long time.

The Impact of the Ash Internship Program

Annette Dvorak was an Ash intern in 2011 and worked in the communications and public affairs department at JEVS Human Services. As a college student studying marketing at the University of Maryland, Dvorak was looking to gain real-world marketing experience that she could apply to future jobs after college.

“I thought that my placement was super relevant to me,” she said. “It was great working with a team that was invested in helping me to learn.”

In addition to receiving work experience and professional guidance, Dvorak also had the opportunity to mentor a high school student in the Lasko College Prep Program.

“It’s a wonderful and valuable way to spend a summer during college,” she said.

After graduating from college, Dvorak lived in Israel for four years, initially as a participant on Masa’s Career Israel program, followed by working in marketing/communications for Pravda Media Group, and later a market intelligence tech startup called SimilarWeb. Currently, she is working as an account manager for Riskified in New York.

Even though Dvorak graduated from the program eight years ago, she is still in touch with the program staff and her internship supervisor. In fact, 96 percent of Ash program alumni stay connected with the program staff through social media, phone calls and office visits.

“It’s so nice to still have that connection I built so many years ago while in the Ash program,” said Dvorak.

Meet Zach

Zach Weitz was an Ash intern this year in the JEVS’s communications and public affairs department. Read about his Summer in the Ash Internship Program and what he’s taking away from this experience in his blog HERE.

In the News

This week, The Jewish Exponent published a story on the 20th Anniversary of the Franklin C. Ash Internship Program and its impact on young adults in the Jewish community. Read the article HERE.

JEVS Celebrates World Refugee Day

Think back to the last time you were away from home and you were so happy that you didn’t want to go back. Now imagine that you left home that last time from fear for your life, and you can’t go back because you are truly scared. This is what it means to be a refugee.

World Refugee Day is a day to recognize all refugees and to educate the public on the issues surrounding refugees and the reasons as to why these people leave their home countries. Thursday, June 20, 2019, was World Refugee Day, and the city of Philadelphia had several block parties to recognize refugees in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia isn’t the only city that recognizes and celebrates refugees. Many cities around the world are embracing refugees and are thus a part of World Refugee Day. It isn’t just a day for the public to learn about refugees, it is also a day for these individuals to talk about the good things they left behind like friends, family, cultures, food, etc. Refugees can both reminisce about their past while looking forward to their future in their new homes.

This day is important to us here at JEVS Human Services. JEVS began in 1941 as an organization to help immigrants to find meaningful vocation in America. Since then, we have evolved into an organization that is dedicated to “making hope happen” for individuals from all walks of like through a variety of programs. However, this core service remains 78 years later with our Center for New Americans program. This program helps refugees, asylees, and victims of trafficking prepare to enter the workforce, find satisfying jobs ranging from labor to professional positions, and become self-sufficient members of society.

One of our clients, Leonardo, has experienced a smooth transition with assistance from JEVS. He is a refugee from Syria, and upon arriving in the United States, worked with us to learn several different career building skills.


Thus, it means a lot to us here at JEVS to know that the work we began with is not only continued to this day through our Center for New Americans Program, but that it is recognized so largely that it allows for refugees to enjoy their new lives and the public to learn more about this issue.

World Refugee Day is an occasion where refugees can come together to strengthen their communities, eat food from their home nations, and to share in their cultures together. Attendees were dancing, singing, playing instruments, and more. There was lots of fun, laughing, cheering, and reminiscing. It means a lot that all of these people—who were once unable to be in their own homes—are now being praised for being brave enough to leave their homes and start a new one.

By the Numbers

Below you will find an infographic to give you a better understanding of the wide variety of countries from which JEVS clients have fled:

Older Americans Month: JEVS’s Customized Supports are Keeping Seniors in the Community

In recognition of Older Americans Month, we would like to shine the spotlight on our community supports and adult residential programs that are providing seniors with the customized supports and care they need to remain healthy, safe and productive in the community.

JEVS Community Residential Rehabilitation Services provide community homes for individuals with a behavioral health diagnosis throughout the Greater Philadelphia region. In particular, two community homes in Northeast Philadelphia serve individuals who are all over 60 and have mental health conditions.

In these homes there is a direct support professional available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Direct support professionals assist the residents by helping them cook meals, wash their clothes, go to doctor’s appointments and by assuring they are taking necessary medication. Tasks that aging individuals may easily forget to do.

The supports these individuals receive are customized to each person’s needs. Most individuals in these homes see a psychiatrist for medication management, and some receive therapy and case management. In addition, we help our older clientele manage a variety of health conditions including diabetes, arthritis and even cancer.

Our older folks may face challenges with mobility issues, but JEVS staff are able to arrange for accommodations and adaptive equipment for them to keep them safe. We also try to find ways to keep our older clientele active by getting them out in the community, whether staff take them out to dinner or just for a walk in the neighborhood. This focus on wellness and healthy living is especially important as older adults may tend to feel more comfortable sitting around in their homes.

We would like to introduce you to Vanessa and James, two residents from our community homes in Northeast Philadelphia:


Vanessa, 65 years old, was living independently in her own apartment, but when her care team decided that she needed a higher level of support, she moved into a JEVS community home. She has a nurse and a direct support professional that help her manage her diabetes and arthritis. When asked how she feels about the community home and the supports she receives, Vanessa said with a smile, “I like it. It’s wonderful.”


73-year-old James has been living at a JEVS community home for almost two years. He is currently in a wheelchair, but is working his way up to using a walker with help from his physical therapist. He receives help with meals, medication and going to doctor’s appointments. When asked what his favorite part is about living in the community home, he said, “I get everything I need.”

JEVS community supports and adult residential programs are helping to prevent seniors from going into nursing homes by providing them with a place to live and building supports around them. Even if it’s not their permanent home, we help make it their home as long as possible.

“Our goal is to provide them with the wellness supports they need to help sustain them in the community,” said Clara Thompson, senior vice president, community living and home supports.

To learn more about our community supports and adult residential programs, click HERE.

JEVS’ 4th Annual Youth Prom Celebrates New Beginnings & Bright Futures

On April 11, 2019, young adults from across JEVS Human Services’ youth programs experienced the prom night they had long given up on.  100 students filled the ballroom at the DoubleTree Hotel on South Broad Street to dance the night away and celebrate their accomplishments.

For a variety of reasons, the youth that attended this prom never completed high school.  However, with help from JEVS, they are working hard to earn their GEDs and gain the skills they need to get on the path to a career.  This prom was a celebration of the new beginning that comes with earning a diploma or GED and the bright future that lies ahead of each of these young people.

We would like to thank all of the generous supporters who donated prom dresses, jewelry, shoes and other items to ensure that our youth clients would be prom-ready.  In addition, we would also like to thank the following donors for helping to make this night so special:

Frankford Candy

Krain Outdoor Advertising

Aetna Better Health of Pennsylvania

Junior League of Philadelphia

The Wedding Shoppe in Eagle Village

Mora Salon

Lastly, we would like to thank our amazing volunteers for donating their time and talents to make sure this was a great experience for the students.  From decorating the ballroom to assisting with hair and make-up, our volunteers went above and beyond to make sure that our youth clients had the prom night they’ve always dreamed of.

Photo Gallery

To view photos of all the prom fun, click HERE!

Media Mentions

This year’s youth prom was featured on CBS3 and KYW1060.  Click on the links below to view the stories:

JEVS Youth Prom – CBS3

JEVS Youth Prom –  KYW1060

KYW1060 Online Story with Video

Why I Volunteer at JEVS: Q&A with Bonnie Eisenfeld

Volunteer Profile

In recognition of National Volunteer Week, we recently sat down with Bonnie Eisenfeld, a longtime friend and volunteer of JEVS Human Services, to discuss the impact of volunteering and why you should consider donating your time to help others.

Q: You could choose to spend your time with many organizations. Why do you volunteer at JEVS Human Services?

A: I have known JEVS President and CEO Jay Spector for a long time. He is dedicated to the mission of this organization, and he hires talented staffers who are organized, welcoming, and results-oriented. It is a pleasure to say yes to these volunteer opportunities.

In the past, I have been involved with JEVS as a hiring client, marketing consultant, and board member. I know that when they take on a project, they do it right and they get results.

Currently, I am involved with mock hiring interviews to help young adults get jobs after achieving their high school equivalency diplomas and training certificates through JEVS Project WOW. I love working with these smart, motivated, personable young people to help them get hired and permanently change their lives for the better. It’s rewarding for me to use my corporate experience in this way.

Q: What kinds of volunteer activities have you participated in? Do you have a favorite and, if so, why?   

A: In addition to participating in the mock interviews, I have helped pack backpacks with school supplies for children and I have assisted with the JEVS Youth Prom by pinning on corsages and boutonnieres. It was lovely to see these young people enjoy an experience they missed by dropping out of high school.

Outside of JEVS, my volunteer activities include tutoring and coaching disadvantaged college bound high school students with Philadelphia Futures, writing and photographing for the Center City Quarterly (the publication of the Center City Residents’ Association), and occasionally writing student profiles for the Center for Literacy.

In the past, I have been a board member of Philabundance, JEVS Human Services, and the League of Women Voters of Philadelphia. Now I get a bigger charge from providing direct service than from attending meetings. I could never pick a favorite because I enjoy all these volunteer activities and the unique opportunities they give me to make a difference.

Q: What would you say to others thinking about volunteering at JEVS?

A: JEVS is committed to the Jewish principle of Tikkun Olam, a Hebrew phrase for ‘repairing the world.’ I believe that education and training are the solutions to almost all social and economic problems. If you volunteer with JEVS, you will be contributing to helping disadvantaged people turn their lives around. You will join a team of caring people who are working together to strengthen the community by giving individuals from all walks of life the tools they need to succeed.

Interested in volunteering at JEVS Human Services? Visit our Volunteer page or contact Ranee Shipley at 215-854-1844 or ranee.shipley@jevs.org to learn about upcoming opportunities.

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