inspiration noun  \ˌin-spə-ˈrā-shən  \

: a force or influence that inspires someone


Over the 20 years that JEVS Human Services has held its major fund-raising and awards event, Strictly Business,  42 individuals have been honored with our “Inspiration Award.” These individuals have overcome difficult–and sometimes seemingly insurmountable–circumstances with help from various JEVS programs and services.

During our 20th anniversary event on October 19, 2018, we highlighted four past Inspiration Award winners. They recalled their lives before and after JEVS. Here’s their speeches:


Solomon Rakhman, 2007 Inspiration Award Honoree

My cerebral palsy was a huge challenge for my family in Ukraine. There was little help for people with disabilities. All the burden of care fell on the family. When I came to the U.S., my life changed for the better. My mother likes to talk about the first time a yellow school bus picked me up to take me to school in America. After that, my parents knew that I would have a bright future. I completed high school and college at Temple. With help from JEVS, I got in-home help and a coordinator who helps me to arrange my services to live independently. Being a participant of Consumer/Employer model of service, I became somewhat of an entrepreneur, hiring and managing the people who provide my direct care.  I still work full-time at the Naval Sea Systems Command  in Philadelphia, as well as teach future doctors more effective ways of talking with people who use augmentative and alternative communication, such as  myself. I’m thankful that JEVS has helped to me to live a full life for the past 25 years!


Anne Escobar, 2014 Inspiration Award Honoree

I grew up with parents who were addicts. My Dad passed away when I was young. Even when I became an adult, my life continued to be unbearable. My child’s father was abusive, always putting me down. I wasn’t confident. I wasn’t living for me. I was living for someone else. I needed to turn things around for my three children, especially for my daughters. I came to JEVS and worked hard to get ready to go to work. Once I got my job in banking, my new life began. Two years ago, I started a new position at the IRS, and I just became a grandmother for the first time. I’m happy I found JEVS.


Kanard Graves, 2001 Inspiration Award Honoree

In 2001, I walked across that Strictly Business stage. It was a defining moment. Previous to that day, I was in a wheelchair for 4 years, incarcerated for 5. A young person without hope is dangerous to himself and the world around him. I didn’t have hope. But I was given a second chance, a new life. I attended training at JEVS career school, Orleans Tech. I worked in the trades field, got married, and eventually started my own business, My life over the past two decades has been filled with purpose and promise. Thank you JEVS!


Josh Shusterman, 2016 Inspiration Award Honoree

I was born with a disability, and was in and out of the hospital as a child, experiencing five major surgeries. Despite my physical challenges, I went on to graduate from high school and college. I don’t look at myself with limitations. I don’t let anything stop me. When I wanted to live on my own, I joined JEVS Philadelphia Independence Network, known as PIN. JEVS also helped me to find my first job, which turned into a full-time position as a disability navigator at their CareerLink. In addition, I have one of their supports coordinators to help me get the extra help I need to live in my own apartment. JEVS is with me in all aspects of my life!

Posted in Blog Strictly Business