Community of Giving 2023: A Day of Inspiration

December 04, 2023

Community of Giving 2023: A Day of Inspiration

On Giving Tuesday, November 28, hundreds of supporters tuned in to learn more about how JF&CS services transform lives in the community. Actress Melissa Ponzio (Teen Wolf, The Walking Dead, Chicago Fire) hosted the event and shared the stories of clients who have experienced transformation with the help of JF&CS, as well as her own touching story.

Melissa shared her passion for the work and scope of the agency, saying “it was explained to me once that if you’re down in a hole, people can throw you a rope, but what you really need is someone who’s been down in the hole and knows the way out. That’s (the type of care) provided here (at JF&CS.)”

The ways in which JF&CS provide service to the community were inspiring to the event leadership as well. “The support JF&CS provides to the community is so important, and even more critical in the current environment,” said Event Co-Chair Phil Ventimiglia. “As such, we are so grateful to be able to help JF&CS continue to deliver on its mission of transforming lives.”

Scott Rittenberg also served as Event Co-Chair, and echoed Phil’s sentiments. “To play any part in helping an organization that does so much good in the community means the world to us,” he said. “People deserve the opportunity to live their lives to their full potential with dignity. JF&CS provides that opportunity with compassion and professionalism. Thank you for letting us play a part in the effort.”

Friends gathered in homes and businesses across the city to watch the presentation together and support the work of JF&CS during Giving Tuesday. At JF&CS headquarters in Dunwoody, employees gathered over lunch, a gathering that was very meaningful to the agency staff. Of the support and viewership, Events and Special Projects Manager Allison Holmes said, “I’m always inspired by this community’s commitment and generosity to JF&CS!”

All funds raised from Community of Giving support the JF&CS Annual Campaign and go on to transform the lives of clients. Here are two of their stories.

Client Story: Henry

The program opened with the story of Henry, whose life was radically changed one day while doing something totally ordinary: driving. Henry was rear-ended by a semi and lost an astonishing 95% of his teeth. As a result, his rap career ended and he grew depressed; at his lowest point, Henry contemplated suicide. But his story wasn’t over yet-as fate would have it, he found out about the Ben Massell Dental Clinic from his friend, a former client. He was able to get fitted for dentures, which helped him to rebuild his life after the accident. Henry showed his beautifully restored smile as he recalled how the Clinic changed his life. “I feel empowered by Ben Massell Dental Clinic,” he said. “It gave me my life back."

Client Story: Beth

Viewers also heard Beth’s story about how JF&CS touched her life in multiple ways. Beth first came to the agency to get help for her daughter, who was struggling with a learning disability and mental health issues. They found help through the Horwitz-Zusman Child & Family Center, part of Frances Bunzl Clinical Services. While helping their daughter navigate her challenges, Beth and her husband Gary were also able to get support from an adult clinician for themselves.

As Beth spoke in those sessions about caring for her daughter and her aging mother, she began to realize that the stress of caretaking was impacting her parenting time and ability to support her child. Their clinician connected the couple to JF&CS’ Aviv program, which matched Beth’s mom with a Geriatric Care Manager who helps support her care plan. Beth was able to receive support in many areas of life, all at JF&CS. “We walked through the doors in total crisis mode, but quickly we knew we were in the right place,” said Beth. “A lot of times, you don’t realize how much help you need until you get some. It sure is good knowing that help is out there, and I’m not alone-we’re not alone.”

Melissa’s Story

Next, Broadcast Journalist Rick Folbaum interviewed event host, Melissa Ponzio. Melissa spoke about the importance of mental health, and shared how playing a mom on the hit MTV show Teen Wolf has connected her to a generation of young people. Fans reach out to her often via social media and at events to ask for help and share their own stories. Being a safe person and sounding board for people is “a huge responsibility,” she says, “and it’s one that comes with great honor.”

It was volunteering in Renterpieces at JF&CS this past year, in part, that helped pull Melissa out of her own struggle. After being a longtime caregiver for both her mother and stepfather, when she lost her stepfather earlier this year it was “extremely overwhelming,” she said. “I find that when I lose someone I love and have taken care of for a very long time, I lose my purpose. For me to be able to turn that void into something beautiful for others has helped me heal.”

“What brought me here was something very simple: a centerpiece. As small as that sounds…those displays go on to somebody’s celebration, somebody’s special occasion, and the moneys that are gathered doing that simple thing of us creating something in that room is then put back into the community, and that for me is what turns the cycle of goodness. People supporting people, that’s what it’s all about.”

“Come on in and be a part of our community here,” she concluded. “It’s a wonderful, welcoming, beautiful community, and we’re here to help. We hope that you join us.”

With Deepest Gratitude To:

Event Chairs, Terri & Scott Rittenberg and Laura & Phil Ventimiglia and Host Committee Chairs, Lauren Abes and Avery Kastin.

Host Committee: LaurenAbes, Jeff Alperin, Jon Amsler, Beth Arogeti, Rashelle Berry, Laurie & Sid Besmertnik, Karen & David Birnbrey, Terri Bonoff & Matthew Knopf, Zoe Breit, Cobi Cohen, Delilah & Steven Cohen, Justine Cohen, Shelley & Neil Cooper, Ellen & Howard Feinsand, Jennifer Feld, Amy & Chuck Fox, Vanessa & Isaac Frank, Lisa Freedman, Dana Freiman, Beth Friedman, Nancy & Ronnie Galanti, Anat & Brian Granath, Tracey & Sammy Grant, Billie Greenberg, Lauren Harris, Allison Holmes, Deborah Jacobs, Avery Kastin, Jessica Katz, Sara & Ross Kogon, Kim Kopelman, Gennye Krasner, Debbie & Doug Kuniansky, Amanda La Kier, Valerie Libby, Bruce Lindemann, Carolyn Oppenheimer & Rick Lenner, Julie Oshins, John Perlman, Carrie & David Poline, Lynn Redd, Terri & Scott Rittenberg, Dayna Royal, Jessica & Jeff Sacks, Elana & Mark Satisky, Jen Sender, Linda & Mark Silberman, Carly Siegel, Michelle Simon, Allison Smith, Arin Tritt, Laura & Phil Ventimiglia, Mindy Wertheimer & Ira Katz, Karen White, Deborah Zisholtz

Platinum Sponsors: Aprio, First Horizon, Lime Crane and Publix Super Markets Charities.

Gold Sponsor: Poline Search

Silver Sponsors: Diamond Sky Productions | Jacob Ross, Jeckil Promotions, Inc. and Perennial Properties

Copper Sponsors: Lauren Abes, BakerHostetler, Avery Kastin, Debbie & Doug Kuniansky, Barbara Lincoln & Gary Rosenshein, Terri & Scott Rittenberg

Bronze Sponsors: Ahavath Achim Synagogue, Ascot Diamonds, Atlanta Jewish Academy, Candy & Stephen Berman, The Berman Center, Dressler’s Jewish Funeral Care, Drummond, The Epstein School, Frank Mission, Grady Foundation, Lynne & Jack Halpern, Zak Koffler & Luka Anic, Siegel Insurance | Auto-Owners Insurance and Karen & Tom White

Community Partners: The Blue Dove Foundation, Congregation B’nai Torah, Congregation Etz Chaim, Congregation Or Hadash, Congregation Or VeShalom, Congregation Shearith Israel, MJCCA, Temple Emanu-El, Temple Sinai, The Temple, The Weber School

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