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September 12, 2014  RSS feed
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Text: T T T

Gulf Coast JFCS’ Board Chair Reflects Upon Tenure

Barbara Sterensis, Gulf Coast JFS Board Chair Barbara Sterensis, Gulf Coast JFS Board Chair It is with very mixed emotions that I write this at the conclusion of my term as Board Chair of Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services. It has truly been an honor and a privilege to have led this wonderful organization for the past 4 years through both difficult times and joyful times. When I was a child, the obligation to give back to my community and to help others was implanted deep into my soul by my parents. As a Woodstock hippie with a desire to save the world I began my journey as the only nonblack teacher in a school in Roxbury Massachusetts. After moving to St. Pete I became involved in my new community – as a board member at Shorecrest Preparatory School, as Chair of Budget and Allocations for the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, and as a Co-Chair of Art Festival Beth – El. When I learned about the amazing size and scope of Gulf Coast JFCS, I realized that my passion for Tikkun Olam meshed perfectly with their mission; to provide essential human services to individuals and families in times of need. I had found a home. I firmly believe that in order for a volunteer experience to be a meaningful experience, the volunteer needs to learn from the organization as well as work for it. The complexity and depth of Gulf Coast ensured that I received as much as I gave.

The first year of my tenure as Board Chair was a time of many challenges. I am proud to say that, with help from the exceptional leadership of the executive team, we now have an agency with a re-organized, responsive, more diversified board and we find ourselves in a stable financial position, ready to meet the challenges of the future.

Our new Unaccompanied Children’s program is a perfect example of this. With Gulf Coast being a national leader in refugee resettlement, ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement) approached us to help with this growing crisis.

Leaving the politics of the situation aside, we continue to fulfill our mission by saying “yes” - we will help these children get reunited with their families. I am also particularly proud of The FACES project that I undertook with Sonia Raymund. Learning the stories behind the faces of the people we serve reinforced my connection to our work in the communities that we serve and the impact we have on so many lives. We truly help people in their times of need.

As I step down from a role that I have cherished for four years, I know that Gulf Coast JFCS will continue to flourish. The passion I have for the organization is shared by new Board Chair Jay Miller, a leader in the business community whose family has deep ties to the area we serve. I will continue to be active on the board, and will do everything in my power to ensure that Gulf Coast JFCS continues working to help those in need, regardless of faith, gender, race, or nationality.

I thank you for your support over these past four years and for having faith in me to lead such a wonderful agency.

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