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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


February 9, 2018  RSS feed
Social Services

Text: T T T

Gulf Coast JFCS ponders how to reach more of the ‘Just Jewish’ crowd needing services

By BOB FRYER Jewish Press

For Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services officials, one of the co-sponsors of the 2017 demographics study, two things jumped out in the results: the significant rise in the median age of those in the local Jewish community – from 46 in 1994 to 62 in 2017 – and a surprisingly large number of families in Jewish households that have children with development disabilities.

Since Gulf Coast’s mission is to provide social services to those in need through a variety of programs, the study results show there may be more need for programs that serve the increasingly elder population and serve children with developmental disabilities.

There are two other findings in the survey, however, that present challenges in offering such services. One is that a large number of those surveyed were unaware of Gulf Coast and its services, and the other is that many of those surveyed who identified themselves as “Just Jewish” have little to no connection with local Jewish institutions.

The Pinellas/Pasco Jewish community ranked second highest in a comparison with 60 other Jewish communities for highest percent – 47 percent here – of those identifying as “Just Jewish.”

Of all respondents to the survey, 66 percent of them said they were not at all familiar with Gulf Coast, even though the agency has been around for more than 50 years, employs more than 370 case managers agency-wide and boasts a point-in-time case load of more than 6,000 individuals.

Gulf Coast covers a 37-county area in Florida and provides a wide range of family support and counseling services. Many of those services are for anyone in need, but the agency also offers a range of services for the Jewish community in Pinellas and Pasco Counties, from programs for Holocaust survivors to emergency financial and food assistance, mentoring Jewish children, providing Jewish Life education and counseling.

Gulf Coast CEO Sandra Braham said they have to find different ways to promote the agency among Jewish households in need of services but unaware that Gulf Coast offers them.

“One area we identified as a challenge for families is those with special needs,” Braham said. This is an area where people need more support and there is a gap between services available and connecting with those in need, she said.

Jay Miller, Gulf Coast’s immediate past board president, said Gulf Coast already has programs serving adults with developmental disabilities but those programs may not be appropriate for families that have children with those disabilities.

“We work extensively with children, but more with children from troubled families” as opposed to those who have children with developmental disabilities, Miller said, noting that Gulf Coast may need to help with such things as providing transportation, or educational or therapeutic services.

He said Gulf Coast will need to study the survey results and find additional ways to gauge the needs. “There may be new programs to address specific needs, once we understand it more,” he said.

Before there is a rush to roll out new programs, however, Braham said more time and thought is needed. The population study was a huge community undertaking, she said, and the desire is to “get right to the problem solving,” but “We need to resist the urge and look for the above-the-forest view and see if we can look across agencies and communities. We have to rely on a weave of connections to identify where we fit and where it is up to us to take the lead.”

Cindy Minetti, who heads the Jewish Family Services portion of the agency said she sees the survey results as a positive because now there is more data to support the need for services.

She said this is “our opportunity to blow our own horn because in most cases we have the programs” to address needs found in the survey.

“Overall, it [the survey] was enlightening and helpful for us. Rather than focusing on, ‘Oh my God, we are older’ it tells us the needs and that we are not just doing this by gut feeling.

Miller agreed. “It is up to us to digest it and take advantage of what the study tells us.”

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