Jewish Family Services Still in Touch

ECF helps Jewish Family services to continue to support community with remote access funding

“When the pandemic struck and we closed the office, we did not have adequate technology to support a seamless transition to work from home,” said Jann Beeston, Executive Director of Jewish Family Services of Edmonton (JFSE). “This created some staff anxiety and service disruption. This disruption was problematic as our clients are vulnerable and often suffering unnecessarily, so accessibility is vital.”

JFSE is an agency that has served the local community for more than half a century. They offer a wide range of counselling services in group and individual formats. They also offer home support services and refugee and crisis support. Originally set up to serve the Jewish community, JFSE now serves whoever needs their help. It is here where Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) funding helped them continue their work.

On Sunday, May 10, ECF granted $7,500 to JFSE through its COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund (RRF) to support their remote access upgrade. ECF began strategic COVID-19 granting on March 19 and established the RRF on March 25. The fund was established with $500,000 of ECF’s discretionary dollars and has doubled its impact, thanks to ECF’s generous donors and community partners.

“Like other organizations, Jewish Family Services needed start offering their services online but weren’t equipped to do so,” says Craig Stumpf-Allen, ECF’s Director of Grants and Community Engagement. “A relatively small grant allowed them to keep providing essential counselling and other services.”

Upgrading technology and software was a key goal of JFSE.

“The funding helped JFSE to first upgrade our 3CX phone system and add additional phone lines to enable our work phones to connect to our cellphones and computers directly,” Beeston said.

“This was important for clients to simply call the office or our extensions and  be connected seamlessly. It was also important  for staff to maintain privacy with their cellphone numbers.  Our services reach vulnerable populations and serve mental-health clients, so immediacy of connection is critical and staff work-life separation vital.”

The funds also allowed JFSE to upgrade their staff computers by purchasing several reconditioned laptops, as well as support from their IT company to transition them to work at home. “The ECF Rapid Response Fund was a godsend, as none of these expenses were anticipated, nor budgeted,” Beeston said. “The speed with which ECF processed the applications was remarkable and much appreciated.”

Resiliency is a word that comes up a lot when describing vulnerable populations persevering through their struggles. This resiliency is found in the JFSE as well.

“This experience has given us all the opportunity to try new delivery methods, learn and adapt and establish new and more accessible programs to support clients,” Beeston explained. “In addition, it has created both opportunity and willingness to collaborate with the community in new ways and we have been taking full advantage of this opportunity to build relationships and program partnerships across Edmonton.”

Learn more about ECF’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic here.