Charitable Choices: Jerri-Lynn Deveau Program Manager of Jewish Family Service Calgary (JFSC)

JFSC’s mission is to enriches lives and strengthens communities by providing social services to individuals and families across their life spans, based on the values of compassion, social justice, and improving the world. We got a chance to speak with Jerri-Lynn Deveau, the Program Manager of Jewish Family Service Calgary (JFSC), to find more about the organization and how she got involved.

Charitable Choices: Jerri-Lynn Deveau Program Manager of Jewish Family Service Calgary (JFSC)

Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.

JFSC is a non-denominational, accredited Calgary social service agency dedicated to enriching lives and strengthening communities. We provide inclusive and accessible programs and services for individuals and families based on the values of compassion, social justice, and improving the world.

Our aim is to empower our clients, reduce isolation and improve mental health. With our collaborative team of staff, volunteers, and community partners, we are committed to responding to changing demographics, economic landscapes, and emerging social issues impacting the well-being of individuals and families in Calgary.

What problem does it aim to solve?

JFSC plays an important role in Calgary, assisting vulnerable members in our society, promoting healthy family relationships, working with seniors and older adults, and assisting with mental health issues. Our overall goal is to enrich lives and strengthen our communities.

Our programs and services include:

  • Family Enrichment Program – providing families with wrap-around services that strengthen individuals and families and build community connections. This includes education, resettlement and integration services, support with domestic violence, financial coaching,
  • Basic Needs – food security and support
  • Senior and Older Adult Support – improving quality of life for isolated seniors through home visits, assistance navigating complex dynamics, connection to community, and home support.
  • Memory Care Program – support and in-person engagement for clients experiencing memory loss issues and providing support for their caregivers.
  • Seniors Mental Health and Addictions Response Team – bridging the gap for seniors accessing mental health or addiction services and advocating for specialized resources and requirements to best support the Senior population.
  • Mental Health Support Line – short-term, brief intervention therapy for individuals struggling with their mental health due to the Pandemic.
  • Youth Mental Health Support Groups – a new program for JFSC, supporting youth with mental health concerns.
  • Caregiver Support Program – Caring Together Education and Support Groups, Caregiver Conversation Cafés, and Counselling for Caregivers. All new offerings from JFSC for the community to support Individuals in their various roles as Caregivers.
  • PCN/Acute Care Pilot Project – JFSC is part of a four-agency collaboration on supporting Seniors discharged from the hospital in navigating resources in the community.
  • Private Home Support Services – JFSC provides home support services on a fee-for-service basis for individuals requiring support services such as homemaking, meal preparation, accompaniment to appointments, respite, and personal care.

When did you start/join it?

I started with JFSC in December 2019.

What made you want to get involved?

JFSC has a great mission and guiding principles and is passionate about serving its communities. This is something that drew me in right from the beginning, and it struck me that this Agency has similar values to my own.

What was the situation like when you started?

I was hired as the Program Manager and my job is to support JFSC staff and work on program development.

When I started, the almost 60-year Agency already had a variety of quality programs and services. My goal was to review existing programs and services to see where we could improve and streamline efforts, as well as to identify areas we could expand on.

How has it changed since?

I joined the JFSC team in December 2019, and three months later we were thrown into the Covid pandemic. Demands for social services have skyrocketed, we have had to adapt to lockdowns, introduce technology into our programs and services and find creative ways to continue meeting the needs of our clients. It’s been a wild ride!

In early 2020 we were introducing our new Memory Care Program and quickly realized there were a variety of emerging needs popping up due to Covid. Thanks to our various funders and donors who were very responsive to our needs at the start of the Covid crisis, we ended up launching five new programs in short order in response to the new demands.

I’m so proud of our JFSC team for identifying and being so responsive to emerging needs in our communities. In addition to the Memory Care program and Caregiver supports, we launched a Mental Health Support Line, Senior Mental Health and Addictions Response Team, and our Safta’s Kitchen program that aims to reduce isolation for seniors.

Creativity and flexibility have been critical as our staff and volunteers work tirelessly to adapt to Covid requirements. We streamlined some of our existing programs and added a variety of new services for individuals of all ages with a range of needs. These include virtual outreach work, therapeutic needs, and wellbeing support. That’s a lot in just over 18 months!

What more needs to be done?

JFSC continues to identify and respond to emerging social issues and meet evolving community needs.

Since the start of the Pandemic, we have seen a marked increase in demand for assistance with mental health issues, isolation, loneliness, food insecurity, and struggles in relationships. Our staff works hard to ensure our programs support clients in accessing the right help at the right time, with the goal of improved wellbeing for everyone in our community.

While our goal is to be responsive to current needs, we are also anticipating how our programs and services might evolve to best meet our client needs in the future. In anticipating future social service demands we are looking at potential trends in the economy, unemployment rates, changing demographics, use of technology, adaptations in government policies, and the long-term impacts from the Pandemic.

This is an evolving and dynamic sector and it is an exciting place to be.

How can our readers help?

There are a variety of ways you can help us achieve our goals.

Volunteering: JFSC is always looking for volunteers. We have many opportunities including our Friendly Visitor and Memory Care Programs. We provide specialized training for these programs that can make a significant impact on someone’s life. Our loyal volunteers range from high school students to seniors.
Click here to for the variety of opportunities we have, and to learn more.

Donating: We can’t do what we do without financial assistance. We gratefully accept donations (click here) and gift cards for grocery stores.

Do you have any events coming up?

This year’s annual fundraiser is an Online Speaker Series. Proceeds support JFSC’s Family Enrichment Program, a wide variety of services for individuals and families, with the goal of strengthening skills and connections while decreasing risk factors. We have already hosted two series segments with Tom Jackson and Karen Gosbee.

Dr. Ruth Westheimer moderated by Dave Kelly will be our last speaker in the series on Sunday, October 17 at 6 pm. Dr. Ruth may best be known for having pioneered talking explicitly about sex on radio and television, but as it turns out, that is only a small part of her rich and diversified life. An Alzheimer’s Caregiving Authority, Dr. Ruth has done extensive work on developing effective coping strategies for Alzheimer’s care. She provides health-guided advice and coping strategies for caregivers looking after loved ones with this devastating illness. With our new Memory Care Program in place, we are excited to hear Dr. Ruth’s sage advice on this growing social service area.

To purchase tickets ($18) and for more information click here.

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PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?

Love this question! One of my favorite locale charities is Kids Up Front- offering wonderful opportunities and experiences for children who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to do so.