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T HE PHIL ANT HR O PIST A person who seeks to promote the welfare of others, especially by the generous donation of money to good causes.

Faith in Family BY ANDREA CARNEIRO

NAME:

Elyssa Lewis Jewish Adoption and Family Care Options (JAFCO), jafco.org BACKGROUND: A South Florida native, Elyssa Lewis is no stranger to giving of her time to the local community. The Gables resident and mom of two not only acts as current PTA President at Pinecrest Elementary School but also as Sisterhood President at Temple Judea. Add to that her work with JAFCO and many might wonder how she manages to fit it all in. “It sounds cliche but it really doesn’t seem like that much when you’re in the middle of it,” she says. “I love helping and I love being around people so it’s sort of a no-brainer.” In fact, it was her work with Judea that brought her back to JAFCO after first hearing about the organization when she was a JCC camp counselor in college. “Some afternoons we would take the kids to Jewish Family Services and it always stuck in my head that there was an organization trying to help these kids,” she says. “When we did a Chanukah drive for them at Judea a few years ago I connected the dots that they were still here and still doing great things.” ABOUT JAFCO: Established in 1992, JAFCO is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing services to abused and neglected children in South Florida. They provide programs and services for at-risk children and children with developmental disabilities and their families at both their Children’s Village and Ability Center sites including: emergency shelter, group homes, foster care and adoption, family preservation, in-home therapy, special needs programs and more. “I am incredibly proud that even though Jafco takes in children from all religions, they work to keep Jewish children connected to their heritage and allow them to live as a family,” says Lewis. The Miami chapter, to which Lewis belongs, is one of more than a dozen in Miami-Dade and Broward counties as well as in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia. “Because the Miami chapter was so small when I joined it was easy to become involved and to really feel like you were doing something,” she says. A DIFFERENT KIND OF FAMILY: Far from just providing a basic range of services, Lewis says it’s the not-so-little things that JAFCO provides that make her most proud of the organization. Children residing in their group home (located at JAFCO Children’s Village, a gated private residential community with six single family homes, a basketball court, a swimming pool, and a playground) are kept at their home school whenever possible and given access to tutors, therapists, music lessons, cultural outings and more under the supervision of a house parent. “They can go to college and have the opportunity to have a bar or bat mitzvah,” says Lewis. “They can stay in JAFCO’s care and in group homes until they are 24, which is really amazing.”

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FUTURE PLANS: Chapters will kick into high gear come September when fundraising events begin again along with planning for their annual March luncheon. “We’re always looking for people to host something at their home,” she says. “A camp shower, a baby shower... It’s an easy way to help without making a big financial and time commitment.” Lewis is also happy to spread the news about a newer fundraising initiative, the Birthday Club. Created by Lewis, along with friends Heather Sosler, Laura Kaplan and Julie Paresky, the Birthday Club allows donations to be routed directly to children within JAFCO’s Village to help them celebrate their birthdays. Donations (accessible via the JAFCO website) range from $36 for a birthday cake, to $108 for a dinner out with friends, to $504 for an entire birthday celebration. “We wanted our own kids to get involved in some way and to create something that would be relevant to them,” says Lewis of the birthday idea. “It’s one thing to give a holiday present, but it’s another to help someone have a great birthday... that’s a big deal.”

DO YOU KNOW A COMMUNITY HERO? Do you know someone who has dedicated their time and efforts to a community cause? We want to hear from you. Nominate them for our monthly Philanthropist column by visiting www.thefloridavillager.com/nominate.

The Florida Villager :: June 2016 Edition :: Coral Gables/South Miami  

The DeValdivielso Team is on the Cover! #HappyFathersDay . Be sure to check out our 2nd Annual Father's Day Feature!

The Florida Villager :: June 2016 Edition :: Coral Gables/South Miami  

The DeValdivielso Team is on the Cover! #HappyFathersDay . Be sure to check out our 2nd Annual Father's Day Feature!

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