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Civic Impact

Seventy-five years of serving immigrants, seniors, kids at Jewish Family and Children's Service

Jewish Family & Children's Service has been helping the Pittsburgh community for 75 years now, and the need for their many nonsectarian services has only gotten stronger in recent years.
"We're finding more people in need of direct assistance" today, from food and shelter to help paying utility bills, says President and CEO Aryeh Sherman. "And we're seeing more people struggling more, even though our employment rate is better than some areas. We have an aging population, so there is really a need to expand services."
Among the 8,200 the Service helps each year are refugees from Bhutan, who have been evicted from Nepal in its dispute with China. Pittsburgh, perhaps surprisingly, is one of the main cities where Bhutanese have been settling, at the rate of 500 a year.
"One of our goals is to help diversify the workforce in our region, especially by supporting immigration," says Sherman, whose agency began by helping to resettle Jewish refugees from the Holocaust and later brought immigrants from the former U.S.S.R. here. "It is our contribution toward diversifying our community. In a few years, it might be a new population."
Another major focus of the Service is serving the city's seniors. "Our goal is to help the elderly live independently and safely in their own homes or in the least restrictive environment possible," Sherman says. Their efforts are having a measurable effect. While seniors receiving Service help average 26 emergency-room visits per 100 clients each year, that's just half the national average, he says. And their clients' rate of hospital stays -- also 26 per 100 seniors per year -- is below the national average of 34 per 100. Only 2 percent of Service clients are admitted to skilled nursing facilities each year, versus nine percent of Medicare recipients in the U.S.
Some of the Service's other programs help to feed local residents through the Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry, which distributes 240,000 pounds of food a year, and assist with adoption and foster care for 260 children and families each year. The newest program serves the growing population of job seekers through Work Able, which provides job placement and job readiness services.
Sherman knows that Jewish Family & Children's Service needs to reach out to southwestern Pennsylvania if it will be able to reach all who need its help in the future. Concludes Sherman: "We have to be more and more mobile and out in the community."
Do Good:
Want another way to help seniors? The Jewish Agency on Aging partners with the Jewish Family & Children's Service and is looking for volunteers here.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Aryeh Sherman, Jewish Family & Children's Service
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