Federation surpasses Super Sunday, LEAF goals

Kathy Unger works the phone on Super Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011. (Martha Lochert)

The Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona exceeded its Super Sunday phone-a-thon goal of $150,000 on Jan. 30, raising $194,967 toward its 2011 Campaign, with $17,295 of this total going to the Local Emergency Assistance Fund.

Over 150 volunteers turned out for the event at the Tucson Jewish Community Center, calling more than 3,000 households. The volunteers were led by Super Sunday co-chairs Andy and Stuart Shatken and Jennifer and Mark Cassius, along with volunteer trainers Joyce Stuehringer and Kathy Unger.

The Campaign supports local social service, educational and cultural programs as well as Jews in need in Israel and throughout the world.

The Federation received over 500 unrestricted gifts, and 258 gifts for LEAF. This was the first year volunteers asked the community to designate a portion of their gift increase to LEAF, which the JFSA launched in response to unprecedented local requests for economic assistance. LEAF provides assistance with housing costs, food, job placement, and more through Jewish Family & Children’s Services.

Stuart Mellan, JFSA president and CEO, notes that requests for help from Jewish community members quadrupled in the fall of 2008, reached an all-time high of 800 in 2009, and surpassed that record with 900 requests in 2010. JFCS Executive Director Shira Ledman reports that in 2010, JFCS’ emergency financial assistance case manager served 350 households, with more than 95 percent receiving financial aid.

In addition to connecting an individual or family seeking aid to community resources within JFCS or other community agencies, Ledman explains, the case manager leverages financial assistance funds by negotiating with landlords, utility companies and others. JFCS also provides workshops on debt counseling, financial literacy classes and employment counseling.

The stories of families who received assistance “are a reflection of the economic downturn,” says Ledman. One such case (details altered to ensure client confidentiality) involves a single father with a daughter; he is employed as a professional but furlough days and a salary reduction have left him unable to cover their monthly expenses. Emergency assistance funds helped with the family’s mortgage payment and other expenses. JFCS also provided credit counseling and education about refinancing his house. Another JFCS client family includes a mother of three who is a victim of domestic violence, “another by-product of economic stressors,” says Ledman. The mother’s job provides a fluctuating income that has been dramatically impacted by the economy. JFCS has assisted with food, gas and mortgage payments. “Equally important have been the counseling services provided by JFCS’ clinical department” for the mother and children, adds Ledman.

At the start of the 2011 Campaign in November 2010, the Federation board set a goal of raising $75,000 for LEAF. Thanks to Super Sunday, the community exceeded this goal with $78,762 dedicated to LEAF. “The community response was tremendously encouraging,” says Super Sunday co-chair Mark Cassius. Volunteers were also instructed to pass along messages from community members who might themselves be in need of assistance.

The Federation also provided several community building activities to further connect volunteers to the purpose of Super Sunday and the 2011 Campaign. Teens from Tucson Hebrew High and the B’nai Tzedek philanthropy program wrote thank you notes to donors. Six religious schools and Hebrew High participated in a “613 Coins and Counting!” tzedakah curriculum. An outreach table in the hallway gave volunteers and other JCC visitors the opportunity to make get-well cards or purchase LEAF tribute cards for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Community members can still contribute to the 2011 Campaign. Visit www.jewishtucson.org or contact the JFSA at 577-9393.