Agencies are “Coming Together” to create new opportunities for cooperation and cost savings on Sandler Family Campus

by | Jun 8, 2015 | Featured

It was 2004, and the Tidewater Jewish Community celebrated.

Years of research, planning, fund raising and construction culminated in the opening of the Sandler Family Campus on 20 acres at the end of Corporate Woods Drive in Virginia Beach, just off the I-264 Witchduck Road exit.

In two wings of a two-story structure, the community brought the classrooms, offices, meeting spaces and recreational facilities of the Jewish Community Center, Hebrew Academy of Tidewater, United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, Tidewater Jewish Foundation and Strelitz Early Childhood Center into one central place. They even installed the Cardo Café, making the Campus a hot lunch spot as well. Around the corner on Grayson Road, a second structure housed the Jewish Family Service.

“It was a dream come true,” recalls Bobby Copeland, who chaired the “Simcha” campaign that coordinated the planning and fund raising effort. “We finally had most of our key agencies in the same zip code.”

The community constructed the Campus based on current and anticipated needs. A decade later, leadership has taken a second look at what they created and is making adjustments. “We did not want to reduce services,” says Copeland, “and we won’t, but we had to right-size spaces and reduce rent and other costs to some of our organizations.”

The biggest change will be moving all of Jewish Family Service onto the main Campus, where its Personal Affairs Management or PAM program is already headquartered, and selling its existing building. “The community expected us to examine closely at what we did in 2004 and now with the benefit of 11 years of experience, to determine what we could do better going forward,” says Jay Klebanoff, UJFT president a former JFS president and HAT parent. “The programming and infrastructure modifications will enable us to make best use of the dollars our donors entrust to us.”

Another major transformation coming for the Campus’ second decade involves a streamlining of governance and marketing of the Jewish community’s two well-regarded early childhood initiatives. One, called Beginnings for infants and toddlers, ages six weeks to two years, is managed by the Simon Family JCC. HAT has generally overseen the two- to fouryear- olds program.

“To have a consistent curriculum through those critical growth years and an easier enrollment, pricing and transition structure for parents and children, we had to turn these two high quality programs into one,” says Klebanoff.

The result is the Strelitz Early Childhood Education Center. Now children can start at six weeks and move from cribs to classrooms to age five in one program, then stay in the same building and advance into kindergarten and elementary school at HAT. “We do early childhood very well,” says Lorna Orleans, the Stretliz director. “Now we can manage and promote it better, creating more parent-teacher interaction and a stronger administrative structure.”

Moving forward, the JCC, JFS, UJFT, Strelitz Early Childhood and HAT will provide services to their members, students, clients and others in space that better fits their needs and budgets. “The leaders came up with a wonderful plan and have followed due process. They haven’t missed a step.” says Art Sandler.

“It has not been an easy process,” says Miles Leon, outgoing president of the UJFT, “and I have to credit the lay and professional leadership who buckled down and made difficult choices and in some cases sacrifices for the betterment of the community. We owe our best efforts to those generous people who brought the Campus into being in 2004 and to those who will keep it operating smartly, securely and productively into the foreseeable future.”