This is the third in a series about the 110th anniversary of the Hebrew Ladies Charity Society.
A single Jewish mom with two teenage children is just getting by financially until she hurts her back and can’t work. Her children get jobs after school, but the family still comes up short. For this family, $200 is the difference between paying the electric bill and living in the dark. Fortunately for this family, the mother visits a social worker at Jewish Family Service of Tidewater and receives financial assistance. The social worker knows she can depend on Hebrew Ladies Charity Society for funding because the organization has been making small grants for these situations for 110 years.
For the first 50 or 60 years after the establishment of HLCS in 1902, the founders and their successors located the beneficiaries of their largesse through word-of-mouth and personal contacts. They contributed funding for dental care, utilities, car insurance, funeral expenses, medical needs and other unexpected living expenses until after World War II when Jewish Family Service was formed. JFS knew about Jewish individuals who fell through the cracks in government assistance.
Knowing that the funding was to be used only for daily living expenses, each time they saw a need, social workers from JFS would call a discreet and confidential committee who received and evaluated these requests. About four years ago, the HLCS board agreed with JFS clinical director Debbie Mayer, LCSW, and other administration that, instead of the phone calls, HLCS would make a large annual contribution, as long as an accounting was given for each expense.
“Having the funding readily available, instead of having to call about each case, makes JFS more efficient in processing time-sensitive financial assistance requests,” Mayer says. JFS makes payments directly to the third party—such as the gas company or the pharmacist—on behalf of the client.
JFS provides financial assistance to more than 400 local Jewish people each year. Many of these people are from middle class families who face unexpected crises.
Mayer describes an elderly couple that lost their home because of physical and emotional problems, and then had to live in their car. “The couple received services from a local homeless shelter,” says Mayer. “And JFS provided the couple with financial assistance for food, utility bills and prescriptions.”
This year, because of increased needs of clients, JFS faced the possibility of having to limit financial assistance from the HLCS matching funds. HLCS readily agreed to give a large additional amount to alleviate the problem.
HLCS contributes $500 per month to JFS for the food closet, relief and home nursing care. HLCS also provides a scholarship each year for a child to attend the Jewish Community Center summer camp.
The Hebrew Ladies Charity Society’s giving is paid out of the organization’s endowment fund, which is comprised of contributions from wills, bequests and life memberships. HLCS members pay yearly dues of $15 and life memberships are $150. Most recently, HLCS gave $10,000 to the Freda H. Gordon Hospice and Palliative Care of Tidewater. HLCS plans to raise additional funds for the Hospice with a gala luncheon on Tuesday, Oct. 23 at Beth Sholom Village. They have also created the “110th Anniversary Society” to celebrate the HLCS’s 110th anniversary. Donors are asked to give a one-time gift of $110 to HLCS to be used to help needy clients of this new Hospice and Palliative Care program.
Hebrew Ladies Charity Society welcomes new members to help carry on their mission. Perhaps those dues will pay for a ride to medical appointments, for Chanukah gifts for children who have none, or to aid a nursing home rehab patient who is finally going home. Whatever the reason, HLCS and JFS have always been there to help the Tidewater Jewish community who need financial assistance for unexpected emergencies.
Times change, but the vision of the Hebrew Ladies Charity Society remains the same.
by Rena Rogoff