JFS Perspectives

Friday, September 04, 2015

SHALOM Denver Celebrates 60th Anniversary


SHALOM Denver, a division of Jewish Family Service (JFS) that employs and trains adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and people transitioning from welfare to work, celebrated its 60th anniversary last week with a picnic at City Park. More than 100 clients spent the morning playing games, dancing, and visiting with friends. Then, business customers and community supporters joined the party to enjoy lunch and a short program.

Sara LeeperSara Leeper, director of disability and employment services, kicked off the program with a few fun highlights from 1955, the year SHALOM was established. She cited fashion icons, popular TV shows and songs, inventions, toys, and more from that year. Sara gave a little bit of history of how SHALOM started, too:

“It was just 10 years after the end of WWII and the Holocaust. Jews had lost their homes and families and had nowhere to live. In those first 10 years, many Jews moved all over the world to find a new home and new life. Some made it all the way to Denver with the help of JFS. Some were able to go right to work; others needed assistance with training and employment. Jewish Family Service helped by creating the Utility Workshop, which was later named SHALOM Denver.”

LaurinLaurin, a SHALOM client with Down’s syndrome, spoke honestly about her disability and experiences with SHALOM Denver. She said, “Having Down’s can be scary because of the many medical problems and many medications I have to take daily. However, having Down’s means you are loving and accepting of others."

She continued, "SHALOM is my favorite place in the whole world. They are like family to me and I don’t want to leave them for anything. SHALOM is an employment training program for people with disabilities like me. We learn new job skills and good work habits. We take classes and tours of job sites. Right now I am learning how to operate a big, fancy printer.”

Several staff members presented SHALOM Hero Awards to the following business and community partners for their longstanding support of SHALOM Denver: Precious Metals Processing, Home Depot, the Erteszek Foundation, Piton Foundation, and Rocky Mountain Human Services. Yana Vishnitsky, JFS president & CEO also accepted an award on behalf of the late Joyce Zeff, who passed away in August.

Steph and Jorge

As staff presented the awards, they shared some impressive statistics about how much work SHALOM clients have done for some of the businesses. For example, since 2005, SHALOM has folded 4,189,014 return envelopes for Precious Metals Processing, which provided 101,360 hours of work and $118,768 of direct wages for its clients.

Thank you to everyone who attended the celebration, and more importantly, who has supported SHALOM Denver in one way or another over the past 60 years!

-Alaina Green, JFS Marketing Department