Thank you to everyone who attended our Annual Meeting last week. We were able to present the successes of our programs, events, and initiatives in the fiscal year ending in 2019, and we also shared some of our plans for the future. Please check out our very short & sweet video, which we premiered at the event. It proudly showcases the success of our programs over the course of the year.
Imagine delicious Kosher meals prepared by a seasoned chef that features beans, patty pan squash, Swiss chard, tomatoes and zucchini, all freshly harvested from an onsite garden? Residents and staff at the Phyllis Siperstein Tamarisk Assisted Living need not imagine such delicious meals, as Tamarisk is Rhode Island’s only assisted living facility offering a farm-to-table dining experience, explains Roberta Ragge, Tamarisk’s executive director. While the farm-to-table dining experience is common in the restaurant world, Tamarisk has broken new ground with its fruit and vegetable garden.
A dream of both Ragge and Deb Blazer, executive chef, the sustainable 60-foot x 40-foot garden on Tamarisk’s property is currently growing six varieties of tomatoes, several kinds of heirloom beans, eggplants, peppers, Swiss chard, fennel, scallions, herbs and several varieties of squash, including acorn, butternut, patty pan, summer and zucchini.
“The culinary possibilities are endless with a garden of this size,” says Blazer, working in Tamarisk’s kosher kitchen that is supervised by the Vaad HaRabbonim of America. All chefs relish knowing they have satisfied their customers, and Blazer’s “customers” are clearly contented. Resident Sally Carver says, “I love the freshness” of these homegrown vegetables, and resident Marion Cotton adds, “Fresh garden vegetables are a welcome, healthful addition to our meals.” Blazer is now offering a “vegetable of the day,” says Ragge, featuring lightly steamed mixed vegetables, presented on a bed of herbs, all harvested that day. Thanks to the garden’s bounty, Tamarisk has ceased purchasing the same types of produce from outside vendors.
They say it takes a village to raise a child; bringing this dream to fruition required the labor and commitment of many entities and individuals. In April, Tamarisk had the soil tested by the University of Massachusetts, M&M Landscaping excavated the soil and built the six 30-foot beds, and Fence Tech built a fence surrounding the garden. Salk’s Hardware supplied Tamarisk with essential garden tools and the Farmer’s Daughter provided seedlings. Last, but certainly not least, Sebastian Interlandi, director of education and farmland access at Southside Community Land Trust, and Kristin Hardy, director of resident programs in memory care at Tamarisk, who is, coincidentally, a Cornell University–trained plant scientist and landscape designer, offered their expertise about what and how much to plant, says Ragge.
Home gardeners Blazer and Ragge planted everything, and staff members and some family members help with weeding and harvesting. Tamarisk welcomes able-bodied volunteers to join the fun. “Our intention is to have the garden be cyclical and seasonal,” says Ragge. “Once these summer vegetable start dying off, we’ll plant for an autumn harvest – beets, radishes and– and next year, we hope to add blueberry and raspberry bushes.” Any excess produce at the season’s end, says Ragge, will be donated to the Jewish Collaborative Services Louis and Goldie Chester Full Plate Kosher Food Pantry.
Interested in volunteering in the garden?
Please contact Roberta Ragge at 401-732-0037 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeremy Thayer, Jewish Collaborative Services’ clinical supervisor and resident of Richmond, RI, is one of JCS’ newest employees. Jeremy, a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW), began full-time work at JCS in mid-August.
He holds a B.S. in Human Development and Family Studies – Adolescent Development from the University of Rhode Island and a Masters in Social Work from Smith College School of Social Work, Jeremy expects to earn his doctorate in education from Johnson & Wales University in Providence by May 2021.
Q: Tell us what’s involved in your work as JCS’ clinical supervisor? What’s a typical day like for you?
A: I will oversee JCS’ Counseling Program, a community-based mental health clinic addressing a wide range of mental health diagnoses and treating families and individuals – including children and teens. I will also oversee the Kesher Program, our community-based program that places two social workers at synagogues around the state who are easily accessible to congregants who may need clinical case management, referral to services, and/or mental health treatment. Finally, I will supervise our Adoptions Options’ social workers, who support birth mothers and adoptive families through the adoption process and provide community-wide education, training and advocacy about adoption challenges and opportunities.
At this point (Jeremy’s interview took place three days after he began work!), I am still learning about JCS and creating a schedule that has some semblance of routine! Getting to know the clinicians through impromptu and scheduled clinical supervision times has provided me a wealth of knowledge about JCS’ strengths and needs. As with any human services organization, my day has the potential to be filled with meetings! At heart, I am a direct service social worker who enjoys my face-to-face work with clients.
Q: Are you still working as an assistant professor at Rhode Island College’s School of Social Work, and maintaining a private practice, too? How do you balance these competing demands? Are you someone who needs very little sleep?
A: I’ve been describing my schedule as a puzzle, where JCS, Rhode Island College, my private practice in North Kingstown, soccer and self-care all find their place on a consistent basis. To help others understand where I am and when I’m in JCS, I have posted my schedule on my office door, and I am always available by cell phone (text preferred!). Sleep occurs on my non-scheduled time! For me, teaching is another form of direct service; the face-to-face contact with students who are passionate about working with others in need energizes me.
Q: What drew you to applying for this position? Why did you want to work for JCS?
A: When I applied, I was looking for something different. While I love teaching and working in my private practice, I needed to take on a new professional challenge to develop and sharpen a new set of skills. JCS has a positive reputation in the community and throughout Rhode Island’s synagogues. I am thankful that Erin (Minior, JCS’ chief executive officer and president), Patty (Harwood, JCS’ chief of programs) and “JC” (Janelle Rousel, JCS’ director of clinical and community services) have provided me the opportunity to attach my name to such a strong organization.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish here?
A: Overall, I’d like to provide high-quality clinical supervision for the eight or so JCS clinicians who provide direct services to JCS’ clients as well as the fee-for-service clinicians JCS will hire. At many social service organizations, supervision often gets relegated to a bureaucratic task, a check-box of sorts. In contrast, it’s clear that JCS wants to ensure that our clinicians have all the tools they need to continue to provide the excellent and ethical clinical services that JCS delivers.
Q: In past employment, you worked a great deal with young children and adolescents. How do you think those experiences will inform your work here? Will you have your own clients at JCS?
A: Through my experience working with children and families, I have learned that you can’t treat a child without also involving some adult, either a parent, grandparent, group home staff member or foster parent, for example. I often ask myself, “Who’s the client here?” as a way to figure out my way forward with a young person. It’s almost always true that supporting the systems or people surround that child often helps that child to heal. In an organizational setting, I have learned to promptly pose that same question. My first goal is to identify who the “client” or system is that deserves most of my energy and time.
Q: Now, it’s time for some fun facts about yourself that you can share with your colleagues?
A: I ride motorcycles, though not as often as I’d like. I play soccer four or five times a week in the evenings and on the weekends…it’s better than going to the gym! In general, I am a relaxed, approachable person; visitors to my office might discover that I’ve taken my shoes off! It’s a way to stay grounded and connected to my work. I also tend to wear funky, fun socks, too… today I am wearing my pair of R2-D2 socks.
Could anything be more refreshing on a sweltering August day than a lemon-spiked cold glass of water? Yes: If that drink includes a sprig of homegrown mint grown, along with oregano, thyme and basil, at the herb garden at Shalom Apartments in Warwick.
While many seniors participate in Rhode Island’s senior mealsites, which offer lunches each weekday for a very modest fee, only those seniors eating at the Shalom Mealsite benefit from Carol Barry’s TLC (tender loving care), which shows in the meals that are deliciously enhanced by those herbs. With extensive culinary experience, Carol, Shalom Mealsite manager, understands – and appreciates – the benefits of a healthy, appealing meal served at a beautifully set table, with individual place servings and vases filled with flowers.
Any project involving Mother Nature and human participation requires patience and creativity, and this project was no different. Even before Carol came to run the Shalom Mealsite five years ago, participants at the Trudeau Center, a nonprofit organization addressing the needs of adults with developmental disabilities, came to the Shalom Mealsite venue to eat their own brown-bag lunches. Soon, a Trudeau Center staff member suggested that the Center’s participants could help put coffee creamers on the tables and fulfill other minor tasks associated with serving lunches to the seniors. A formal relationship between Shalom and the Trudeau Center developed, and Trudeau participants were trained for kitchen duties. Then, Carol hired Raymond, a Trudeau participant, to work as Shalom’s Mealsite steward.
“Three years ago, the Shalom Mealsite attendance increased by 66%,” says Carol. Recognizing that growing demand for Shalom Mealsite meals, West Bay Community Action, a nonprofit organization that co-sponsors (with the Rhode Island Office of Healthy Aging) the Shalom Mealsite, asked if a raised garden could be installed. Fast forward to last summer when two raised beds – each about four feet by two feet – were built, and Trudeau Center participants planted, maintained and harvested the tomatoes and herbs, including basil, thyme, oregano and mint. After last year’s somewhat disappointing tomato harvest, this summer’s garden is exclusively herb-based, says Carol.
“On average, we serve about 40 seniors each day, including Shalom residents and members of the community,” says Carol. “One of only two senior mealsites in the West Bay area, the Shalom Mealsite is also one of only two senior mealsites in Rhode Island – the other is in Westerly – that is based in a senior housing development.
Carol incorporates Jewish culinary traditions – apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah and a Seder for Passover – as well as Christmas and Easter foods into the meals. “I call myself an Irish Catholic Jewish girl,” says Carol, who worked for 20 years with a kosher caterer.
“Shalom has always strived to be more than just a senior housing development,” says Shalom Executive Director Bonnie Sekeres. “It is part of the larger community, where the Trudeau Center participants have become a part of Shalom’s family.”