Elaine has lived in Providence far longer than anywhere else, but, she says, “I identify as being a Jersey girl at heart!” Her wonderful son, a first-grader “is the best cuddler.” JCS interviewed Elaine – via email – to learn more about her and her role as a JCS board member and, earlier, on the Jewish Family Service board.
Q: We know that you were a board member with Jewish Family Service. What motivated you to first get involved?
A: I joined the JFS board in 2014, because I was looking for a way to connect with the local Jewish community through a social justice (tikkun olam) lens, and JFS seemed to be a wonderful intersection of exactly these two elements.
Q: Tell us about your work on the JFS and JCS boards?
A: I am a member of the Governance Committee for JCS, after serving on the JFS Government Committee, as well. The Governance Committee is responsible for maintaining the board’s policies and procedures (including the by-laws) and for recommending potential board members for consideration. After the merger between JFS and Jewish Seniors Agency, I was also named to the Strategic Planning Committee, which has since sun-setted. I am currently the chair of the Strategic Plan Implementation Committee.
Q: As chair of JCS’ Strategic Plan Implementation Committee, what can you share about the short- and long-term plans for JCS?
A: After the organizations merged in Spring 2017, the initial JCS Strategic Planning Committee created a very practical, short-term strategic plan that was designed specifically to support the work of operationalizing the vision of a unified organization. Since the plan’s finalization in March 2018, much of what was laid out has been completed, which is very exciting! I have been honored to serve as the chair of the Strategic Plan Implementation Committee since that time, supporting Erin (JCS President and Chief Executive Officer) and the team to track their progress against the plan. JCS’ staff and board leadership have recently begun to discuss how we might engage in deeper, longer-term organizational visioning, now that much of the work of operationalizing the merger is behind us. This would enable us to identify a real strategic, mission-driven roadmap to build consensus on where JCS will grow and develop over the next three to five years.
Q: How does your work as a director at UPD Consulting impact or inform your work at JCS, if at all?
A: There are a ton of connections! In my “day job” at UPD, I support public-sector organizations – mostly in education – to identify strategic priorities, determine how they will measure their activities and their impact, and establish systems and processes to use their data in an ongoing way to improve outcomes for their stakeholders. In the past couple of years, I have brought these practices and ideas to the JCS board in support of strategic decision-making throughout the merger process as well as the ongoing improvement work that Erin and the wonderful JCS team are engaged in as part of their deep commitment to excellence.
Q: Have you known people who have accessed resources from either JFS or JCS?
A: I met a family who received visits from a Partners in Care volunteer (JCS’ Partners in Care program, with funding from AmeriCorps, provides free, in-home respite for military families caring for older or disabled adults. By relieving caregivers’ stress, this allows older adults to continue to be cared for in their homes.). It was clear that they had made a deep connection with their volunteer and were so appreciative of the support provided through this program.
Q: What excites you about your role as a JCS board member?
A: I love being able to contribute to the work done every day by the incredibly dedicated, thoughtful and compassionate staff team at JCS as well as my fellow board members. The challenge of merging two organizations and two board cultures over the past couple of years has been exciting as well as challenging, in a good way!
Q If you were recruiting new members to the JCS board, what would you tell them about the agency and its board?
A: JCS is an amazing organization that fills a unique role in the local Jewish community and for the broader community. The high quality programs support so many of our most vulnerable individuals and families in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts. Also, the board itself is truly a high-functioning exemplar; we get a lot done and have consistent opportunities to engage in truly helpful and meaningful ways.