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Michelle Bearman Wolnek: Continuing a Legacy

I am excited to be the incoming president of CJFS - although I admit I have been asked on several occasions why I have chosen to serve as president of CJFS when I am already leading another local non-profit.

It’s a good question, and the answer is that what CJFS provides for our community is that important to me. I believe time is the greatest gift that I can give - a lesson I learned from my mom at a young age.  When I asked her where she was going and she would say, “a meeting,”  I would reply, “you are ALWAYS going to a meeting.  What about us?”  She would then explain that giving her time to a worthwhile organization was THAT important that she sacrificed time away from us!  Well, I would say that all of her children have learned from her actions (and I don’t think we suffered too badly). And one of the organizations she helped lead back then was Jewish Family Services, which became CJFS. This organization has always been that important in our community.

When I relocated back to Birmingham, some 22 years ago, I was employed as a Clinical Social Worker at CJFS.  While the agency has doubled in size since then, both in staff and in outreach, that experience gives me a special insight into the important work that is done by the compassionate, hard-working staff of CJFS.  CJFS, in an essential way, is similar to Heart Gallery Alabama, the non-profit organization I lead in my “day job”: Both organizations focus on providing “family” for people who need it.

Heart Gallery, as some of you know, helps foster children find adoptive “forever” families. And at CJFS, staff members often serve in the role of “family” for older adults who don’t have family or don’t have family nearby. It’s often said that childhood and old age are the most vulnerable periods in life - the times when the loving care and support of a family is most important. Being family for someone who needs a family is a profound act of compassion - and that is why I have been proud to serve as a CJFS board member and look forward to serving as board president.

 Every day, the caring, professional staff of CJFS does what family would do -- and more. Anything from making sense of a doctor’s instructions to changing bedsheets to providing a safe, affordable ride to the grocery. CJFS also provides professional counseling and case management -- setting a standard of care that is respected throughout greater Birmingham.  I  believe that being “just like family” for older adults - the work of CJFS - is a vital, important role. I am proud to help lead an organization that is family to so many … and please don’t be surprised when I ask YOU to step up as part of the CJFS family!  



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