For Barin Family, supporting and volunteering for JFCS passes through the generations

Jeff Barin and Wendy Fox family will be honored with Friends of the Family Award for decades of service to JFCS

Many years ago, when Jeff Barin’s and Wendy Fox’s children were attending Hebrew school, they noticed how they were a couple of the many “portico parents” who waited in line in their cars under the synagogue portico to pick up their children.

One day Wendy pointed out that if they were going to ask their children to participate in the Jewish community, they should do so themselves – to go inside the synagogue, get involved, and not just wait in the car. “If we’re going to ask our kids to do something, we have to be involved ourselves,” Jeff said.

This idea became the start of a longtime commitment to volunteering for many agencies in the community, including decades of service at JFCS. Not only that, their children and grandchildren have been active at JFCS as well. In recognition of all these years of support, the Jeff Barin and Wendy Fox family will receive JFCS’ Friends of the Family Award at the agency’s Annual Benefit in December.

“Jeff and Wendy demonstrate the value of contributing and giving back by their involvement and support of Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis,” CEO Judy Halper said. “Their children and grandchildren have front row seats to these acts of kindness they fulfill on a regular basis. When you see a parent or mentor volunteering and contributing, you learn this important lesson in a very profound way. You learn that doing what you can for others is not just a nice thing to do, but a necessary component of being a member of a community.”

Paying it forward

Jeff became a mentor in the Jewish Youth Mentoring Program (formerly known as the Jewish Big Brother/Big Sister Program) in 1986. At the time, it was a way for him to pay it forward in supporting the program; his own son, Sandy, had previously been a mentee in the program and had a wonderful experience with it.

“I wanted to pay it forward and thought it would be a lot of fun to be a big brother to someone else,” Jeff said. “My ‘little’ was actually a little older than me – we went to Twins games, went to dinners. It was so much fun. I think I had more fun than he had.”

This volunteer opportunity was just the start of Jeff’s involvement at JFCS – he later joined an early version of the JFCS Board of Director’s Marketing Committee and helped develop it into what it is today. He was appointed to the Board in 2013 and even served as Board President from 2019-21. While on the Board, he helped launch JFCS’ Business Development Committee, which eventually led to the agency’s successful partnership with the PRISM Food Shelf and Thrift Store.

No longer on the Board, he still volunteers for JFCS as a driver with the Garber Transportation program, driving ambulatory adults to doctor’s appointments, friend’s houses, grocery stores and more. “I wanted to continue doing something at JFCS just as a volunteer,” Jeff said. “It’s very similar to my first experience volunteering as a big brother – I get more out of doing this than the people I drive. They’re just wonderful people.” 

Jeff’s wife, Wendy, similarly has been very involved in the community for years, though often for St. Paul-based organizations, which is where she grew up. She had a little sister through Jewish Family Service of St. Paul’s (JFS) mentoring program and has volunteered often at the St. Paul Sholom home. She’s volunteered for JFCS’ Hag Sameach program and at J-HAP (Jewish Housing and Programming), which is one of JFCS’ partners.

Jeff and Wendy have also established an endowment at JFCS, the Wendy Fox and Jeff Barin Family Fund. “JFCS seemed like an obvious choice because it supported everything Jeff and I were interested in,” Wendy said.

L’dor v’dor

Jeff and Wendy’s example definitely made an impression on their children, Sandy, Ryan and Todd, who have taken up the mantle of community involvement and volunteering, often for JFCS.

Sandy always remembered his experience as a mentee at JFCS and after he and his wife, Abby, had their own children, they made a point of volunteering. “We wanted to show the kids that being involved in the community is important – it’s paying it forward,” he said. “There are a lot of non-profits, but we like how visible JFCS is in the community. It has a lot of programs where it’s easy to step in and fill a role. L’dor v’dor (generation to generation) – my dad volunteered here, now it’s us and our kids.”

In addition to volunteering as a family for JFCS’ Hag Sameach program, Abby has gotten involved with the Board’s Marketing Committee, following in the footsteps of her father-in-law. After leaving the workforce to raise their three children, Abby found the Marketing Committee to be a great outlet for her when she joined four years ago.

“I was looking to get involved and stay current,” she said. “I wanted to use my experience to help a non-profit. It was a way to still be involved in the community.” She has since officially joined the JFCS Board of Directors and is Chair of the Marketing Committee.

Ryan said his parents have been role models for leadership and giving back to the community. Today, he serves on boards for a few community organizations and his family has volunteered for JFCS. “We try to be involved as we can,” said his wife, Mandy Jelinek. “We participate in JFCS events and have volunteered for meal deliveries. It’s been so welcoming and a great sense of community and we’re happy to be a part of it.”

Jeff and Wendy’s youngest son, Todd, is also involved with the agency. He joined JFCS’ NextGen program Board in 2021 and will be installed as its president in 2024. “I like the friendships that come with it,” he said. “I like seeing faces I haven’t seen in a long time. We have a really solid group and a good foundation.”

JFCS has benefitted greatly from the entire family’s involvement, Halper said, but it is clear the greatest honor Jeff and Wendy could receive is watching the next generations do what they can to help build a strong community and contribute to tikkun olam (repair of the world).

“It is so heartwarming for me and Wendy to listen to our kids talking about being involved in JFCS and the Jewish community,” Jeff said. “I guess not being ‘portico parents’ paid off.”

JFCS is proud to honor the Jeff Barin and Wendy Fox Family with our Friends of the Family Award at the 35th Annual Benefit on Saturday, Dec. 2. Join us at the event – get your tickets now at

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