With demand at record need, JFCS’ Annual Benefit Fund-a-Need will support Emergency Financial Assistance


JFCS provides immediate support and works to serve clients’ long-term needs through 30-plus programs and services

For so many individuals and families who now find themselves living paycheck to paycheck because of the higher cost of basic needs, including food and rent, one unexpected event such as a medical bill or a car repair can lead to a financial downward spiral. Families are suddenly faced with food insecurity if they can’t afford groceries, or eviction if they can’t pay rent. JFCS’ ability to provide Emergency Financial Assistance is a critical part of our ability to provide immediate support for those with need, in addition to our programs and services that help individuals and families attain long-term stability and wellbeing.

This year, JFCS’ Annual Benefit Fund- a-Need will raise money for Emergency Financial Assistance. The need for it has never been greater; we are consistently providing five or more financial assistance grants in most weeks – more than twice the number of weekly grants before the pandemic.

JFCS serves the Jewish and broader communities with financial assistance for individuals/families who qualify when an unexpected crisis occurs. However, we don’t stop at this short-term assistance. Thanks to our ability to serve clients holistically, we can address long- term, ongoing needs for clients through 30-plus programs in areas such as Career Services, Counseling and Mental Health, Children and Family Programs, and more.

The story of Lisa (pseudonym) is a perfect example of this. Lisa is a single, Jewish parent. She and her 18-month-old son were homeless until earlier this year, when they were able to secure housing through the help of a housing voucher. Unfortunately, immediately after obtaining housing, they faced a series of obstacles. A car fire eliminated their transportation and folded the cleaning business they opened because Lisa could no longer transport her supplies and travel to her client’s homes. They were unable to pay rent and were at risk of both eviction and losing their voucher (and re-entering the cycle of homelessness). JFCS assisted with a grant toward their rent to stabilize housing, and Lisa secured a new job.

Outside of this grant, JFCS assisted Lisa and her son with resources, including food, tips for free communications tools, enrollment in Metro Transit’s assistance program for reduced bus fare, and information for benefits like childcare assistance and energy assistance. We also provided information on JFCS’ ParentChild+ school readiness program; mental health support programs; and Career Services, since Lisa was hoping to find a better, full-time job.

JFCS Intake Counselor Skylar Peterson said what stood out to her about Lisa was how she faced each setback with courage. “Sometimes courage looks like bringing your child to daycare and yourself to work on a bike day after day, like she did,” Skylar said. “Other times, it’s the decision to pick up the phone, let someone else know your story, and ask for help… like she did. It was an honor to walk beside her and support her in making the changes she believed she needed to for herself and her child.”

Lisa is just one example of how JFCS’ Emergency Financial Assistance has supported community members. In 2021, Kara (pseudonym) contacted JFCS’ Intake and Resource Connection seeking help with a car towing fee. She was homeless and fleeing a domestic violence situation. Domestic violence shelters are often full, especially in the metro, and vacancies fill fast. She managed to find a shelter placement, but it was more than an hour away and when her only means of transportation was impounded, she was at risk for losing the open bed. She was also facing mental health challenges.

JFCS acted quickly to respond to her need, providing both a financial assistance grant and information on how to seek mental health services in the county she was transitioning to for an added layer of support. One year after her first call to JFCS, Kara wrote an email to the agency expressing gratitude. “I had contacted you because of a situation last year in which my vehicle was towed at the shelter I was staying in,” she wrote. “I was ill and everything just seemed to go so fast and I would like to thank you for your help. I hope your organization is blessed this year. Thank you.”

JFCS CEO Judy Halper said the agency has offered Emergency Financial Assistance without shame or judgment since its beginning in 1910. “When someone requests financial assistance, we offer wrap-around services that may alleviate future economic stress, in addition to providing immediate financial assistance,” she said. “Oftentimes, employment assistance, mental health support, or other JFCS programs provide relief to the individual in immediate financial need. We know it takes a lot for someone to ask for help, and we strive to provide that help with compassion and care.”

Thanks to a generous anonymous donation, the Fund-a-Need is starting with $100,000. Please consider making a gift now at www.tuneinjfcs.org or the night of the Benefit on Dec. 3!