More than 300 Westchester community and business leaders and residents came together on April 10 for the WJCS-Westchester Jewish Community Services Gala at Brae Burn Country Club in Harrison. The highly successful Gala raised funds to support WJCS mental health, educational, parenting, disabilities, geriatric, home care, and other programs for people of all ages and backgrounds in Westchester.
The Gala honored Suzanne Yearley, a Scarsdale resident, professional chef, cooking teacher, and longtime supporter and Board member of WJCS, and Robert Wiener, a Mamaroneck resident, Chairman of Maxx Properties, founder of the WJCS Wiener Academy for Young Women and passionate supporter of a host of additional philanthropic WJCS efforts that are enabling a successful trajectory for Westchester youth and families.
During a Give for Good Auction, in which attendees bid on where their charitable dollars are directed, WJCS provided an up-close look at the work they do to change lives. The program featured a video of and live appearance by Tenika, a victim of childhood sexual abuse who credits WJCS counseling and support with becoming a victor over her past trauma. She no longer allows the abuse she suffered to define her or shape her future.
Malik, a polite and poised third grader from Edward Williams Elementary School in Mt. Vernon, spoke about the activities from which he benefits at WJCS’s Afterschool Advantage program which enable him to succeed at homework assignments, participate in a chorus and instrumental music playing, do STEM projects, and learn how to be a stand-up citizen.
Sarah, a parent from Hastings on the Hudson, shared her family’s experience with WJCS Center Lane, the only teen center for LGBTQ youth in Westchester. She said that she and her husband found it “excruciatingly painful” at first when their child, who was assigned female at birth, began identifying as male. Attending Transparentcy, Center Lane’s program for parents of Trans children, gave her and her husband “immediate comfort.” Being in a room with adults who understood how disorienting parenting Trans children can feel and for Dylan, their child, “meeting other Trans teens in person, not just online,” was life changing. “I’m not sure where we’d have ended up if we hadn’t found Center Lane and Transparentcy when we did,” she said.
For Shayna, joining Shelanu, WJCS’s program for people on the Autism Spectrum or with other developmental issues, “changed my life.” A monthly calendar filled with gardening, bowling, film dates, dinners at restaurants, sports, baking, jewelry-making, Rye Playland visits, and even social skills classes has filled what was once an empty social schedule. Shelanu provides Jewish holiday and Shabbat programs, and emphasizes the importance of giving back. “Sometimes we make goodie bags for a local homeless shelter. We have collected hats, gloves, and small toys to donate at the holidays….It would be very boring if I never found Shelanu and never met any of these friends.”
The 2018 Gala celebrated the 75th Anniversary of WJCS, which “has been inextricably connected with the Westchester community” since 1943, said CEO Alan Trager.
Throughout its seven-plus decade history, “WJCS has been committed to building the strength and resilience of our neighbors, of all ages and backgrounds, who face significant challenges,” said WJCS Board President Neil Sandler. “With our comprehensive range of programs overseen by compassionate professionals, we provide 20,000 people annually a blanket of services that improves their lives in the most fundamental and significant ways.”
The funds raised at the Gala will provide much-needed human services, for issues related to mental health, parenting, after school programs, autism, disabilities, home care, geriatric, and other services. MasterCard was honored as a corporate partner.