Liptalk: Take A Tour With Me

A Message from Andy Lipkin, Federation Executive Vice-President

I am proud of all the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation and its agencies have to offer. We 
may be a small Jewish community, yet we offer more than any other Jewish community of our size in North America, and more even than some communities two or three times bigger.

I’m pretty sure most people in our regional Jewish community don’t know all we offer. Did you know we have a group home, for example?

I’ve often thought if I could give a one-on-one tour of our current campus to every member of the Jewish community they would be as enthusiastic about what we offer as I am. Since that’s not possible, I invite you to join me on the next best thing – a virtual tour as I show around someone I just recently met.

Mrs. Wolfe* hadn’t been to our Gypsy Lane Campus in years. Some of what we offer was familiar to her, but much wasn’t.

We started out with perhaps one of our more visible offerings – the Jewish Community Center. Housed in this building is treasure after treasure.

We began with the second floor offices. Mrs. Wolfe remembered attending nursery school in what’s now the graphics office, and I recalled when I first came to town Jewish Family Services occupied that space.

I took her through a tour of the first floor – showing her the fitness area where treadmills, aerobic activities, free weights, and more are available; the freshly resurfaced gym floor; and a new area that is quickly becoming a functional fitness space adjacent to the aerobics room. I told her my first office was in that section, but we’re trying to use every little piece of the building for JCC member needs.

On the other side of the first floor is the Adult Lounge, Multi-Purpose Room, and the Thomases Art Gallery. The gallery hosts six to seven exhibitions per year, primarily showcasing diverse artistic perspectives from local and regional artists. Also in this area is the Schwartz Judaic Library and Holocaust Resource Center. Included in the resource center are the Dr. Saul Friedman Research Collection, 500 plus Holocaust related texts, more than 100 videos, and various original documents and artifacts from the time period of the Holocaust. The Center also houses the Bill Vegh and Henry Kinast traveling exhibitions that are available, at no cost, to schools, religious institutions and civic associations.

The Adult Lounge and Multi-Purpose Room, which includes a stage and state-of-the art sound system, are two of the spaces where many meetings, programs and events are held. They are also rented out to the community. The day of our tour, the multipurpose room was set up theater style. It can also be set with round tables. Our rental rates are reasonable, and this is another way for us to serve the whole community. Rental income is an important source of revenue for the JCC.

From the gallery, we looked out onto Noah’s Park playground and the newly-installed infant and toddler playground - this developmentally-appropriate play space for children ages six months to five years is the only one in the area. A map of Israel will soon be painted on the asphalt adjacent to the infant and toddler playground.

We also peeked into the pool area, and Mrs. Wolfe noticed how much brighter it is now than when she swam there as a child. Among others, kids in our day camp, daycare and preschool programs use the pool regularly. In fact, children from one year of age and older are now learning to swim as part of the Early Learning Center program. Participants in our P.A.L.S+ program use it, as well. This program offers free one-on-one swim lessons for persons who are on the autism spectrum or who have developmental disabilities.

But we weren’t done with the JCC building yet! The lowest level houses our Early Learning Center and Akiva Academy. The ELC accepts children aged six weeks through prekindergarten. Before- and after-school care is offered, as well. We will be adding another preschool classroom in the near future. Akiva, our Jewish day school, is for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Akiva is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, and is one of the top private schools in the area. Akiva started with kindergarten and first grade on the second floor of the JCC in September 1985. It continues to offer 90 minutes of Hebrew and Judaic instruction daily to the 141 students, both Jewish and non-Jewish.

Also on this level is the JCC School of Dance and School of Music. Soundproofing and mirrors were added to a racquetball court to create the space for these two new programs.

The JCC isn’t the only building on our campus, though. Our next stop was Heritage Manor Retirement & Rehabilitation Community. Mrs. Wolfe had visited the 72-bed facility before, but the adult day care portion was new to her. Transportation and a mid-day meal are provided for adult day participants. They also have the opportunity to take a meal home. On average, 15 to 18 people attend adult day care Monday through Friday.

Jewish Family Services is located at the far northwest corner of Heritage Manor, but has its own entrance allowing for client privacy. JFS offers a variety of programs and services including guardianships, counseling, group housing for developmentally disabled individuals, recreational and social activities for individuals with various disabilities, and home-delivered meals. We have 34 guardianships at the present time, and deliver, on average, between 700 to 1,000 kosher meals on wheels each month. These meals are made at Heritage Manor and delivered through a partnership with the Trumbull County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

Our final stop was Levy Gardens Assisted Living Facility. Mrs. Wolfe had a chance to see both a one- and a two-bedroom apartment. I explained that three kosher meals a day, transportation, laundry services, activities, and more are included in the rent for each tenant of Levy Gardens. Renovations to the Levy dining area and hallways were recently completed.

Walking back to the JCC, I pointed out the newly repaved ¼ mile track on our property. Soon a pavilion will be built on the grounds. Children in our growing summer camp program will make use of it. Four pickleball courts will also be installed, replacing the tennis courts. Our Logan Campus has an outdoor pool and four beautiful tennis courts. We anticipate many people utilizing the picklball courts starting this summer.

As we returned to the front entrance of the JCC, I told her about our new security measures. Security is a priority for us, so we undertook a vulnerability assessment for all of our buildings and local synagogues about three years ago. Now, armed security guards are on duty whenever the JCC is open, and upgrades to the reception area include a bank of monitors so the guard can view what’s going on in every building on the campus.

Throughout the tour, Mrs. Wolfe was also able to meet many staff members, including Courtney Lockshaw, JCC assistant membership marketing manager, who helped her sign up for a membership.

I’m just so proud to work for an organization that offers so much to our community. Thank you for taking a tour with me!

*Name has been changed

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