WALKING THROUGH THE recently refurbished Mandel House this past April was a truly uplifting experience. From the modern kitchen to the bright artwork on the freshly painted walls, the house radiates warmth and care. Jewish Federation & Family Services’ (JFFS) Mandel House was first opened in October 2014, and is now a nurturing Jewish home for six male adults (over 18) with developmental disabilities.
Both Horwitz Family House, which opened last fall, and Mandel House are wonderful assets to the Orange County Jewish community. Both homes meet the unique needs of their residents by providing a supported living environment for adults with special needs. Residents receive assistance with daily living and learn about self-care and healthy living, but they also have the chance to cook together, handle chores, and socialize—all the things that make a house a home.
Dr. Lauren Gavshon Brand, Chief Operating Officer of JFFS, enthusiastically explains that “opening JFFS’ Jewish Residential Homes for Adults with Special Needs was a milestone in our Jewish community and represents the organization’s commitment to taking care of people in need in Orange County. We could not have done this without the support and generosity of our donors, as well as the many community members who donated every item that you see in the homes from the moment you step through the door.”
Reega Neutel, MSW and JFFS Coordinator of Special Needs Services, proudly pointed out all the upgrades and amenities of the homes, all while explaining what an important service these homes provide to the community: “Our Special Needs Services empower individuals with disabilities, as well as their families, caregivers, and professionals, and creates the opportunity for acceptance, inclusion and full participation in the richness of Jewish educational, cultural, and social life.”
Reega and the rest of the JFFS professional clinical team and staff provide ongoing assistance and advocacy support to strengthen the quality of life of families with special needs of all beliefs and backgrounds. They work tirelessly to recognize the strengths, opportunities, and challenges of people with disabilities in our OC Jewish Community.
With two residential homes available, Jewish Federation & Family Services is able to offer a Jewish living environment to more families. According to Terri Moses, Director of Program Impact, “the homes feature a robust menu of enrichment activities for residents led by caring community volunteers, often in partnership with local congregations or other Jewish organizations.” Some of the highlights include:
- Jewish Culture: Residents experience Jewish culture through Shabbat dinners, Chanukah menorah lightings, Passover Seders, Purim parties, and High Holiday observances.
- Circle of Giving: The homes receive a lot of support from our community, and the residents want to give back. Through volunteering efforts such as spending time with older adults living in Bubbe & Zayde’s Place in the Adopt a Grandparent initiative, the young men and women have opportunities to complete the circle of giving.
- Whole Person Wellness: The health and wellness of residents is a top priority to encourage residents to participate in activities offered such as neighborhood walks, nature hikes, nutrition education, exercise, organic gardening, and healthy cooking.
- Just Fun: Because sometimes we just want to have fun, residents can choose activities they enjoy such as sporting events, holiday parties, and excursions.
- Two Residential Homes in One Neighborhood: The JFFS team of volunteers and family members help plan joint activities. Both homes are located in a comfortable residential neighborhood in Santa Ana, close to bus routes, shopping centers, and parks.
With a focus on inclusion, independence, and growth, the residents of Mandel House and Horwitz Family House are able to reach their highest potential and to thrive. And that is even more beautiful than the homes.
Note: Jewish Federation & Family Services is currently taking applications for Mandel House. For more information, or to sign up on our interest list, please go to https://familyservicesoc.org/special-needs.
Erika Silver Hillinger is a contributing writer to Jlife magazine.