By: Loren London, Director & Founder and Rachel Slavkin, Director of Employment & Education
When our community locked down one year ago, RAISE did not patiently wait for the new normal and wonder what that would look and feel like. Although rolling out vaccinations has allowed so many of us to begin to see a light, our young adults with disabilities have needed so much more than that…they needed Soul Care.
And RAISE provided it.
RAISE started 2020 with heartwarming recognition when our program was selected as a Community Champion by WESH/Channel 2 News. Little did we know what lurked ahead.
When businesses shuttered and doors closed, RAISE kept on working safely, from a distance. Within two weeks, RAISE jumped on board to provide virtual opportunities to our employees, families, and alumni. Working remotely, our volunteer Leadership Team has been able to meet regularly and deftly pivot to accommodate the ever-changing data. And, as we have done for the past 8 years, RAISE has been able to deliver social skills training for adults with special needs and an added support group for their families. Our dedicated job coach volunteers, paired up with RAISE participants, and are able to stay connected on a weekly basis and provide practice and reinforcement of learned skills.
RAISE is proud to share that our program has been recognized as one of the first 2021Top Rated recipients by GreatNonprofits. The heartfelt words of our employees, alumni, their families, and our donors that have been touched by our program speak volumes. We hope you will take a moment to read a few Praise for RAISE quotes below.
RAISE is guided by the traditional Jewish value of Tikkun Olam and takes into account the overall well-being of adults with special needs and their families as we strive to make our community a better, more inclusive place for everyone. As a program, we have always deeply cared about the intellectual and emotional impact we are having on each participant, his/her family, and our community.
Soul Care month reminds us that although we need to take time to nurture ourselves, we also need to help one another, especially during this pandemic. This too shall pass and with a little bit of kindness and optimism, we can all make a difference as we wait for the new normal and the exciting changes it will bring.
Looking for a meaningful and rewarding experience? We hope you will consider volunteering as a job coach. Just click on our webpage to find out more about RAISE and how to participate. Working with RAISE participants is nourishing for your heart and soul.
See some Praise for RAISE:
Client Served 02/12/2021
As an employee of the RAISE Program, I feel honored. It was a wonderful experience. It gave me building blocks for self-esteem, self advocacy, and self-determination. I learned social expectations in a workplace, the importance of following directions at a workplace, phone etiquette, and peer-relationships. Through their help and encouragement and all that I have learned in the RAISE program, I was able to obtain employment. It is a blessing that I have been in the RAISE Program and continue to be in the RAISE family.
Client Served 02/24/2021
My son is 22 yrs old and graduated from high school in May 2020. He began attending the “virtual” RAISE Your Skills program during the Covid quarantine shutdown. I have been so impressed by the leadership and guidance of the staff as they teach important social skills for future work environments, the creativity and positive learning style is to be commended. My son looks forward to attending weekly and is gaining confidence practicing the new skills into his daily interactions with family and friends. The RAISE program provides a valuable service to individuals, the community, and their families by preparing these young adults for future work environments.
As a Job Coach with the RAISE program, I have been privileged to work with and learn from
the leaders and professionals of the RAISE Team. I have learned from my students and their families, and from the staff at the agencies, we are affiliated with.
What have I learned and experienced? A greater respect for everyone’s amazing potential, the value of patience, and the value of persistence.
I have been awed by the growth of my employees. They are like buds that blossom. I have shared in the amazement of their families as they watch their growth. And I have felt satisfied that by participating in RAISE I have been part of a worthwhile and meaningful effort.
As a supervisor to RAISE employees for over two years. I can say that watching these employees progress and add community to our organization benefits us a great deal. The level of support from RAISE, as well as the great work-ethic from employees is simply amazing. This program is important for the Orlando community and the interaction gained really brought light into our community center. I highly recommend RAISE to community partners.
As a donor, we are so happy to support RAISE each year since we continue to see the impact it has had on our entire community. Before the pandemic closed the doors of the Dick and Dottie’s Place, a cafe in the lobby of the Jewish Community Center in Maitland, we were particularly touched to see RAISE employees working in the cafe and helping customers. RAISE is the first program for adults with special needs in our Jewish community that pays their participants to work at partnering agencies! The fact that RAISE continues to prepare adults with special needs for competitive employment makes it even more valuable now as we make our way to the other side of this pandemic.
By: Loren London, Founder and Director of RAISE & Rachel Slavkin, Director of Employment and Education
Our RAISE (Recognizing Abilities and Inclusion of Special Employees) mission is to build confidence, promote independence, and teach employability skills to adults with special needs and provide guidance and support to their families. Once in the RAISE family, always in the RAISE family is at the heart of everything we do. Discouraged and unsuccessful in entering the workforce, RAISE is proud to help our ‘family members’ become recognized and valued members of our community.
By March 2020, we were well aware of our need to pivot and provide virtual support and learning opportunities for the largest number of RAISE applicants since our inception in 2012. Teaching online has allowed us to expand our impact and offer RAISE Your Skills, pre-employment training to prepare participants to enter the workforce. Participants are matched with volunteer job coaches to practice and reinforce the learned skills. We have seen the importance of these personal connections and how they have helped build the self confidence of our participants.
Recognizing the more challenging role of our job coaches, we have also created a virtual educational opportunity providing advanced training for best practices led by professionals in the field. In addition, aware of the high risk for depression and increased anxieties felt by our families, we started an emotional support group, RAISE Your Voice. Our team saw this need and jumped at the opportunity to provide an online forum that connects families with professionals for much needed support and guidance.
There is no better way to share the impact of RAISE than in just one of the many testimonials we have received in the past from grateful family members.
A loving brother tells Alex’s story best:
“Alex had been in and out of jobs for years with no success. After 6 months of getting nowhere with dozens of agencies and community programs, I found RAISE. In the interview, I could tell the team knew all the resources in Orlando and amazingly, helped move the dial before the program began. Instantaneously, we were adopted into the RAISE family. Suddenly, we had a plan, a support network, and a Rolodex of caring people. Doors began to open; we started to see the light. The quality of his job coaches was beyond anything I could have expected. This free program and coaching would have cost thousands elsewhere. He even received a weekly paycheck! Alex learned how to interact with bosses, handle stress, and provide good customer service. As we leave, we still feel a part of the RAISE family. I have never seen a more caring organization.”
As RAISE continues to foster a culture of inclusion, we are proud of the meaningful impact we are having on personal dignity as our participants strive to reach their potential. A nationwide pause in hiring opened the door for RAISE to provide valuable pre-employment training to adults with special needs. When we can safely meet in person, we look forward to resuming our original RAISE format, offering social skills classes and paid, job coach supported employment training at 7 locations. During these challenging times of divide, more than ever before, inclusion of adults with special needs, empowering families, and celebrating diversity in our workplace will help us continue to build a united community guided by our values of making the world a better place.
RAISE, the Jewish Federation’s work and social skills training program for adults with special needs, is proud to announce the launch of two “brand” new logos!
Collaboration with Jewish agencies and businesses in our community has been a priority for RAISE since its inception in 2012. Our Community Alliance with Paula Breeden, founder and president of ASD Adult Achievement Center, began several years ago when she volunteered as a RAISE Job Coach. Soon thereafter, Paula opened ASD Achievement Center. In partnership with Bright Feats Directory, the program empowers young adults on the autism spectrum by offering participants an opportunity to learn new vocational skills including graphic design and technology.
The RAISE relationship with ASD Adult Achievement and its team of talented Graphic Art designers led to the creation and their donation of the beautiful new RAISE logo above! Thank you Paula, Luigi, Julia and Nolan!
RAISE on the Road
At the request of other Jewish communities around the country to replicate our program, RAISE has been developing a program, called RAISE on the Road, to facilitate teaching in a seminar format. And of course, RAISE on the Road needed a logo of its own.
This past year, RAISE was fortunate to have had Dean as an employee. Dean came to RAISE with a background in graphic arts and was thrilled to be offered the opportunity to design a logo for RAISE on the Road.
In addition to his working at Jewish Family Services and the Jewish Academy of Orlando, Dean also spent many hours creating and then refining the new logo with Federation staff. Thank you, Dean!
Jessica has been an appreciatedand valuable Employee of both the Jewish Family Services Food Pantry and the Roth Family JCC Fitness Center since October 2018.
At JFS, Jessica has the important role of helping to unload boxes of food and preparing bags of food for clients.
At the Fitness Center, Jessica washes, dries and folds the laundry and keeps the exercise rooms sanitized for all the clients.
Jessica has worked hard to learn her routine tasks at both positions and is receptive to feedback from her job coaches. Her job coaches are in awe of how much Jessica has progressed during her time in RAISE.
Being in RAISE has pushed Jessica out of her comfort zone, which will be a benefit when Jessica transitions to community employment.
Jessica’s polite manners make her enjoyable to be around and her smile can light up any room.
We are fortunate to have Jessica on the RAISE team!
RAISE is thrilled to have been given the opportunity to film a Promotional Video thanks to the generosity of Robin Hoffman and Alexis Latimore.
Robin Hofmann of Hoffy’s Heart is the producer of Bake With Me, a YouTube video series that gives a voice to individuals with disabilities… while baking gluten free recipes! Thank you, Robin and camerawoman extraordinaire Alexis, for making this possible for RAISE.
Isabelle has been an Employee of the JCC Fitness Center since October 2018 and recently, an appreciated member of the JCC office staff.
At the fitness center, Isabelle works to keep the gym equipment sparkling clean and sanitized and the towels washed, dried, folded and restocked for clients. She has a special bond with Tara Harris, the Sports, Fitness, and Aquatics Director.
In the JCC office, Isabelle has started scanning boxes of documents so that previous files can now be stored electronically. This eliminates the need to keep years of paper records.
When Isabelle began working with RAISE, she was a shy and quiet young lady. It has been a pleasure to watch her become a hard working, competent, and self assured RAISE Employee. Isabelle is willing to do any task asked of her without hesitation.
Isabelle is an active participant at Lunch and Learn. She asks insightful questions, participates in conversations, and is always part of our group activities.
We are fortunate to have Isabelle on the RAISE team!