Message from Gary Bernstein, CEO
JCA Annual Meeting Speech
November 15, 2022
Good evening, everyone.
Thank you for joining us this evening at the Friedman JCC for our 2022 JCA Annual Members Meeting. Believe it or not, this is my third Annual Meeting. Time really flies when you’re having fun.
Congratulations to Bill Grant & Lynn Bachstein on receiving this year’s President’s Award. These two outstanding individuals are so deserving of this recognition.
A big hearty thanks goes to all the JCC Volunteers for the ongoing help, assistance, and support you provide every day. You are all important to our long-term success.
We were all quite shocked last year when we heard that John took ill towards the beginning of his stretch as President, thus unable to carry out his duties, and without knowing the full extent of John’s illness, Greg Fellerman, without any question or hesitation, stepped up to the line of scrimmage and said that he would carry the ball the rest of the way, completing John’s term of office.
There is no one more grateful than me for Greg’s willingness to preside over the board’s proceedings and to serve as a terrific advocate of our staff. Greg has opened many doors to us, solidified funding sources, created partnerships and proved to be a valuable partner to me.
Today we pause and look back on a year that proved rewarding for our agency, for our employees, and for our volunteers.
To put it rather simplistically – being the CEO of this agency is the full package. It’s exciting and demanding; it’s full of surprises; now and then it’s highly emotional and sometimes also quite interesting. However, at the same time it is also extremely fulfilling and gives me a sense of purpose.
It is this sense of purpose that helps me come to work motivated every day: I feel that I am leading an agency that is undoubtedly on the way up. It is a special organization that is worth supporting.
Because this agency, our JCA, constantly proves that it possesses remarkable resilience and strength. Resilience and strength that many people may underestimate.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we achieved a lot in 2022 and have made significant advances.
For example, to name a few:
The success continues with our IELC program and is due in large part to the hard work and leadership of Mary Clarke our Illumination Director and her staff along with Bill Grant & Fred Levy from our Board.
After decades of operational losses, our summer day camp is now trending in the black. With gratitude to Doug Miller our Camp Director, we averaged nearly 140 active campers per week in 2022.
Much appreciation goes to Amanda Coolbaugh for stepping in this past summer as the Camp Administrator. She handled registration and administrative functions, and communicating regularly with the parents and families.
With respect to JCC Membership, our rolls continue to increase. Amanda Coolbaugh, our new Community Engagement Director, and Dave Kayton, our Membership Chair and the entire Membership Committee are working to recruit new members and retain the ones we have. In fact, the next open house is scheduled for early February.
JCC 2022 Tribute Gala event co-chairs Karen Kalna Blum, and Taly Kornfeld along with Barbara Sugarman and the entire Gala committee handled the details and executed a profitable, and successful June Gala.
After the first two years of paying tribute to internal honorees, (Allan Kluger and Steve Davidowitz) we opted to extend our reach outward to the community and honor and recognize the Commission on Economic Opportunity (CEO) along with their Executive Director Gene Brady. What a great decision it was! This move outward allowed us to attract a more diverse audience and committee. Andrew Wyatt, GM of WBRE News, along with Nick Toma, News Anchor, who also served as our program MC and Becky Stitzer offered us so much more visibility and awareness in the community, including videos, billboards, radio announcements, etc.
However, on a melancholy note, it should be mentioned that Gene Brady recently passed away after a battle with cancer. He was such a dynamic leader in the nonprofit community, he will be sorely missed.
Another focus this year was to increase and grow our facility rentals and that we did by attracting the following: Business Network International (BNI), O’Donnell Law Offices, Fellerman & Ciarimboli Law Firm, Hourigan, Kluger & Quinn Law Firm, Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce, Family Service Association, Westmoreland Club, Wyoming Valley Clutch Basketball, Premier Martial Arts, Back Mountain Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Northeast, PATA Sphere, and Saxon Sports Academy. We expect this list to grow in 2023 and beyond.
We successfully implemented an educational evening with former US Ambassador John Tefft as part of the Sylvia and Henry Greenwald Family Lecture in International Affairs. The topic was the US Stake in the Ukraine/Russia war. Congressman Meuser and Congressman Cartwright were both present and shared their perspectives from Congress. This event was chaired by Fred Levy and co-sponsored by Wilkes University.
The 61st Annual JCC Golf Outing at Huntsville Golf Club, which is a real favorite of mine, attracted over 110 players and 52 sponsors this past August. What’s particularly unique about this special annual fundraiser is that we draw support from many players and sponsors from the general community.
Thanks to Barbara Sugarman, and to the wonderful Sara’s Table at the Kraus Chaiken Food Pantry Volunteers including Neil Kaufer, Joe Mitchneck, Mark Finkelstein, Janet Finkelstein, Bob Kopec, and Pat Kopec for their dedication and ongoing commitment to be at the JCC multiple times each week to service the growing food insecurity challenges that we face.
We achieved many of our objectives while laying a foundation for a continued positive trajectory for 2023 and beyond.
So, what’s next?
We are projecting a smaller deficit for FYE 2022 than originally budgeted by controlling our occupancy costs, cutting other expenses, and generating additional revenues through added facility rentals, and more programming. Our projection this year is to have a favorable variance to budget.
There is a particular new program that we are all getting excited about. The JCC is now in the after-school care business at Good Shepherd Academy in Kingston. Hopefully we will be able to parlay this one school into many other locations, which will ultimately improve our bottom line. Thanks to Amber Kilma, Brandon Heffelfinger, Mary Clarke, and Bill Grant for attending to the details in getting this program started.
There is an enthusiastic consensus that our JCC Day Camp is truly an asset with potential well beyond its current offering. With careful planning and judicious investment, the JCC Camp can reemerge as the notable and popular day camp it once was, and furthermore, the entire property be transformed into an attractive center for family and social gatherings and corporate events, and a widely recognized and exciting regional destination.
The Camp “Building a Brighter Future” Fundraising Campaign chaired by Jane Messinger and Myer Messinger are leading the fundraising efforts to expand and enhance our 40-acre campsite overlooking Harvey’s Lake. Committee members include David Schwager, Alex Rogers, Seth Kaufer, Jason Hoffman, Mitch Kornfeld and Doug Miller.
Thanks to a growing list of private donors plus receiving two RACP grants awarded from the State, we are planning numerous infrastructure improvements as well as more vibrant programming designed to make the camp more appealing to children of all backgrounds and ages.
We are extremely grateful to Greg Fellerman, State Representative Aaron Kaufer, State Senator Lisa Baker, and Carson Baker from the DT firm for their leadership in securing over $2 million dollars in State Funds toward our campsite project.
The current and anticipated day camp experience is generally well received but requires significant change. By incorporating a variety of improvements, continually adapting to the trends and interests of the campers, and adopting a vigorous marketing campaign, the Camp should once again thrive and attract the kinds of attendance seen in the past.
JCC Leadership has emphasized that in the future the existing camp facility should be viewed not just as a camp but rebranded as an Outdoor Activities Campus that also hosts a day camp.
The outlook is exciting!
A sampling of some other goals moving forward include:
- Serving and assisting more families in need
- Growing our Membership rolls
- Expanding our program offerings
- Collaborating more with our sister agencies
- Continue raising the necessary funds to complete our capital building and camp campaigns
- Working with our current board to identify and recruit a cadre of young leaders and prospective donors
- And finally, our top priority is to keep adding value for you, our members.
For this to happen, we need a true working partnership between our staff and lay leaders and volunteers.
We have so much potential in our agency and have much talent within our ranks. We must provide the necessary tools and clear away the obstacles. Besides integrity and teamwork, there is another attribute we must embrace which is to build an entrepreneurial spirit.
We have a small but very talented staff. They work hard each day to make this agency great. My staff & I are committed to making good financial decisions that will sustain us long into the future. We are dedicated to staffing this agency with a good heart, treating people the way we all want to be treated and how our Jewish values and ethics will shape the decisions we make.
In conclusion, I would like to thank our staff and board – for their commitment and hard work. It is this commitment and hard work which ensures we remain successful during these exciting times.