The largest nonprofit human services organization in Dunwoody plans to expand its footprint in the community, its chief executive officer says.
Jewish Family & Career Services CEO Rick Aranson said the organization plans to move its program helping developmentally disabled adults from a space in a Chamblee office park to its Dunwoody location on 4549 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road.
The building will be renovated and expanded to include an additional 8,300 square feet of space.
John Perlman, president of the organization, said the “Tools for Independence” program started about eight years ago in the basement of a building in the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta. When the program outgrew the 1,500 square feet there, it moved about five years ago to Chamblee, where it had 3,500 square feet.
“We provide health, career and human services to improve the quality of life in both the Jewish and the broader communities,” he said. “We’re a nonsectarian organization and we’re diverse in every sense of the word.”
The Marcus Center is a social and recreational organization, while Jewish Family & Career Services is a service organization, Aranson said.
Chief Marketing Officer Brenda Fiske said JF&CS employs more than 230 people and is one of the largest nonprofits in Dunwoody. Perlman added they are the largest employer in the portion of Dunwoody outside the Perimeter area.
“We do things from adoption all the way to burying folks that don’t have the finances for a funeral,” Aranson said. “We have a dental clinic and everything else in between.”
The office in Chamblee is used to help adults with developmental disabilities become more independent and find work, Arason said.
The nonprofit is building a new pre-vocational training space at its Dunwoody campus, Aranson said.
“We are not building a residential facility,” he said. “This will be a hub and a jumping off point to get the support they need to work [in the community.]”
Aranson said he wants the work in “moving people toward greater independence” done in a space that is as high-quality as the people providing the services.
“We have credentials that match the best practitioners across multiple disciplines,” Aranson said. “We believe clients deserve the best experience possible, and this new space will enable us to provide first-class services to all people in need, not just the needy.”
The philosophy held by JF&CS in the Tools for Independence program extends to everyone who comes in for help, Fiske said.
“We look at every single person as a potential employee,” Fiske said. “We look at them through that lens when they walk through the door.”
Each person is evaluated on a personal basis to determine their capabilities and interests, Fiske said.
She described a man named Ben who she said loved doing art projects. JF&CS has an art initiative, Fiske said.
“Today we have him employed in an art gallery,” Fiske said. “That’s the perfect ending to the story.”
Aranson said JF&CS sees opportunities in Dunwoody’s growth, such as with the Georgetown master plan and business development, to help integrate developmentally disabled people into the community.
“Our current space in Chamblee is tucked away,” Aranson said, and isn’t the kind of space they need to properly get people engaged with the community.
Perlman said JF&CS has outgrown its Chamblee space, which the company plans to close after renovations are complete. The program is at capacity for the number of people it can help and the space isn’t large enough to accommodate clients. The new space will have more restrooms, for starters, Perlman said.
The JF&CS plans to move its Giving Garden, which Perlman said provided 2,000 pounds of fresh vegetables to people last year, and erect a building for its pre-vocational training center. After the garden is moved, it will be bigger, Perlman said.
Part of the renovation of the Dunwoody campus involves establishing two separate entrances to provide more privacy for clients.
“Most people show up with more than one issue,” Perlman said. “If a guy’s lost his job, he’s going to come here for employment counseling, resume writing and things like that, but he may also want to use the kosher food pantry.”
Aranson said the nonprofit measures its success on the impact of the work done alone and with the help of community partners.
“We are more than the sum of our parts,” Aranson said. “We provide several different services, but it’s an interconnected web of services. That’s within our own walls and also in the community.”
Perlman said he would have wanted to start construction immediately, but spring 2016 is a more realistic target.
“We are well on the way with our fundraising, and now we are in the phase where we’re talking to the foundation community and we’re hopeful we’ll be able to break ground in March,” Aranson said.
For more information on JF&CS, visit www.yourtoolsforliving.org