This year has been a busy and successful one for our Section, thanks to the hard work of our energetic and supportive Board and you, our members. Your generosity and sustained effort for over 90 years allows NCJW to exert a local, national and international impact on issues involving women, children and families.
Our first event of the past 12 months was a Silent Auction held at the new Press Hotel at the end of August at which we raised over $7,000.
At about the same time, on a very hot August night we filled 250 backpacks with supplies needed by children entering kindergarten in three Portland schools.
This was followed by our sponsorship of the opening of an exhibit at the Jewish Museum, “Welcoming the Stranger,” which highlighted the kosher meals provided by NCJW members to new arrivals entering the United States via House Island nearly a century ago. Working with artist Jo Israelson, who conceived this installation, we made contact with the special collections librarian at the University of Southern Maine. She enthusiastically agreed to accept and archive all of NCJW’s records for the Jean Sampson Collection on Diversity, while we maintain ownership. The transfer of all of records was completed this fall.
Both the auction and the opening of the exhibit were featured in articles in the Maine Sunday Telegram. It was wonderful to see the excellent coverage concerning NCJW and its many programs.
As I noted last year, we formed an investment committee to oversee the handling of our scholarship funds. This year the Board approved an investment and distribution policy which protects the funds and also increases the amount of money available for distribution.
When Shaw’s Supermarket offered stamps for every $10 spent in their stores, our members generously participated by collecting the stamps and sending them to Susan Isenman, who pasted them in booklets. With these stamps we were able to “purchase” four, 20-piece sets of flatware which were delivered to the Family Crisis Center to be given to women leaving the shelter to set up new households. Meanwhile, we continued our project of providing toiletries and personal care items to women and children entering the shelter.
In December we asked our members to donate gently-used blankets for families at Reiche School and were pleased to deliver approximately 25 blankets which were distributed at the Reiche Holiday Party.
In keeping with the holiday spirit, we provided Christmas gifts for a mother and her two daughters who were living at the shelter. Their requests were all within our budget, with the exception of an American Girl Doll. Thanks to the generosity of the grown daughter of one of our shelter chairs, who donated one of the dolls from her collection, we were able to meet this request.
We continued to read and assist with math at Reiche School with our members volunteering over 100 hours. The school would welcome any members who would like to volunteer by contacting our NCJW co-ordinator Eydie Pryzant.
In February we presented a “Discussion of the Opioid Epidemic: Where Are We Going” featuring a panel including Portland Chief of Police, Michael Sauschuck, Oliver Bradeen, Substance Abuse Disorder Liaison, and Reverend Alice Hildebrand, Chaplain for the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital and the Family Birth Center.
We are also selling our new tribute cards. They are a wonderful way to extend congratulations for happy events or sympathy for losses. We sell a set of five cards and envelopes for $30. If you need cards during the year, Susan Steinkeler is in charge and will be happy to supply them. They will also be available at all of our meetings.
Finally, if you are downsizing or just cleaning closets, attics, or basements, please save any gently-used children’s snow pants and snow jackets for the students at Reiche School. These can be dropped off on my porch at any time.
Our entire board has worked tirelessly this year to accomplish all the activities I have mentioned. However, there is one board member who has gone above and beyond this year: Eileen Arsenault, our Treasurer. At our fundraiser last August, Eileen broke her ankle walking down the hotel stairs, but insisted on staying for the entire evening because she was the only one who knew how to use our credit card device. As treasurer, Eileen has developed our budgets, provided monthly reports and brought our bank accounts up to date regarding authorized signators. If that were not enough, Eileen volunteered to Chair our nominating committee this spring, and has presented us with an outstanding slate of officers. Eileen, thank you so much.
Tonight we celebrate our Annual Meeting, award scholarships to deserving Jewish students from Southern Maine, and install our new Board. I want to give special thanks to Barbara Peisner, our scholarship chair who has served on this committee for more years than she can remember, as well as to the entire committee for their commitment to our scholarship program. It is gratifying to present so many scholarships in these days of steeply rising costs for post high school education.
It has been my privilege and pleasure to serve as your President for the past two years. Thanks to the entire Board and membership for your support.