Member Spotlight

JULY 2016 
JFCS: Rebuilding Lives, One at a Time

María Rodriguez knows what it’s like to live with parents facing mental illness and drug addiction. Removed from her home by state authorities for her own safety, she began living in foster care when she was 10 and lost both parents before she was 14.
It wasn’t until she received help from Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JFCS) that she understood that she her past didn’t have to define her future. 
Today, María’s is the story of a once forgotten girl who became a leader.
“There’s so many people that don’t want to talk about their story,” she said. “So, telling a counselor helped me not be shy about it.”
María first learned she had leadership skills through a job development program at JFCS, a non-profit, non-sectarian organization that offers a wide range of behavioral health, medical and social services for the needy.
“I didn’t even know I was a leader,” said María, but after helping organize a community celebration she discovered she had the knack for leading others and the power to change her life for the better.
Liz Hernández, Director of Public Relations and Communications at JFCS, said María is one of thousands of people, mostly children, who are helped by the organization every year. The group’s services are open to anyone regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual preference, disability, age, economic status or religious background. 

Hernández said of the 41,000 children and adults JFCS served last year almost 19,000 self-identified as Latino or minority. She added that most JFCS clients live in poverty, and over 67 percent are children. 

“Our goal is to foster healing, resiliency and self-sufficiency, which will ultimately strengthen our community, because no family is immune from mental health and substance abuse issues,” Hernandez said.
Celebrating over 80 years of service, JFCS is one of the largest providers of behavioral health services in Arizona. It recently opened the Michael R. Zent Healthcare Center—a patient-centered, whole-health clinic located in the largely Hispanic West Valley community of Maryvale. The Center was named in honor of the organization’s highly-regarded CEO & President, who passed away earlier this year, and was designed to provide medical and behavioral health services.
“True to the man himself, the Michael R. Zent Healthcare Center is cutting-edge and it serves a community in need,” said Dr. Mario Lippy, co-director of the clinic. “Dr. Zent was very involved with the Latino community, and like many of our patients, he spoke Spanish and grew up in Arizona. He also had the vision of a whole healthcare model that addresses complex behavioral health and medical issues, and helps to improve the well-being and quality of people’s lives.”

With additional clinics in Glendale, Avondale and Mesa, JFCS received the 2016 Industry Leaders of Arizona “Community Impact Award” for its response to the ongoing child welfare crisis and its commitment to deliver quality healthcare and social services to the diverse communities.

“At the core of our agency is the power of people, including the compassion, dedication and hard work of our more than 600 employees and a strong network of community partners,” said Hernández.

As for María, She has graduated high school and plans to become a nurse. She works as an advocate for education and mental services for youth in foster homes and serves in variety of youth leadership roles, including as president of the Maricopa County Youth Advisory Board.

And she is still not shy about telling her story.