The Jewish Association for Community Living (JCL), a local Federation partner, gives those with developmental disabilities the opportunity to participate in community life through personal empowerment, community engagement, family relationships, and quality services enhanced by Jewish tradition. Below, JCL Executive Director Denis Geary shares his organization's commitment to lifelong care for those they serve, as well as his appreciation for the support of all in our community. In 2018, Denis received Federation’s Henry M. Zachs Spirit of Judaism Award.
Being asked to submit a Shabbat message for our Federation is both an honor and a challenge. It’s an honor because I get to speak directly to you — and a challenge because I am determined to write something that doesn’t mention you know what (it rhymes with “bovid”). So here goes nothing — or hopefully something.
On May 24, 1982, documents were signed and filed with the Secretary of State’s office establishing the Jewish Association for Community Living (JCL), a nonstock corporation with the State of Connecticut that provides care and community for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. JCL was born.
In December 1983, we opened our first group home. Nearly 40 years later, we still support a man who was one of the original residents of that home. He was in his early twenties then and is now 61 years old.
Herein lies the point I want to make about JCL and our mission: We are here for a person’s lifetime. Nothing less. In 1995, two 20-year-old women took up residence in a new group home we opened. Today, they are in their mid-40s and could conceivably be with us for another 40 years. Our newest group residence became home for two men in their early twenties in 2017. Could they be with JCL for another 60 years? Perhaps.
Imagine what it means to moms, dads, brothers, and sisters to know we will be here for their loved ones as long as they need us. What price can you put on that level of comfort and peace of mind?
Our families know that you have our backs. JCL is unique — and privileged — to have a community that cares about our mission, even if you may never need our services. We all like to support causes that impact our lives in some way, and JCL is blessed to have support from so many who may not be impacted by a family member with an intellectual or developmental disability.
Forty years ago, a community came together to give birth to JCL, and it did so at a time when institutional living was still the predominant option for families who sought help for their adult, or soon-to-be adult, children. The visionaries who conceived JCL knew that community-based housing options with appropriate support systems were needed to replace the antiquated, "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" institutions that shuttered our fellow citizens behind closed doors in far-off corners of our state.
This community has much to be proud of. It is rich with wonderful opportunities for people of all ages. JCL is proud to be a patch in that magnificent quilt, sewn together by our professional and lay leaders over several generations. Our very existence is thanks to you —and to all those who helped JCL get started. And thanks to you, we are able to keep our promise to the women and men we support and their families.
Mission accomplished — with no mention of you know what!
To learn more about JCL's work, visit the website.
Photo: JCL residents enjoy a birthday celebration in their shared Greater Hartford-area home. Image courtesy of JCL.