Doug Winkelstein is a Keshet board member, volunteer and donor. In this article, he shares his unique perspective about why he gives to Keshet and why this organization means so much to him.
Despite the fulfillment I get from my work in the Jewish community at BBYO, my involvement with Keshet over the past few years has become so important to me. I may not fit the traditional mold of a donor or board member as I am not a family member of a Keshet participant, but that only makes my appreciation for the work Keshet does to be that much stronger. That being said, these are just a few of the many reasons why I am so proud to support an organization like Keshet…
The mission speaks to me.
Inclusion is important regardless of ability, gender, sexual orientation, identity, or race. As a gay man and a Jewish person, I know what it feels like to be “left out” because of my own identity. Keshet is a place that not only accepts people exactly how they are, but is a place where everyone can feel true belonging. This translates beyond the people that we serve–belonging is equally for the staff, families, community partners and even volunteers like myself. Keshet does not simply “support” people with disabilities, but gives everyone access to lead full, enriching lives where they can build connections, grow their skills and live meaningful lives. Not only that, but I’ve never seen an organization who emphasizes community service and volunteering as much as Keshet does. It’s truly remarkable to see people continue to give back to communities that give them so much.
Keshet’s staff are leaders in this space.
While I don’t have family ties to Keshet, I’ve been able to meet and work with many Keshet staff, including CEO Jen Phillips through my work with BBYO. The Keshet staff are special–they are caring experts who have dedicated their careers to something meaningful and important. Each staff member strives to focus on creating a community at large while simultaneously supporting each individual’s needs. Keshet staff are constantly challenging ideas of what inclusion truly means and finding ways to support even more participants in new, exciting ways. I love being able to support an organization where people work for more than just a paycheck–work that genuinely makes the world a better place.
Keshet is innovative and they continue to grow.
Most service organizations focus on helping people at a certain time in one’s life with one singular purpose. Keshet is unique, as its goal is to help people of all ages and all ability levels throughout the course of their lifetime. What started as a few parents sitting around a kitchen table in 1982 wanting to help their children soon turned into an opportunity to enact real, meaningful change in the lives of people with disabilities. As the participants have grown over the last forty years, Keshet has grown along with them, continuously adding in new programs to help support individuals with disabilities across the entire lifespan. It’s so remarkable to see the impact of Keshet’s growth over the years and how the participants’ success is a direct reflection of that. Staff always involve their participants in the conversation–asking what they personally want and need out of their programming–and will do whatever it takes to make it happen. I have no doubt that they will continue to adapt programming and initiatives to meet the needs of their clients for the next forty and beyond.
Keshet is truly a one-of-a-kind organization and community that I feel so proud to support. I look forward to continuing my involvement and seeing all the ways we will grow and thrive in the coming year.