The Year That Was

Jennifer Phillips reflects on her first year as Keshet’s CEO/President.

The recent High Holidays provided me with time to reflect and think about the past year since I was promoted to CEO/President of Keshet.

It’s hard not to start with the challenges. The COVID pandemic presents challenges that all organizations, schools and camps never dreamed they would face. We all had to make tough decisions—shutting down in person programs and school; going to remote learning and programming; cancelling overnight camp; and finding new and innovative ways to support our participants, families and staff.

We had to create safety protocols that changed weekly and sometimes even daily. We have faced capacity limits, staffing shortages, and our community’s fears and stress. We learned a new vocabulary filled with words like pivot, pods, quarantine, social distancing and Zoom, words that are now part of our regular vocabulary.

From challenges come opportunities, and Keshet has seized upon every one we could. This is what makes me the most proud.

I am proud that we continue to innovate in an effort to ensure that Keshet participants get the programs and services they needed so they don’t regress and, instead, grow and thrive. We did what we needed to support our families who suddenly had new and sometimes overwhelming challenges, we ensured that we didn’t lose needed and valued staff. Staff who often had extra stress, we were vigilant about the health and safety of our Keshet community and while we sometimes could only take one step forward at a time we never stumbled. Through it all we stayed true to our mission to create a community of belonging where people with disabilities learn, play, work, live and grow with people of all abilities. We just had to be creative and find new and different ways to accomplish this, and we did!!

Throughout this whole year and a half, we did things the Keshet way which means we support our community, we care for each other, we innovate, and yes, we even pivot!

We worked with our partners to operate day camp the past two summers and then welcome campers back to Camp Chi this past summer. Similar to having students attend school in-person, this provided a piece of normalcy and consistency during times with so much uncertainty. Keshet created happiness, and we are now seeing this as more adults return to the GADOL adult day program. It is a relief to know that we are moving very close to the day when every adult who wants to return to GADOL will be able to. Our focus is now on the next chapter.

We have not let the challenges of this last year in a half stop us from growing, we are Keshet strong and forever growing.

I am deeply grateful for our participants families, staff, board and our entire Keshet family who made it possible for us to not only get thru this past year, but grow and thrive!

I am often overwhelmed by the pride I have in what we accomplish every day, I am humbled every day by the support and caring of our Keshet community and I am honored every single day to be the CEO of this exceptional organization and the inclusive community we create every day.

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