Spotlight On...

Read stories from our board members, volunteers, and employees that highlight JFS' mission of Tikkun Olam (healing the world) and show the impact we make every day in our community. Check back each month for a new story.

Debra Mayer

Director of Clinical, Older Adult and Adoption Services

PLEASE TELL US ABOUT YOUR PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND:

I received my MSSW from the University of Louisville in Louisville, KY in 1978. I am also a CT (Certified Thanatologist), which means I am a grief counselor.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WITH JFS AND WHAT BROUGHT YOU HERE?

I have worked at JFS since 1993, so this is my 27th year. I wanted to work at a place where the needs of clients are the most important and where I felt I could make a difference in the world. I found that at JFS and still do every day.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR ROLE AT JFS:

I supervise many different programs at JFS. I supervise the counseling staff (3 full time and 3 contract staff). I also supervise Case Management Services for financial assistance, Special Needs Clients, and New Americans. I supervise our in-school counseling programs at Strelitz International Academy and Toras Chaim. I supervise Transportation, Kosher Meals on Wheels, and Volunteer Services. Finally, I supervise our Adoption Program. In all, there are 16 staff in my departments.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR CLIENT BASE AND AREAS OF EXPERTISE:

One of my specialties is working with people of all ages who are struggling with issues related to grief. I am one of the founders of Peace by Piece, a free community based grief support program for children, teens, and their parents. This is a collaborative program with Edmarc. We are currently in our 21st program year. I also specialize in working with children and have been one of the school counselors at Strelitz International Academy for 26 years. Our counseling staff is trauma informed and we promote mindfulness in our work with clients of all ages.

WHAT MAKES THE JFS SOCIAL WORK PROGRAM SO GREAT?

We are always looking at the whole person and what their needs are, not just counseling. We focus on their family and other support systems. We also pride ourselves at finding what we can do to help someone in need, rather than what we cannot do.

HOW HAS COVID-19 AFFECTED YOU, YOUR STAFF AND THE PATIENTS YOU SERVE? HOW IS JFS HANDLING NEW/ESTABLISHED PATIENT VISITS AT THIS TIME?

I can honestly say that every day has been a challenge for us since the coronavirus hit the United States. We are very focused on providing the material supports of food and financial assistance to those who qualify and who are in need. For example, we do an annual Passover Outreach and this year we will be giving out food and/or grocery gift cards to over 250 local Jewish families. For counseling, we have been creatively using virtual means to continue providing counseling without clients coming into the office. For our food pantry, we have revised our distribution to a "drive up" service.

WHAT ACTIVITIES DO YOU ENJOY WHEN YOU ARE NOT AT WORK?

My husband and I moved to Tidewater in 1982 and definitely consider this our home. We both love music and try to attend concerts and music festivals whenever we can.

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