SMH, JFCS Partnership to Expand Wellness Programs for Cancer Patients, Families & Caregivers

SARASOTA, Fla. (March 23, 2017) – A partnership between Sarasota Memorial Health Care System and Jewish Family & Children’s Service of the Suncoast will provide dedicated wellness and exercise classes for cancer patients, their family members and caregivers at the health system’s HealthFit center.

The area’s only medically certified fitness center, HealthFit currently provides about 70 exercise and wellness classes per week, but these will be the first that Sarasota Memorial’s oncology and fitness professionals designed specifically to combat the harsh side effects of cancer and promote personal wellness of patients, survivors, families and caregivers throughout their cancer journey.

The classes – which begin next week – are free to all cancer patients and survivors, regardless of when and where they were treated, as well as their family members and caregivers, thanks to a community partnership between SMH and JFCS. SMH is providing the facility and operations of the wellness programs at HealthFit in the Sarasota Memorial Health Care Center at Clark Road, while JFCS is subsidizing the cost of HealthFit’s certified instructors and supplies for the oncology programs.  

JFCS, which took over many of the cancer education, fitness and support programs previously offered at the Center for Building Hope when it closed in 2015, will continue to offer education, wellness classes and support services for cancer patients and their families. The organization decided to expand mind-body classes to SMH for the added expertise and state-of-the-art facility it could provide. JFCS’ efforts were made possible through the support and generosity of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and their donors, as well as individual donors. All of JFCS’ cancer support programs will continue to be fully operational.

JFCS President and CEO Heidi Brown said, “I am thrilled that we can expand our cancer support and wellness services through this partnership with Sarasota Memorial Hospital.  This alliance further increases our visibility in the community and allows us to help more people, which is at the heart of our mission.”

The classes also were a good fit for Sarasota Memorial, which recently approved building a comprehensive cancer center on its main campus. The health system has made cancer care one of its highest priorities in recent years, recruiting several new cancer subspecialists to the community and launching an oncology survivorship and rehabilitation program to help patients and survivors overcome pain, weakness, cognitive impairment and other challenges that often follow chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. 

“Our goal is to provide residents of our community and beyond with access to not only the most advanced diagnostic and treatment options, but also a full spectrum of preventive and supportive care,” said Sarasota Memorial CEO David Verinder. “Providing oncology-specific wellness and survivorship programs to cancer patients, survivors and their families is vital to their recovery.” 

The concentration on supportive care is part of Sarasota Memorial’s Thrive Program, which places greater emphasis and resources on helping survivors live well following treatment. The Thrive Program offers a multidisciplinary approach to address lingering side effects, including rehabilitation, nutrition, counseling and other wellness services.

An advisory group made up of SMH and JFCS representatives will meet regularly to evaluate the success of the wellness programs at HealthFit and JFCS’ other service location and discuss community needs.

HealthFit Oncology Wellness Class Schedule

The following new oncology wellness classes will begin March 27 at HealthFit, 5880 Rand Blvd., 1/2 –mile west of I-75 off Clark Road. For program or registration information, call (941) 917-7000.

Oncology Yoga: Led by a certified Yoga instructor, the class provides a gentle exercise program for those affected by cancer. In addition to promoting physical strength, the class is designed to help reduce stress, increase energy and support emotional wellbeing. The class offers sitting techniques, chairs and assistive props if needed. Weekly classes will be held at 1:30 pm Monday.

Oncology Tai Chi: Led by a trained Tai Chi instructor, the class helps participants improve balance, manage stress and increase strength and flexibility using an ancient form of Chinese meditative exercise. Gentle, fluid movement helps expand their range of motion at a calm pace. The class offers sitting techniques, chairs and assistive props if needed. Weekly classes will be held at 12:30 pm Tuesday and Thursday.

Mindful Meditation: Led by a certified Yoga instructor, the class is designed to relieve stress and tension through 30 minutes of guided meditation. Participants will learn meditation techniques to help manage anxiety and promote stronger mind-body awareness. Weekly classes will be held at 12:30 pm Monday.

Oncology Recovery Exercise: Led by a certified group fitness instructor, the class helps participants improve balance, flexibility, strength and mobility, with light weight exercises developed for cancer patients and survivors. Weekly classes will be held at 1:30 pm Wednesday and Friday. 

About Sarasota Memorial Health Care System 

Sarasota Memorial Health Care System is a regional referral center offering Southwest Florida’s greatest breadth and depth of care, with more than 900,000 patient visits a year. Sarasota Memorial’s flagship 819-bed acute care hospital has been recognized repeatedly as one of the nation’s largest, and best, with superior patient outcomes and a complete continuum of outpatient services– from urgent care clinics and physician groups, laboratory and diagnostic imaging centers, to skilled nursing & rehabilitation. For information, visit smh.com. 

HealthFit – Powered by Sarasota Memorial is a medically oriented fitness center owned and operated by Sarasota Memorial Health Care System. Offering the amenities and services of an upscale health club combined with the knowledge and expertise of one of the nation’s top hospitals, SMH is one of only two health care providers in Florida with a Certified Medical Fitness Facility designated by the not-for-profit Medical Fitness Association. In addition to certified personal trainers and exercise physiologists, HealthFit’s medically integrated fitness programs include weight management & nutrition, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation and physical & occupational therapy. For information, call (941) 917-7000 or visit smhfit.com. 

About Jewish Family & Children’s Services of the Suncoast

Jewish Family & Children’s Service of the Suncoast, Inc. (JFCS) is a fully accredited, community-based social service organization that delivers counseling, prevention, intervention, outreach and education programs on a secular, non-denominational basis. JFCS serves children, adults, families, seniors, and veterans living in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, Collier, Lee, and DeSoto counties of Florida. To learn more, visit JFCS-Cares.org.

SMH Media Contact: Kim Savage                

(941) 893-7649 / kim-savage@smh.com   

JFCS Media Contact:
 Chad Doritan

(941) 366-2224/ cdoritan@jfcs-cares.org    



Jewish Family and Children's Service taps Brown as new CEO

Heidi Brown - CEO JFCSSARASOTA, Fla. — The Jewish Family and Children's Service of the Suncoast, Inc. (JFCS-Cares.org), the multi-county premier multi-function social service nonprofit, has selected Heidi Brown as its new CEO.

Brown, formerly the CEO of Aviva (previously Kobernick-Anchin-Benderson), has a thorough and dedicated history in the social and human services fields. Beginning on Feb. 1, 2017, Brown will lead a team of 86 full-time and 27 part-time staff members, 25 contractors and 473 volunteers at Jewish Family and Children's Service (JFCS).

"We are thrilled that our search committee, comprised of board members and senior community leaders, secured the strongest and most qualified applicant, who was already here doing important work in the community," said Stephen Seidensticker, chairman of the board of directors at JFCS. "Heidi is the perfect person to fill this role with her broad-based community support, life-long dedication to helping others and vast experience building engagement in communities. We look forward to collaborating closely with Aviva and Randy Mallitz, Aviva's board chairman, to serve this community."

In her new role, Brown will focus on growing collaborative community partnerships, increasing the range of services offered and working to raise the visibility of the organization. A former breast cancer survivor, she has a unique perspective and will work proactively on streamlining and increasing services offered to cancer survivors and their families as part of JFCS' new Cancer Support and Wellness Program. Brown holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from The State University of New York and a master's degree in social work from the University of Maryland at Baltimore.

"Our main goal was to ensure that through the search committee's extensive range of perspectives and vision, we secured someone with a unique understanding of our past who could also take us to a higher level and move the organization forward in the future," said Joe Mendels, immediate past board chair at JFCS.

While at Aviva, Brown is credited with providing strong, visible leadership among staff and throughout the community, building a new executive team and establishing collaborative partnerships, increasing services and strategically repositioning the organization with a board-approved new branding initiative.

"One of Heidi's greatest strengths is her ability to form deep connections with people," said Mallitz. "The resulting relationships engender productive teams and long-term partnerships, which are key to enhancing the quality of life for those she serves. We are confident she will bring these essential skills to JFCS and wish her great success as our two organizations collaborate more closely to support seniors and the Jewish and Sarasota/Manatee communities."

In September 2016, the organization announced former CEO Rose Chapman's transition to CEO emerita, a role specifically created for her. She will continue to work with the JFCS board to ensure the organization's fiscal sustainability and security moving forward.

"I am extremely humbled to have been chosen for this important role, which allows me to continue my life's work and fulfill my passion for building relationships, helping people and engaging in vital connections to improve the community," said Brown. "While I look forward to continuing to work closely with seniors and Aviva, this is a tremendous opportunity to have a greater impact on the entire community, broadening my scope of influence to the continuum of services that JFCS provides. To work with an organization with such an established, impeccable reputation that serves so many people is a dream come true. I also look forward to working with Rose to continue her important legacy."

Over the past two decades, JFCS has grown from a $200,000 agency to an $8.5 million agency, with a staff of 114, 16 office sites and a range of services including over 25 programs that offers assistance to more than 15,000 individuals within the Sarasota and Manatee communities.

About Jewish Family and Children's Service of the Suncoast
Celebrating 30 years of service to the community, Jewish Family and Children's Service of the Suncoast, Inc. (JFCS) is the multi-county premier multi-function social service nonprofit. JFCS served over 15,000 individuals between 2014-15. The not-for-profit organization has provided more than 75,000 services, including case management, individual and group counseling, life skills education and assistance with basic life necessities, such as food and emergency financial assistance to prevent homelessness. For more information, visit JFCS-Cares.org or call 941-366-2224.

Giving Challenge 16 was AMAZING!!!!

THANK YOU for your support!!!!



Giving Challenge 16 was AMAZING!!!!

THANK YOU for your support!!!!



New Home for our Cancer Support & Wellness Program

 We are pleased to announce that the therapeutic classes, recovery programs and support groups offered through the JFCS Cancer Support & Wellness Program have a new centralized home…at the newly renovated space at Temple Beth Sholom.  When the Center for Building Hope closed its doors last fall, JFCS took on more than 75 monthly classes, programs and support groups.  Scrambling for space, JFCS scheduled these at its Weinberg Campus on Fruitville Road, Flanzer Campus on Ringling Boulevard and at community-based locations throughout Manatee, Sarasota, South Sarasota and Charlotte Counties.  Participation by individuals and caregivers quickly grew and JFCS needed to find alternative space that could be dedicated exclusively for these programs.  Thanks to the generosity of Betty Schoenbaum and the Schoenbaum Family Foundation, funding was granted to JFCS in order to rent space from Temple Beth Sholom to create a special caring and healing center for these therapeutic programs, services and support groups.

Known as the S. Tuttle Campus, the new space consists of three rooms, each dedicated for a specific purpose. 

  • The Mind Body Center is a room where men and women can practice Tai Chi and QiGong as well as participate in yoga and cancer recovery exercise. 
  • The Support Room provides a caring atmosphere for individuals attending the various support groups to meet and has a dedicated privacy area for fittings for the Knitted Knockers. 
  • The Expressive Arts Room offers a venue for creative expression including writing, quilting and therapeutic art endeavors.

For more information about programs, please contact Bambi Furtado, Cancer Support & Wellness Program Director, bfurtado@jfcs-cares.org or 941.366.2224 x167.  The Cancer Support & Wellness Programs are offered at Temple Beth Sholom, 1050 S. Tuttle Avenue, Sarasota, on the West side of Building 1.  Look for the JFCS flag.  


Thank you Gulf Coast Community Foundation for awarding JFCS a $125,000 Challenge Grant in support of our Cancer Support & Wellness Program. JFCS offers its Cancer Support & Wellness Program to individuals, caregivers and family members affected by a cancer diagnosis. Programs include a wide variety of cancer support and networking groups for cancer patients and caregivers, grief support, cancer recovery exercise and therapeutic expressive arts. For information contact Bambi Furtado, Program Director at 941-366-2224, ext. 167

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JFCS Receives $50,000 Grant for Building Strong Families Program

JFCS received a $50,000 grant from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation for its Building Strong Families (BSF) Program helping families in the North Port area seeking homelessness-prevention services. The Building Strong Families program, offered in Sarasota and Manatee counties, is a project geared towards keeping families safely housed in their present home by providing financial assistance and case management services because of a job loss or reduced earnings.

The grant will allow JFCS to continue serving those at risk in North Port for homelessness because of domestic violence, substance abuse, divorce/separation, medical crisis, employment loss and other life challenges facing families. Services include intensive case management, counseling, education, employment counseling and budgeting tools. Since 2008, the program has helped more than 410 North Port families remain in their homes and 800 children stay in place at school.

For more information about the program, call The Building Strong Families Coordinator at 941-366-2224