Just months ago, the JCA was thriving and financially steady. Overnight, our income stream, which is heavily dependent on fee-for-service revenue, stopped almost dead in its tracks when we closed our doors in response to the recommendations of public health authorities and elected officials. “We were confronted by circumstances caused entirely by the impact of an act of God,” noted JCA CEO Adam Chaskin. “Our cash reserves were all that stood between us and the nightmare of widespread layoffs.”
JCCs worldwide were forced to furlough most, if not all, employees to ensure their doors could one day reopen. The JCA Board and staff worked together to adjust and adapt appropriately to the pandemic and made the bold and uncommon decision to pay all JCA staff during the building’s closure.
While the building was closed, normal operating expenses remained. In response to this closure, all program fees ceased, and membership dues and tuition were reduced or free for the months the JCA was closed and beyond. This financial loss, in addition to the absence of new program income, resulted in a massive impact to the JCA’s bottom line. Even as our building begins a multiphase partial reopening, program revenue losses continue in every program area. Yet, the agency’s leadership remain steadfast to our mission and ensuring its implementation in a manner that is safe and consistent with Jewish values.
During a time when we all craved connection, the JCA extended its reach within the community. JCA staff contacted over 1000 senior members to ensure they were well and connected them to community resources through partners at Jewish Family and Community Services and United Way. JCA staff was also dispatched to assist partner agencies including River Garden and Jewish Family and Community Services to demonstrate how agencies can successfully work together amid this pandemic. (Read more about JCA partnerships.)
The JCA also continued to connect with members online through JCA Virtual as a source of normalcy. Each JCA department created content to ensure ongoing wellness, engagement and entertainment for all ages and stages of life to provide activities for members while adhering to the state stay-at-home order. JCA members welcomed staff virtually into their homes daily to offer wellness, support and encouragement. As stated by one senior member, “seeing your smiling faces as you guided us through classes has been so comforting. I do not feel alone because you are with me every day!”
The JCA has also significantly increased scholarship assistance for those in our community who have been impacted by the current economic crisis, specifically families with children who rely on the JCA for childcare to return to work as our city reopens. Our current requests for financial assistance are exponentially greater than previous years. The JCA has requests for $100,000 in additional scholarship funds, beyond our usual $330,000 of annual scholarship awards, to those directly impacted by the current economic crisis. These families require financial assistance for both childcare and membership and, as part of our mission, the JCA does not turn anyone away for the inability to pay. Says one JCA member and preschool parent, “We really appreciate you working with us through our financial situation. We love the JCA! It is the best childcare the community has to offer!”
Throughout the two-and-a-half-month closure and beyond, the Jacksonville community continued to rely on the JCA in new and different ways through virtual engagement, connection and community support. The health and safety of JCA’s membership and community remained at the forefront of every decision, and the JCA continued to make an impact, even through closed doors. More than ever, the JCA has proven essential as a haven of support to those children, families and senior adults who have been impacted by the hardship of the COVID-19 pandemic.