Saturday, March 24th, 2018

Leadership & Clients recognized at FACES Live Event

On Thursday October 27, 2011 at the Mahaffey Theater in downtown St. Petersburg, Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services recognized clients from eight different programs of the agency and dedicated the Souvenir Program to the memory of long-time supporter and agency friend, Adele Gilbert.

The evening opened with the dedication of the souvenir program to the memory of Adele Gilbert. In addition, Gulf Coast CEO/President, Ray Gadd, announced that the agency would rename the 66th Street Group Home in Mrs. Gilbert’s (z”l) name. It will now officially be called the Adele Gilbert Residential Treatment Facility.  Representing the Gilbert family at the event was Adele’s son, Benjamin Gilbert who had this to say, “Mother loved Gulf Coast and felt that she always received more than she gave from her commitments. I was proud of Mother’s legacy and feel that her commitment to the Jewish community lives on.”

After receiving her master’s degree (1994) in Mental Health Counseling, Mrs. Gilbert’s (z”l), volunteered at the 66th Street Group Home and continued there as a volunteer counselor for  over ten years. Her husband, Dr. Gordon Gilbert, often accompanied Adele to the facility when there were special programs held throughout the years. He fondly remembers “how remarkable it was that Adele related so incredibly well to these individuals”, many of whom suffered from challenging severe and persistent mental health issues. Dr. Gilbert added that he always felt that his wife was “truly concerned about the resident’s well-being and felt very involved in the care she was able to give them.”

Following the opening dedication, an original production premiered courtesy of the freeFall Theatre Company. The 25 minute show featured five actresses from the USF community who performed the script written by the freeFall Theatre company’s resident playwrighting group – The Blue Scarf Collective.

Attending the performance were several of the clients portrayed in the play.  Two of the clients offered comments after seeing the show.

Rictaysha and Linda Stverak

Rictaysha, a graduate of the Woman to Woman program, serving teen mothers, told her case worker Linda “I really liked it and you know Linda, I never cry.  Linda Stverak has been at Rictaysha’s side throughout her involvement in the program. She had this to say about the experience, “I was in awe of the play. The play made each clients experience so relevant. When I saw Rictaysha’s story portrayed, I felt that I truly recognized each challenge and difficulty she faced. But in the end, she was able to overcome her obstacles.” Rictaysha has graduated from the Woman to Woman program and is in an externship training as a medical assistant. “I know now, that she can accomplish anything she puts her mind to do”, added Linda.

Karen Brown(Rene’s daughter), Rene Hammond (Holocaust Survivor group member), Roxanne Fay (Blue Scarf Collective), Suzette Fay (Roxanne Fay's mother) and Judy Roth (staff - Holocaust Survivor Group Coordinator)

Another client whose story was portrayed in the play and attended the event was Rene, a long-time member of the Holocaust Support Group. She had this to say about the experience, “Watching my story unfold onstage made me remember again how it felt to be forced to wear the yellow star, to have a curfew, and later to be unable to leave the house.  We were not allowed to go outside.  I had to hold back my tears while watching.  We’d heard we would be sent back to Auschwitz so we felt our choice was to return to Auschwitz and be killed or to escape and maybe we would survive.  So we began to plan our escape.” The young actress who played Rene in the film was eager to meet her after the performance and both women spent time sharing the experience together.

Kevin Lane, Eric Davis and Barbara Sterensis

The final recognition of the evening was a presentation from board chair Barbara Sterensis to Kevin Lane, freeFall Theatre’s producing director and Eric Davis, artistic director.

More about Rene and Rictaysha:

Rene – a Holocaust survivor who spent time in Auschwitz and later escaped from the ESSEN factory with her sister and two other young women. She is a member of the Jewish Community Services Holocaust Survivor Program; offering assistance and socialization opportunities for aging Holocaust survivors.
Rictaysha – a pregnant teen at 15, scared and feeling alone, was paired with a mentor who gave her strength, support and encouragement to finish high school, start college and navigate family relationships. The Woman to Woman program is an educational and prevention program for teenage mothers and pregnant girls who are at high risk for academic failure and repeat pregnancies.  The program provides one-on-one mentoring from community volunteers.

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