Return On Impact
The Mandell family’s journey to becoming ardent supporters of the JCC actually began halfway around the world. Joyce and Andy Mandell were invited to join the Jewish Federation’s 1991 mission to Israel, where they met Jay Leipzig, who was the Executive Director of the Center. The Mandells knew little about the JCC other than that it was a beneficiary of Federation. In fact, they had never even stepped foot inside!
A burgeoning friendship with Jay eventually led to a personalized tour and an education on the JCC’s mission. Joyce recalls that “Jay spoke enthusiastically about the JCC being a place where families and individuals had opportunities to learn, play, keep physically healthy and feel encouraged to make new friends.” Needless to say, the Mandell’s were soon members.
Like so many JCC members, Joyce became a true believer and felt that “it was a place I wanted to be, and become more involved.” She was eventually nominated to the Board in 1990 and learned that the Center was facing some financial challenges that were impeding the ability for the JCC to grow.
The Board took notice of Joyce’s business savvy and problem-solving capabilities, and tapped her to lead a fundraising campaign that would enable the JCC to pay down its debt. Thanks to Joyce’s leadership abilities, she was able to successfully galvanize donors. This also marked the Mandell’s first major gift to the Center.
Joyce’s engagement deepened and in 1995, she became President. The JCC hosted the JCC Maccabi Games in 1997, engaging more teens, families, volunteers and corporations than had ever come together before. “It was a very proud moment for the JCC and our community.”
Jay announced his departure from the JCC in 1999; and Joyce was appointed Search Committee Chair to a replacement. It was in this role that Joyce helped to recruit David Jacobs, an experienced JCC Executive Director who would arrive in Hartford at an auspicious time. With the debt retired, and a new Community Capital Campaign underway, the way was paved for limitless opportunities.
“David is a magnet for talent and together, with our Board of Directors, we brought in new leadership and began accomplishing so much.” The excitement was contagious and soon it was a family affair. “Our daughter, Meryl, helped our ECC directors to start the Family Room Program and was chair of the newly formed Community Parenting Conferences. Andy leant his expertise to the major renovation and Field House construction projects; he is also a Founder of the first JCC Scholarship Golf Tournament, which is the premier fundraiser for the JCC’s financial assistance program. Our son-in-law, Scott Braunstein, has been Tournament co-chair for the last ten years, continuing to bring in scholarship dollars and creating one of the most prestige tournaments on the east coast.”
Joyce reflects, “When I think of how we’ve grown and expanded over the years, while sustaining the original mission and increasing connections with Israel and Jewry worldwide, I am awestruck. I’ve visited many other Jewish Community Centers from coast to coast as well as throughout Europe, and I can confidently say that we are not an ordinary JCC...we are extraordinary!”
When asked to choose her favorite JCC program, Joyce says, “Well, that’s a really difficult question. What makes all the programs so amazing is that they are truly member-driven. The ECC is outstanding and three of our grandchildren are graduates. The Jewish Film Festival, which is open to the community, has grown to include thousands of supporters.”
“I’ve always believed in the concept of the JCC as a neighborhood, a microcosm with modular space for multiple generations. David’s enthusiasm is infectious, and his vision is prescient. Together, with our Board, he sought to create an environment that is perceived as a ‘home away from home.’ With an open space concept from the front entrance through the Gallery and into the Living Room/Café area, you can see kids, parents and grandparents gathering together for a snack, to do homework, grab a cup of coffee, participate in a book club or just sit and read.”
The capital investment required to create a physical space that supports our mission to welcome our community at every age and stage, could never have been completed without committed donors. “Our donors are our strength. They are engaged in the long-term health and well-being of the JCC.”
Never before has the commitment of our donors been put to the test as it has in these past few challenging months. “The silver lining is that this crisis has proven just how deeply our donors and our members feel connected to us. They are our bedrock.”
And the growth of our Community Donor Circle will be the key to the continued strength and survival of the JCC.
As a charitable-minded family, the Mandell’s largesse has been vital for many deserving organizations. And as a business-minded family, they view their support as an investment. But while many business executives contemplate their ROI or “Return On Investment,” the Mandell’s prefer to view ROI as “return on impact” and the difference they can make in the lives of our community.
“Our family is committed to the success of the JCC. Like us, our JCC donors are all investors who will not only see a return on impact in terms of the public good and the well-being of our community, but will have the privilege of being involved with an organization that is the very center of our community.”
Ardent JCC supporters, Joyce and Andy Mandell