The name “Gesher” was chosen to reflect the work the organization does in connecting people to services and providing support to help people achieve their goals.
yVS Human Services + Kadima Mental Health Services revealed the new name for their joint entity at this week’s Strictly Business 25th Anniversary Luncheon. They will now operate as a joint entity under the name Gesher, which means “bridge” in Hebrew.
Their merger, announced in August last year, reduces operational and administrative costs and allows the organization to maximize its use of funds for programming to help its combined customer base of thousands with access to professional, residential and clinical services.
Janie Melton, from Southfield, has been involved in JVS since 2006. It was a place where her 42-year-old son, Brian, who has autism, was able to learn business skills and find work. He now holds a cleaning job in an apartment building with support from JVS. “For me, it’s a huge problem,” she says. “JVS is very dear to my heart because of that. They got him a job and the people there are very nice to him – I feel safe when he’s in JVS.”
She says she values the organization and hopes that the integration will only enhance the seamless experience she has known at JVS. “They might have more software. I hope that’s what will happen,” she says. “I hope they continue to do the good work they are doing.”
That’s really the plan, says Paul Platt, Gesher’s CEO, and the new name is designed to inform people of the essence of the new enterprise. “We are still the right place for our community, whether it’s work or residential services for people with mental health issues — and yet we can help support the community,” he says.
He explains that the new name came as a result of the union of organizations. “Each of our names did not describe this larger organization.”
Connecting people to services
The name “Gesher” was chosen to reflect the work the organization does in connecting people to services and providing support to help people achieve their goals. “We are the bridge to many of these different populations, and at our core, we connect people from where they are to where they want to be,” he says.
Platt says the nearly three-year process of the two organizations coming together gave them an opportunity to delve deeply into how best to serve the community.
“We have developed an important piece of integration to serve all the different populations that we are a part of,” he explains, adding that 70% of people with developmental needs they serve face mental health challenges as well.
For the past five months, the organization has been referred to as JVS + Kadima, but putting it under one name, Gesher, and one identity reinforces the message, he says.
“It allows us to let the community know that we are the place to meet for people who are looking for work support, who are looking for residential services, for people who are looking for mental health services, and any other way we can engage with the community,” he says. “This letter from one community serving organization is really what makes me the most.”
Kristen R. Gross, chair of the Gesher board of directors, says the combination allows agencies to serve more people in one location. While historically a person with a severe and persistent mental health problem might have received professional services from a JVS and resided in a Kadima home, all of these services will now be provided under one roof, which means simpler service for clients, she says.
“I know the road to services can be very uphill, and the fact that a person can contact us, and we can provide the services or direction they need is beautiful for someone who is so lost and can overwhelm these processes.”
The organization is not taking on a new role in society, Gross asserts, but rather uniting in order to better serve customers.
“This way, the person makes one call. We can help that person navigate so that their needs are met at home, at work, and in the community.”
The JVS was formed in 1941, and the need for Kadima was growing, Gross says. Kadima was founded in 1984, and although it has continued as its own organization, some Kadima leaders have noted this as the agency “coming home.”
This has been a very good process for both JVS and Kadima. We’re really proud of the way this collection has been rolled out,” Gross says.
“We have an amazing group of professionals who run the agency, and the new board of directors is a very excited group to work on this new endeavor to serve the community.”
Sybil Offen, who has a schizophrenic lover who found a living arrangement, job, and participation through Kadima, says she was really impressed with the joint entity and their cooperation. Involved with Kadima since 1995, she says she has seen more detailed programming and greater outreach from the joint organization.
“This last music festival was more detailed — there were more participants, and it had a better flavor because they were working with clients from JVS as well,” she says. “I think everyone was very happy.”
Ofen sees more excitement about their events as well, including from her eldest son, who heard about the speaker JVS + Kadima had and commented that he wished he’d come for her. “In the past he was not much involved in Kadima’s activities, so the JVS merger with Kadima brings some other things that I see positive so far, and I’m happy in that sense.”
Offen says she is looking forward to this exciting new chapter for the organization, which is efficient in its first impressions and moving forward at full speed. “I think they will be able to expand and reach more people,” she says. “I feel like it’s a good collaboration.”
Stephen Ingber, CEO of the City of Detroit Jewish Federation, says the move is a powerful one for the community. “We are incredibly grateful for the professional and scientific leadership of both JVS and Kadima for taking this bold step, recognizing that the primary goal has always been to better meet the needs of our community and, most importantly, improve care for those being served.
“Gesher Human Services is not only a bridge to its clients, but also a bridge to a stronger future for our community. We are proud of Gesher Count among our local partner agencies and look forward to working closely with them.