Introducing JFCS Community Conference Coordinator Sharon Goldetsky
Two of the largest conferences that JFCS co-sponsors are the Mental Health Education Conference (held each fall) and Conference for Caregivers (held in spring every other year). Sharon Goldetsky, who was recently hired as the JFCS Community Conference Coordinator, is in charge of organizing both these events. She recently spoke about why this position appealed to her, what makes these events unique in the Twin Cities, and why supporting caregivers of people with dementia is so important.
Why did you seek the Conference Coordinator position?
My interests, professional background in the mental health field, and experiences in varied executive director and leadership positions matched well for this role. I am a Licensed Social Worker and Certified Addiction Counselor and have a passion for helping improve the lives of people with mental health/dementia issues. In the director roles I held, I gained a lot of experience working with large committees, fostering community partners, and recruiting and managing volunteers, which is a large component of this position. I was also looking for an opportunity to be a part of an environment that embraces my Jewish values and culture.
What makes the Mental Health Education Conference and Conference for Caregivers unique in this community?
These conferences, which reach out to the Jewish and broader communities, offer a Jewish perspective to better embrace the emerging needs of the population at large. Since the conferences have no registration fee, they are accessible to anyone in need of education, support or a community of acceptance for themselves or loved ones. The high annual attendance and feedback from participants at the Mental Health Education Conference speaks for itself. With over 570 attendees at this past year’s conference – the 18th – it demonstrates the event has been a lifeline for individuals and the community who are touched by mental illness.
This is the fifth time JFCS has co-sponsored the Conference for Caregivers – what have been some of the most successful parts of past conferences and what new elements will be a part of this year’s event?
Feedback from past attendees indicate that they appreciate making connections with other caregivers, resources and professionals at the conference. We’ve also received positive comments regarding the education they receive about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, in terms of signs to look out for and what assistance is available to them.
While the lineup of speakers and presenters changes from conference to conference, support for caregivers is the enduring connective theme to each one, and is critical to the event’s success. Past keynote speakers have always spoken with empathy, caring and respect. They were chosen because they have either been caregivers themselves, or helped the community of caregivers on their journey. This year’s keynote speaker is Dr. Vic Sandler, who has been in both these roles. For more information on Sandler and this year’s conference, click here.
Why should someone who has never come to this event attend?
“Keeping the Spirit Alive” continues to be the theme for the conference, as it truly captures the essence about what it is about. The event is free and open to the public, and gives individuals a place to come together and connect with options that will enable them and the loved ones they are caring for a better quality of life, in addition to an opportunity to plug into the support of the larger Alzheimer’s community. Even if you are not a caregiver now, there is a good chance you will be one in the future. Our population is aging and the importance of addressing the challenges of being a caregiver will only continue to grow.