Serving the community with JFCS: A family tradition for 30 years
Dawn and Danny Zouber, along with Dawn’s mother, Carole Davidson, to be honored with JFCS Friends of the Family Award at 32nd Annual Benefit
For Dawn and Danny Zouber, supporting and volunteering with Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis has always been a family endeavor ever since they were introduced to the agency by Dawn’s mother, Carole Davidson.
Carole first got involved with JFCS almost 30 years ago, volunteering to drive clients to JFCS’ annual Mental Health Support Services’ (MHSS) Chanukah and Passover events. She eventually started chairing these events, as well as others, including the JFCS Annual Benefit. “I started with that first event, and just kept going,” she said. “I can’t believe it’s been 30 years. I love the agency, so it’s a no-brainer to keep volunteering for it.”
Dawn and Danny’s introduction to JFCS was through the MHSS events as well, where Danny’s uncle was a client in the program. “Going to that first Seder, I was hooked,” he said. “I saw how happy everyone was.”
They also volunteered driving clients to the events. “It was emotional for me because we loved having the conversations in the car with the participants,” Dawn said. “I came to realize that JFCS was giving Jewish people with mental health issues an opportunity to stay connected to their religion and celebrate the holidays.”
After Carole started volunteering for the Benefit, she had Dawn and Danny come with her to the event. They were in their early 20s at the time, an age range that attended the event in small numbers those days. They are thrilled to see that many more young adults attend the Benefit each year now thanks to the efforts of the JFCS NextGen program.
Dawn has served on the Benefit Planning Committee for many years and now she and Danny’s kids sell raffle tickets at the event each year. “It’s a true example of l’dor v’dor (from generation to generation),” she said. “If you find your connection and get involved, it’s so nice to ask a friend or family member to join you. It’s been a really wonderful relationship with the organization.”
After starting with the MHSS events and the Benefit, Dawn and Danny continued to get more involved with JFCS over the years. Danny joined the Jewish Community Foundation’s Investment Committee, representing JFCS. He served more than 10 years on the JFCS Board and eventually became Board President in 2015. “When you start something, you don’t expect to get to that point,” he said. “It was a big family decision in terms of the time commitment, but it was something I couldn’t pass up.”
Another service area the family has been very involved in is addiction services. Carole’s son (and Dawn’s brother), Jesse, died from a substance addiction several years ago. At the time, JFCS didn’t have an addiction services program, but was able to provide referrals to other local agencies that did.
After Jesse passed away, Dawn talked to JFCS leadership about starting an addiction services program at JFCS. She and Carole served on the task force that led to the creation of the Jewish Community Addiction Services program, which launched in 2019. “Both Carole and Dawn have shared what it has meant to experience the tragedy of addiction,” said Judy Halper, JFCS CEO. “They have been bold about discussing addiction, recognizing the ‘shanda’ (stigma) it has been in the Jewish community to do so and wanting this to change.”
While the program is still new, Carole, who is volunteering as a Peer Recovery Coach, hopes it continues to grow to include group meetings and more. “Group meetings can do wonders,” she said. “You’re all relating to the same thing. You don’t sound out of place. I hope we get to that place eventually.”
Despite the family’s many years of supporting JFCS, Dawn and Danny said they were both surprised to find out that they were being named JFCS’ Friends of the Family honorees at this year’s Annual Benefit. However, the best part was that they were receiving the honor along with Carole. “The fact that it was in conjunction with Carole made it 20 times more special,” Danny said.
“I was emotional and shocked,” Dawn said. “We’ve never been involved to get any recognition. I was humbled that we made a difference.”
Halper said the family was more than deserving and has always matched their philanthropy with volunteering commitments. “They have supported JFCS consistently over several decades, and done so with genuine humbleness,” she said. “As a multi-generational family, they are so deserving of this honor.”