Amy Sheff

West Island Campaign Chair, 2001-2003

1. How did you get involved with Federation CJA - and why? 

About 25 years ago, someone asked me to take a few cards and campaign for the Combined Jewish Appeal. I agreed because I felt that it was important for me, as a Jew, to support my community. Thus began my journey...although, at the time, it only meant making a few phone calls. My real entree into Federation CJA came through my first involvement with the Federation agency of JIAS, the Jewish Immigrant Aid Services. I volunteered on the Family to Family Integration Program Committee and then accepted the chairmanship of this wonderful project. The goal of the program was to recruit and support families willing to welcome and mentor newly arrived Jewish immigrants to Montreal.

This very positive experience led to my continued involvement. At a campaign program for canvassers, I heard about a new committee being set up to address the need for more Jewish foster homes. I volunteered, as I felt that I had expertise to contribute due to my social work background. I worked as a committee member and then became Chair of the Foster Home Recruitment Committee. It was truly a pleasure to work with this group of stimulating and dedicated volunteers.

This experience then brought me to the Women's Federation Department, where I chaired the Outreach and Education Program, helping to plan programs of outreach, Judaic education and enrichment for Jewish women.

During this time, I also became Chair of the West Island Women's Campaign, providing an important link between the Women's Campaign teams of the "city" and the "West Island." Concurrently, I volunteered on the West Island Federation management team, working to ensure the direct presence of Federation CJA in the West Island. We planted the seeds for the future West Island Federation Campus.

As one involvement led to another, I co-chaired a Planning and Allocations Committee for Social Services and then went back to volunteering at an agency....as Co-Chair of "Prime Time," the West Island Division of the Cummings Centre for Seniors.

2. What is your fondest memory to date of your time working with Federation CJA?

One of my fondest memories of my time at Federation CJA was sitting at the campaign table with Beverlee Ashmele at the helm, listening to the intelligent, action-oriented women planning and working together to raise the monies needed by the Federation agencies. I felt so proud to be a part of that dynamic group of women!

3. Can you recall a particular moment or event that impacted you profoundly?

A particular moment that impacted me was the evening of our first West Island Prime Time outreach program, when 275 women came to hear our speaker and learn about our work. It was an overwhelming success…and this event underscored for me the possibilities for future events, when planned and organized by a group of dedicated women who work well together as a team.

4. What advice would you give to the young women following in your philanthropic footsteps?

Each volunteer experience brought me into contact with different people...people who were enthusiastic and willing to work for the betterment of their community through Federation CJA. These people brought to the table a wealth of talent, skill and dedication to the cause. It was a privilege and honor to share and learn and work together with all of these volunteers. And so my advice to young women today is to volunteer, volunteer, volunteer. Take on those leadership positions because you will enjoy the benefits of personal satisfaction from your work and involvement. You will grow as a person, you will develop new skills in the process, you will make long-lasting friendships and you will contribute greatly to your community.

5. What is your legacy?

I believe that my legacy is my contribution to the creation of the West Island Federation Campus. I worked on committees to lobby for a Federation presence. I worked on the search committee for the building which was eventually purchased. I volunteered on a committee to implement the West Island Board and then I worked on programming to bring people into the building. I am proud to have been involved with the many dedicated people who brought our dream to fruition. Today we have a vibrant, active Federation campus in our own local community. Now it is important for you to continue our work by keeping the Jewish community strong through your ideas and efforts.

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