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Award Honors Exemplary Work for People With Special Needs rss

Posted on: December 20th, 2010

Having compassion for others, especially those with disabilities, was something that Shana Novick and Ellen Lamonoff developed in their childhoods. That trait, that ability to see the dignity in all people, led to careers in human services and was rewarded December 16th when they received this year’s Zella Bronfman Butler Award, presented at an awards ceremony at UJA-Federation of New York.

Award recipients Shana Novick, HebrewFree Loan Society, and Ellen Lamonoff, WJCS, with, from left, Bruce Doniger, President and CEO, J.E & Z.B. Butler

Award recipients Shana Novick, Hebrew Free Loan Society, and Ellen Lamonoff, WJCS, with, from left, Bruce Doniger, President and CEO, J.E & Z.B. Butler Foundation; Rabbi Marty Schloss, The Jewish Education Project; and Walter Wittwer, WJCS.

The award, given annually by UJA-Federation’s Task Force on People With Disabilities and The J.E. and Z.B. Butler Foundation, recognizes two professionals in UJA-Federation’s network of agencies. Award recipients are chosen for demonstrating the highest standards of service and compassionate care for children and adults with physical, developmental, and learning disabilities.

“These awards are a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the extraordinarily talented professionals who we are privileged to have working in our community with and on behalf of individuals with disabilities,” said Anita Altman, UJA-Federation’s deputy managing director of government and external relations.

Novick, executive director of the Hebrew Free Loan Society, knows firsthand the struggles faced by families with special needs children.

“I grew up with an autistic, developmentally disabled brother,” she said, noting the exemplary influence of her father.

“My father, pioneered services for the Jewish developmentally disabled in Montreal in the ’60s and ’70s,” Novick explained. “His work was informed by a profound reverence for the dignity of all people, as created in the image of God.”

So when two mothers of special needs children approached Novick for help with special education tuition, she recognized their plight and responded by creating a Special Education Bridge Loan Fund.

The fund provided families with loans for their children’s special education tuition while they awaited reimbursement from government funding. Last year, the fund enabled hundreds of parents in the Jewish special education community to pay for the special education their children desperately need to succeed.

For Novick’s work, she received the Change Agent Award.

“I’m thrilled with the recognition this award gives our Special Education Bridge Loan Program,” she said. “This program helps transform lives.”

A Calling That Leads to Innovation

For Lamonoff, director of nursing services for community programs at Westchester Jewish Community Services (WJCS), the desire to be a nurse started as a little girl, and, indeed, is one of her earliest memories.

“I believed I had a calling,” Lamonoff said.

She had hoped at one point in her career to become a rabbi and work with people facing the end of their lives, Lanomoff explained. When plans for rabbinical school fell through, she realized she could still fulfill her spiritual mission through nursing, especially at WJCS, where she supervises eight nurses who provide medical oversight for nearly 100 adults with developmental disabilities living in 14 group homes.

“I discovered there was limited recognition that people with special needs have the same issues as anyone else who is dying — the need for pain management, the comfort of home with familiar people around, opportunities to make choices, and time to grieve,” she said.

Lamonoff put her realization into practice and developed a new training program for staff that focuses on providing end-of-life care for individuals with developmental disabilities.

For this innovative program, Lamonoff received the Direct Service Award.

“I am so grateful for this recognition and validation,” she said. “I’m honored, humbled, and incredibly motivated to continue my work.”

Novick and Lamonoff each received $10,000 with their award. The awards ceremony also included a performance by Heidi Latsky Dance.