Friends, families and supporters:
Because of the Thanksgiving holiday next week, there will not be a Facebook Live update. The week following, we’ll return to the alternating e-blast and Facebook Live updates.
In the meantime, mark your calendars for 3 December—we’re makin’ Latkes for Chanukah, and we’re gonna do it together! Go to our Events Calendar to register. With any luck, I’ll join you from Breckenridge, CO!
My message this week, as we look forward to Thanksgiving, is to share with you some of the things for which I’m thankful.
As some of you may remember, it was early March when JFGH had its first COVID-19 exposure scare. While it was never more than a scare, it wasn’t long before reality hit JFGH, and through April, we were broadsided by the pandemic. By May, we began to see the relief that came from our staffing changes and the extraordinary work of our staff and support of our community. As the months have ticked over, it’s impossible not to think back to appreciate so much of this journey. And, it’s impossible not to be deeply thankful.
In no particular order, these are some of the things for which, at Thanksgiving 2020, I am thankful.
  1. To the people JFGH supports. Where do I even begin? Nearly nine months ago, we told everyone they needed to stay home. It was inconceivable that it would be this long. And yet, the people we support quickly demonstrated their commitment to staying healthy and safe, even as they faced uncertainty that for so many people might be debilitating. They have endured and they have modeled for all of us what it is to respond with grit and limitless determination to not just survive, but to thrive.
  2. To our friends at JCRC—Ron Halber and Ashlie Bagwell and the whole crew, who managed to find tens of thousands of dollars in donated PPE in April when PPE was either impossible to find or exorbitant and had it donated to JFGH.
  3. To our philanthropic investors who have combined to make To our philanthropic investors who have combined to make nearly $730,000 (yes, that’s nearly three quarters of one million dollars!) in investments in JFGH’s COVID-19 relief efforts in fiscal year 2021 alone. Combined with donations made when the crisis began in the spring, our community has invested more than $1M in JFGH’s work. Just, wow!
  4. To countless family members, friends and others who have sent notes, cards and (actual handwritten!) letters, e-mail and voice messages, all to express their support, to encourage us to stay focused and keep going, to remind us of why we do the work we do. These seemingly small gestures have a meaning to us that is impossible to adequately describe.
  5. To our direct support professionals and other front-line heroes, rightful and deserving recipients of the 2020 S. Robert Cohen Award, who have redefined courage and dedication, and who have been the true leaders at whom all of us should marvel. Their sacrifices, their bravery and their commitment to JFGH and the people we support may well be the enduring story that will come of these troubling times.
  6. To our Board of Directors, who have done the exquisite but, in these circumstances, incredibly difficult work of governance during a crisis that has no precedent. Their support and dedication to their obligations to JFGH and the community we support is not the first thing you see in a crisis, but without it, most simply put, we can’t possibly endure.
  7. To my partners and colleagues of InterACC/DD, a coalition of Montgomery County-based service agencies like JFGH supporting thousands of kids and adults across our community with developmental disabilities, who have set aside parochial interests in order to make sure that we ALL come through the crisis intact, who have reached out to the still, relative ‘new guy’ to see what I and JFGH might need, and sometimes with a simple encouragement.
  8. To elected officials in the counties and states in which we do our work, every one of whom is fighting tooth and nail to make certain that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are and remain a top priority for everything from funding to PPE to vaccination implementation planning, and everything in between. In Richmond and in Annapolis, we have champions, without whose support we could never have navigated these last nearly nine months.
  9. To the members of JFGH’s Medical Advisory Panel, to whom we’ve not asked a question, no matter how trivial or mundane, to which they have not immediately responded not just with answers, but with their time and passion in contextualizing those answers to be appropriate for JFGH. These are three (literally) international health experts in developmental medicine who drop everything when we ask for help.
  10. To my family. To your families. In my 55 years on the planet, I’m not sure there’s been a greater test of humanity. We are grappling with uncertainty and the stress and anxiety that comes with it. We are dealing with boredom and isolation and loneliness. We are dealing with mortality and the natural fear that comes with it. We are dealing with terrifying economic realities and the worry of a future that is unclear. And yet, my family—Sheila, Daniel, Jakob and our crazy dog, Duncan—are steadfast. They ease my anxiety as they wrap me up in the comfort of their embrace. They love me and I them, without condition or pretense. They tolerate my unease and give me hope. They are my oasis. In these strange times, I believe we have an opportunity to appreciate all over again and perhaps more deeply just how much our families mean to us. I hope—I truly hope—that this Thanksgiving, you’ll join me in telling the people around you just how thankful you are that they are in your life. Family by blood, family by marriage, or family by tradition are all precious gifts.
Thank YOU. For all you do. My wish for you is a safe, healthy and happy Thanksgiving. While our tables will be relatively empty this year, I know that we remain connected and together. And together, as I’ve said since March, we got this.


David Ervin, JFGH CEO,