Friends of NAFI/NFI
Annual Conference Edition
Celebrating 45 Years! Shaping Our Future - Empowered By Our Past
In this Edition:
President's Welcome

Dear Friends,

In late October we celebrated the 45th anniversary of NAFI/NFI at our Annual Conference. Coming together each year is not only a tradition that we regularly honor, but it also  serves several important functions for us as an organization. First, it provides us with the opportunity to convene as one community, to reconnect and celebrate our core mission, despite the fact that we are decentralized and spread across eight states. Another important function of the three-day conference is sharing, learning and teaching one another through a diverse array of workshops, led entirely by expert employees from within our organization. We made the decision to have these learning opportunities be directed by staff because it builds and strengthens our sense of unity while also fostering leadership.
Our moving and inspiring client Talent Show is another special feature of the conference that we've honored for many years. It not only reinforces our concept of keeping clients front and center but also gives the hundreds of staff, board members and friends in attendance a very real sense of the power of the relationship and support that those in our care receive.
As you read highlights of this year's conference in the articles below, I would be remiss not to mention another important element of our annual gathering that we have included in recent years. Following our client Talent Show, we honor alumni of our programs who have worked diligently to become thriving citizens, overcoming the difficult circumstances that brought them to NAFI/NFI. Included in Jay Paris's story of this year's presentation is a video link that highlights the special night.
Finally, it is also important to acknowledge that each year our Annual Conference is entirely produced by a rotating committee of skilled, volunteer employees without the help of an outside event planning company. We are particularly proud and appreciative of their highly effective efforts, year after year. It is not only an example of the spirit of the NAFI/NFI Annual Conference but also of the commitment of our remarkable staff to our core purpose and values.

My best regards,
Dr. Yitzhak Bakal 
By Jay Paris, Director of Youth Link, NAFI Corporate Office

In retrospect, every NAFI/NFI Annual Conference is followed by a compendium of remarkable memories but none more poignant than the night of the client Talent Show and the honoring of alumni. As always, the brave and moving performances by the dozens of clients who prepare and practice for months cause many of the 400 staff, board members and friends in the audience to tear up. It really is that inspiring.

But the second part of the evening, when alumni are honored who have overcome the harshest of obstacles to achieve life success, is no less remarkable. This year, NAFI/NFI acknowledged three young men who came into NAFI/NFI programs in moments of crisis, finding connection and healing as they progressed towards independence and, ultimately, achievement.

The three honorees were Jon Cruz, Dennis Everett and Rob Willie.

Jon Cruz
Jon Cruz
: After a short introduction by Youth Link directors, Matthew Swartz and Jay Paris, Jon shared his story of growing up in the confines of the Franklin Field Public Housing Development in Dorchester, raised by a single mother who struggled to feed and clothe her five children. He spoke about the intimidating and limiting challenges of living in poverty, rarely venturing beyond the bricks of his tenement until he came across Youth Link's drop-in center on the grounds. It was there that Jon completed program after program, learning culinary arts, developing a fondness for the White Mountains and the majesty of whales that he watched repeatedly on trips off Cape Cod.  He participated throughout middle and high school until his fears turned into passions that took him into the world. After some years of working in inventory control, he is now applying to become staff at NFI.

Dennis Everett
Dennis Everett: Dennis was introduced by Lydia Todd, the Executive Director  of NFI Massachusetts, who has been volunteering with him to pass state legislation to bring salary parity to workers in human services organizations. Dennis's diligent quest for equity on all fronts comes from a long history of being excluded. Excluded from treatment in a series of state facilities for delinquents. Excluded from opportunities to develop healthy relationships while living in environments where drugs and violence were extreme. But when receiving his award, Dennis explained that when he came into NFI's Shelter Care and Alliance House programs, everything changed. It was during these stays that he grew his considerable aptitude to lead and help others in the community. Dennis not only graduated with flying colors but also became a NFI staff member and eventually an assistant program director. He continues as a social activist, fighting for equity on many important fronts. 

Rob Willie
Rob Willie: 
Rob Willie was introduced by Deb Yates who heads our Southeast Region-someone Rob credits with "saving" his life thirty years ago when he was remanded to NAFI's Thomas O'Farrell Youth Center in Maryland. Deb was an administrator with whom Rob quickly connected. Their mentorship continued through his rapid progress at O'Farrell and also when he came back to join the staff. Rob credits his years with NAFI as igniting his quest to help others-a passion that has never left him. Today he is the head of his own non-profit, helping teens work through the same challenges that he battled and eventually overcame.

We congratulate all three of these alumni for their determination and unflagging spirit to grow and thrive. To see a video of their presentations at the Annual Conference, click below.
2019 NAFI/NFI Annual Conference
By Dr. Paul Dann, Executive Director, NFI North

There are remarkable things happening every day within NAFI/NFI's normative community!  NAFI/NFI Community members come together to support our mission and through this achieve wonderful outcomes for the people we serve as well as other community members.  The power of the normative community helps to create a culture where people work together to realize individual and community successes that are beyond what any one individual would imagine. 

We have come to think about this phenomenon of helping the people we serve as well as those
Dr. Paul Dann - 2019 Spirit of the Community Award Intro
Dr. Paul Dann - 2019 Spirit of the Community Award Intro
around us as the "Spirit of the Community".  More than 25 years ago we decided that this spirit of the community was so important that we would take time to recognize individuals that exemplify this important spirit.  This year at the NAFI/NFI 45th annual conference we recognized 12 more people for exemplifying the Spirit of the Community.  Click on the video link to hear more about this important award.

2019 Individual Spirit of the Community Award Winners
Top: Chris Watson (NY), Abigail Okarmus (CT), Jennifer Raphael-Guzman (RI), Donna Ray Watts (MA);
Middle: Annette Wilson (MA), Holly Lawrence (MA), Jen Altieri (North), Amy Siebert (North);
Bottom: Amanda White (VT), Ivory Racine (VT), Jessica Seder (Corp), Kimberly Revell (FL).
We salute our Program  Spirit of the Community
Award Winners

The mission of the Program Spirit of the Community for NAFI/NFI is to recognize program excellence where participants and staff work together to create a community that values and nurtures mutual respect, support and acceptance. We are inspired by and grateful for the dedication and commitment that each of these programs display every day.

Click on the program name below to learn more about the 2019 winners:


NFI Massachusetts

NFI North

NFI Vermont
WorkshopConference Workshop Collaboration
By Kristina Boldebuck, Director of Business Applications, NAFI Corporate Office

Each year when NAFI/NFI staff come together for our annual conference they are able to select from a variety of workshops related to cutting edge industry topics to aid in their professional development. What is most impressive is that the Executive Leadership Team is able to identify experts from within our organization to offer these informative sessions. The result is an engaging, safe environment where attendees report feeling able to learn, reflect and re-energize . Whether sharing information garnered at a continuing education course, facilitating a panel of experts, exploring new clinical techniques, demonstrating effective team building exercises or using their yoga credentials to hold a class, our NAFI/NFI staff presenters are engaging, inspiring and innovative.

In 2019, there were 20 distinct workshops offered. Of those 20, 19 were delivered by our own staff (the additional one was a retirement expert brought in to aid our employees with their future planning). That means an amazing 95% of the workshops were NAFI/NFI driven! The impact of having intra-agency presenters is astounding. Attendees report feeling a greater connection to the company as a whole and on a more personal level, outside of the formal workshop sessions, staff continue conversations and networking with many forging professional relationships that are maintained beyond the conference. The Leadership Team and Conference Committee work hard each year to ensure that the topics are fresh and timely and that different staff are given the opportunity to share their expertise.

The 2019 workshops included:
Did You Know?
  • Homecare Choices recently celebrated their third anniversary as NAFI's senior care agency on Cape Cod. 
  • We are excited to announce our partnership with Care from the Heart, a home care leader on the Cape with more than 15 years of inspiring service to seniors.
  • Homecare Choices now serves more than 50 seniors with a great team of experienced caregivers who share the NAFI spirit and passion for quality care.

Click  HERE to visit the Homecare Choices website.
Giving Back Spotlight:
NAFI Rhode Island's Carnevale Project Turkey
NAFI Rhode Island celebrates 28 years of giving back to the community.
Click HERE for more information about this wonderful service project.
Friends of NAFI/NFI Newsletter Editorial Board
  • Dr. Nancy Grossman, Chair
  • Dr. Yitzhak Bakal, President
  • Jay Paris, Director of Youth Link, Director of Development
  • Holly Roy, Office Manager, Executive Assistant
Friends of NAFI/NFI | North American Family Institute | 978-774-0774 |