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September 22, 2011 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-09-22

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September 22 • 2011



Mary Keane from page 14

"I went in feeling totally relaxed:'
she says. "That was the most amaz-
ing interview process in my whole
career." She loved the energy, the
creativity, the openness. "With this
position, it was like my whole profes-
sional career was being put into a
basket and I could use every one of
my tools."
She absolutely wanted the job. She
got it.
For Mary, the greatest gift of her
work has been the chance to connect
and change: not just to hear the idea
("A woman lost her husband and
is now struggling financially"), but
to understand that it's reality, even
when "it breaks my heart:' as it often
does. But then comes the chance to
provide clients with what they need
to get back on their feet.
HFL is the city's longest-serving
community agency, founded in 1895.
The organization lends money inter-
est-free because Halachah (Jewish
law) forbids Jews from charging
interest to other Jews. Originally cre-
ated to help pushcart vendors and
immigrants, HFL has an incredibly
diverse clientele today. About half
are single mothers, but there also
are many older adults and men and

women who did very well just a few
years ago, but lost their jobs as a
result of the economy.
All totaled, HFL is helping more
than 1,200 clients each year and has
about $5 million in loans outstand-
ing. More than 99 percent of the
loans are paid back, Mary says.
Mary has been involved in every
aspect of helping clients. With a
board and a president she adores,
she supervises and secures loans
for clients and works with staff to
direct them to other Jewish agencies,
like JVS and Jewish Family Service,
where they can receive additional
guidance. She doesn't believe the job
of HFL is just to dole out money: "We
work with the whole of the client."
Now, though, she's ready to move
on. Mary looks forward to spending
more time with family. She hopes to
take classes in painting and drawing,
and she would like to hold babies
who could use loving arms in neona-
tal care. She'll also spend more time
reading (the Harry Potter series is a
At the same time, she says, "I
will miss this work beyond words
because it has been so much a part
of me." E

Norm Keane from page 14

story of a social worker who liter-
ally changed the life of a struggling
young woman only to be reprimand-
ed for only initialing, not signing her
full name to the report. Norm just
shakes his head.)
His office is filled with photos
(family and baseball) and a small
statue of E.T. It's a place he meets
regularly with JFS staff and board
members and community leaders,
all of whom, he says, share his com-
mitment."There is an incredible
and deep caring. Truly, this is a very
unique community."
In his many years in social work,
Keane has seen that "the needs of
people stay the same, but how those
needs present themselves changes:'
Initially, clients came for food, cloth-
ing and shelter. As the government
took an increasing role in meeting
those basic needs, however, men and
women sought other kinds of assis-
tance from social service agencies.
Today, JFS spends more than half its
time helping older adults — but also
working with an increasing number
of young adults and counseling par-
ents who have lost jobs and are fac-
ing foreclosure.
"We have a lot of people who are

coming to us now who have never
come here before he says.
Under Norm's direction, the JFS
approach is not to throw pity on any-
one but to feel empathy, and then to
help each person build on his or her
strengths and talents.
Keane also believes in "getting
ahead of the curve,' so he has insti-
tuted programs like placing social
workers/counselors in Jewish day
schools and doing plenty of outreach.
Because he believes in "getting out
when you're still strong:' he's retiring
now He's ready to focus on family
and grandchildren, learning ways
to provide affordable health care,
reading suspense novels and history
books, and perhaps taking a few
college classes. He also wants to vol-
unteer with his congregation, Temple
Shir Shalom, and he loves to exercise.
Many years ago, while working in
Cleveland, Norm and a friend would
play a one-on-one game of basket-
ball at the end of a long day. "That's
when I learned the importance of a
good workout:' he says. "Whenever
I have a problem, my wife tells me,
`Why don't you go out for a workout?'
I come back with the problem fig-
ured out every time." 171

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