FELS Recognizes Twelve Honorees at Gala

Federation Early Learning Services (FELS) recently recognized the dedication of 12 honorees at its 100th birthday celebration at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia. The 2011 gala honorees were: Sandra Axelrod, Ellen Kolodner, David Pudlin, Scott Barsky, Robert Clair, Mary Bert Gutman, Rita Lifson, Kay Lokoff, Ronald Perilstein, Gail Rosenberg, Charlotte Rosenthal and Joyce Straus, who was honored posthumously. The 12 honorees, have been an integral part of FELS’ growth and development. Each received well-deserved praise at the “Love Our Kids” Gala on June 6, 2011.

FELS has provided quality child care and early education services to residents of the Philadelphia region for 100 years. Since its inception, FELS has expanded to eight centers and three public school sites and now serves more than 1,000 students yearly. The local centers are: the Terri Lynne Lokoff Early Learning Center in Ambler; the Mary Bert Gutman Early Learning Center in Melrose Park; Kol Ami Nursery School in Elkins Park; Kehillah Early Learning Center in Wallingford; K’tonton School for Young Children in Broomall; and Buerger Early Learning Center, Samuel Paley Early Learning Center and Lassin Early Learning Center, all located in Philadelphia.

More after the jump.
The Gift of Giving

Each of the 12 honorees were recognized for the time and financial resources they have devoted so that the children and family served by FELS could have better opportunities, economic self-sufficiency and an understanding of what it means to be Jewish. These esteemed individuals, and their commitment to FELS, are detailed below:

Sandra Axelrod, Elkins Park, has been actively involved with FELS for 20 years, serving as board chair, vice president and gala chair. She is also a past gala honoree. Axelrod established the Mom Mom’s Kitchen Fund in memory of her mother, Sophie Solomon.

Ellen Kolodner, Rydal, has spent many years on the FELS board, serving as board chair, first vice president and vice president. She has also served on the Executive, New Business, PR & Marketing, Child Advocacy and Annual Meeting Committees. In total, she has supported FELS for 22 years.

David Pudlin, Bryn Mawr, a 34-year veteran of FELS, became involved with Federation Day Care Services  in 1977 and has worked with the organization ever since. He has been vice president and gala honorary co-chair. Pudlin has served on the Executive, Budget and Finance, Development, Nominating, Personnel Practices, Gala and Ad Book Committees.

Scott Barsky, Dresher, has played a significant role in FELS’ success. With 25 years of dedication to the  nonprofit, he has been board chair, treasurer, gala chair and gala honoree. Barsky has also served on the Executive, Budget and Finance (chair) and Operations Committees. His board presidency was marked by active involvement with the Federation, which enabled him to sustain and strengthen the agency/Federation relationship.

Robert Clair, Longport, NJ, has contributed 33 years to FELS and many hours of volunteer work. He has served as gala chair and has been a gala honoree. He was instrumental in raising funds for the Northern Hebrew Say nursery (renamed Lassin Early Learning Center). Clair later established the Robert and Hope Clair Children’s Environment Fund and helped fund a computer program at the Lassin Center. He is always eager to give the FELS children the best. He said that half his honor belongs to his wife, Hope, who has always been a partner and supporter.

Mary Bert Gutman, Lafayette Hill, is an icon in the FELS community. Her 58 years of dedication and enthusiasm for lending a hand to children has made an impact on everyone at FELS. She has been board chair and a gala honoree. Gutman has served on the Executive, New Business, Programs and Services, Marketing & Public Relations and Development Committees. She is a visionary thinker who has had a profound effect on the agency. “We morphed, we merged, we matured, and now we are reaching 100,” Gutman said. “It has been an incredible journey and I am proud to have participated.”

Rita Lifson, Rydal, an active FELS volunteer for 34 years, has served on the Annual Meeting and Program & Planning Special Events Committees. She also has been the board liaison to the Friends of Samuel Paley Auxiliary. Lifson established the Burton and Rita Lifson Staff Development Fund in memory of her husband.

Kay Lokoff, Philadelphia, became involved with FELS 23 years ago. She and her husband, Fred, founded the Terri Lynne Lokoff Early Learning Center in 1987 to honor their daughter Terri’s memory and her passion for young children and the Terri Lynne Lokoff Child Care Foundation, which works to improve the quality of care for all children and child-care teachers. Kay Lokoff has served on the Development Committee and as chair of the Annual Meeting Committee.

Ronald Perilstein, Narberth, an active board member for 15 years, has been board chair, first vice president, gala chair and recording secretary. Perilstein has served on the Executive, Leadership, Operations, Nominating, Human Resources, Gala, and Strategic Planning Committees. He has helped the board to identify and focus on priorities and to take reasonable risks for fulfilling FELS’ mission.

Gail Rosenberg, Elkins Park, a past vice president, gala chair and gala honoree, prides herself on her long-term commitment to FELS. She has devoted more than 38 years to the organization. An early childhood educator, Rosenberg understood the importance of making a long term commitment to FELS. She is credited with identifying and recruiting family and friends for the board whose contributions have been invaluable.

Charlotte Rosenthal, Rydal, has devoted the past 28 years to FELS. She has served as past gala chair and gala honoree. She also has chaired the Annual Meeting, Marketing & PR, Development, Program and Service Committees.

Joyce Straus (deceased), formerly of Rydal, left her positive mark on FELS’ history and contributed to its legacy. She devoted 46 years to the organization that she held close to her heart. Straus was board chair, vice president, treasurer and gala honoree. She served on the Executive, Development, Program & Services, Gala and Ad Book Committees. With her passing, FELS lost a dear friend and advocate.

“These amazing individuals have all given so generously to FELS. They understand that quality child care makes good economic sense and creates the kind of future citizens we all want in our communities,” stressed FELS President and CEO Maddy Malis.

A Night to Remember

More than 300 guests attended FELS’ 100th birthday gala, where the organization paid tribute to its past and celebrated its future through retrospective photos and heart-warming presentations. The event and accompanying tribute book raised $286,000 which will be used to support its commitment to provide “The Best of Everything, From the Beginning” to FELS kids.

About FELS

The history of FELS goes back to 1911 with three nurseries known as the Downtown Hebrew Day Nursery, the Strawberry Mansion Day Nursery and the Northern Hebrew Day Nursery, all located within a 15-mile radius of Center City and all committed to serve working parents.  The nursery leaders were immigrant women familiar with the languages and customs of the families who enrolled their children in these centers. Although the volunteer staff was largely untrained, this did not dilute their dedication and enthusiasm for nurturing the infants, toddlers and preschoolers who were entrusted to their care.  Since its inception, FELS has expanded to eight centers and three public school sites and now serves more than 1,000 students yearly. The local centers are: the Terri Lynne Lokoff Early Learning Center in Ambler; the Mary Bert Gutman Early Learning Center in Melrose Park; Kol Ami Nursery School in Elkins Park; Kehillah Early Learning Center in Wallingford; K’tonton School for Young Children in Broomall; and Buerger Early Learning Center, Samuel Paley Early Learning Center and Lassin Early Learning Center, all located in Philadelphia.  

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