Jeff Bernstein came to Reena back in 2011 through past Reena Chair Tali NIzic who invited him to join Reena and work with the financial committee. “I was in the not-for-profit sector, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to really join this organization. My wife is an occupational therapist and deals with children with developmental disabilities, so I saw this as a good opportunity to see what she goes through and to see how I can contribute.” Bernstein never looked back, joining the Reena Board, and eventually becoming Board Chair 2017-2020.
Impressed with the balance through the three charitable entities, Reena, Reena foundation and Batay Reena, Jeff Bernstein says everyone is working collaboratively, and everyone is working towards the common goal of breaking down the barriers and moving the organization forward. “I’ve seen Reena grow and evolve over the years. It’s really the ‘go-to’ organization in terms of setting the standards especially around real estate. And what I really like about Reena is that it moves forward not individually but it moves as a group and always represents the sector and I think its paid dividends in terms of the whole sector receiving additional funding.”
Jeff Bernstein became involved with the Reena community visiting homes, award ceremonies and taking part in Reena’s annual ‘Striking for Reena’ Bowling fundraiser. “I have been there almost every year. Just to see the joy and excitement on the clients’ faces was very satisfying. At the end of the day Reena is all about making the most out of one’s life and this is one way.” Bernstein was also involved with the creation and planning of the Lou Fruitman Community Residence and says the experience still resonates with him. “It took some time and negotiation with the family…There were challenges in terms of convincing them we were the right candidates to take a sliver of the land.” However, Reena prevailed. “The moment that really got to me was when I attended the city council meeting up in Maple, and to see these city councillors’ expression of hope and really breaking down in tears in terms of giving hope to these individuals. And it was really gratifying to see that there were a lot of people really escalating this project. That to me was very heartwarming to see that there are people who care about the community.” While he has attended many ribbon cuttings for Reena in his time, the Fruitman Residence groundbreaking ceremony was “a very formidable point in the history of Reena.”
Today Jeff Bernstein believes Reena’s success is due not only to its “fearless leaders, the Keshen’s, going out there and not really taking no for an answer,’ but to all levels of the organization. “It’s heartening to see the longevity and tenure of some of the staff…their certainly not doing it for the money, they’re doing it because they love what they do.” Giving individuals equal opportunity to be part of society, according to Jeff, has always been at the centre of Reena’s goals. “Empowering individuals to better themselves, to give them the tools, the education the training and go out there and be the best that they can be.”
Jeff’s 50th anniversary wish for Reena? “I wish Reena continues to grow and prosper and integrates itself within various communities and potentially to expand out of GTA and look further afield. The more people we can integrate into society the better.”