Sandy Toben began her long career at Reena in 1985 starting as frontline part time staff, then full time front line, and in 1989 Sandy became a supervisor in the residential system where she stayed for 18 years, before finally becoming part of the Learning and Development department in 2007. “I loved the Residential Supervisor position. Its intense. There is a lot on a supervisor’s plate. Your caught between staff, the families, upper management, and your kind of in the middle.”
Sandy started working with Reena just 12 years after the organization was born, and says it felt more like a small family. “Back in the day, we didn’t have the property department…one time a washing machine was broken, so who did I call? My dad. He came over, he fixed it, it was good. It was more intimate.” Sandy recalls many special and intimate moments with Reena supported individuals and families including one particular occasion in the early 1990’s with an individual who had developmental disabilities as well as some mental health issues. “He was an incredible person and his family made him a 40th birthday party and they wrote a song for him. That shared family moment was so amazing…so normalizing for everybody, so lovely.” Some of Sandy’s other fond memories from “back in the day” include hard boiling 16 dozen eggs for Reena’s annual mock Passover Seders, dressing up for Purim parties and attending Gala dinners, where she says seeing individuals dressed up and looking their best while having an amazing time allowed people to see Reena supported individuals in a different light.
By 2007 Sandy was happy to join the Learning and Development department and help Reena continue to innovate, “I always loved the education, I always loved teaching. Even when I was a supervisor, we all have to train…its part of our policy.” One of her most memorable projects was working on the Maxwell and Ruth Leroy Holocaust Remembrance Garden at the Reena Community Residence (RCR). “Sandy (Keshen) was very eager to do a garden to remember the people who had been murdered in the Holocaust who had disabilities, particularly developmental disabilities. It came from a personal place in her life as well.” A committee was formed to develop a garden and a curriculum to teach staff and other agencies about the Holocaust and the terrible plight of people with developmental disabilities. Sandy Toben was the lead of the educational program helping develop a curriculum that told the story of Europe’s Jewish developmentally disabled. The curriculum was taught to several individuals who lived at the RCR who would lead tours through the garden. “People who came through were really surprised. They knew about the Holocaust, but they never knew about what happened with people, so it really struck a chord for many of our staff. And it was important for them as a Jewish organization, as an organization with people with developmental disabilities.”
Sandy says she has enjoyed every aspect of her work at Reena. “Working with the individuals that I supported and seeing their growth over the years was a driving force. I enjoyed working with the staff teams and took pride when the locations ran well. As a Learning and Development supervisor, I loved developing training courses and teaching over the years both in Reena and for external agencies.” As for why she has stayed at Reena for so long, “I was given the autonomy and trust (by my managers, who were always supportive) to carry out what needed to be done and get it accomplished – for me that is so important as an employee – trust, flexibility and being valued (by my manager) has kept me at Reena for 38 years.”
Sandy Toben is currently a Supervisor, Learning and Development and is working on her 39th year at Reena.