When writing a column each week (well, most weeks) I try to share a story about the community or the goings on at the Federation and/or JEA.  Sometimes the words fly out in ten minutes and other times I struggle to come up with something that people might want to read. 

Today it was a little of both.  I had lots of ideas, but no main theme, thus: Vignettes.

Vignette #1  We always talk about how being a lifeguard is one of the most boring jobs in the world.  Hour after hour you sit in the chair, holding on to a flotation device, staring at the choppy water as members do laps, children take swim lessons, and water aerobics classes bounce up and down in the water. 

At the very same time, lifeguarding is one of the most terrifying jobs in the world.  In a mere second, a confident swimmer may get a cramp, a child may gulp water, or a person may get confused in the environment.

Just over two weeks ago, it was both.  One of our lifeguards was on the stand.  She had been there for two hours and was watching the Water Aerobics class go through their paces.  The class has an instructor who typically stands on the deck and leads the exercises.  The class had gone through their group exercises when the instructor encouraged “those who were able” to use a noodle for extra flotation and “walk the water,” up and down the lanes.  Back and forth they went when one swimmer’s noodle slipped out from under her and forced her forward, face in the water.  She began to panic.  From boredom came terror when the lifeguard on the stand saw she was in distress, she immediately jumped in, righted her, calmed her down, and escorted her out of the pool.  There were some in the class who thought it took a long time for her to get help, but in only 8 seconds from the time the woman began to flail, the lifeguard was by her side assisting her.  It was a “gold standard” reaction-8 seconds to her side and she was out of the pool on the way to the locker room in less than 90 seconds….a save, a crisis averted.

What you might not know is that our lifeguards are our JEA first responders.  Trained in CPR and First Aid, when someone has an accident at the JEA, the first folks called are our lifeguards. 

Just under two weeks ago a call came out from one of our Preschool teachers that there was a woman in the bathroom who was in distress.  That very same lifeguard and our entire Aquatics, Fitness, and Rec leadership responded to the call where they found a woman who was faint and weak.  They immediately called 911 and then went about checking her blood pressure and assisting her.  The response from Chatham Emergency was excellent and they were at the building in less than six minutes and took her to the hospital.

Flashing forward 10 days, that very same woman was back at the JEA.  She indeed, had had a small stroke, and in many ways, our staff’s reaction was the difference for her.

So, the next time you see one of our lifeguards, you may look at them a little differently—they really are there to guard people’s lives, and they do a great job of it.

Vignette #2  Our Children’s Department recently interviewed a candidate for employment.  They had all the requisite children’s experience, had led programs, and had worked with similar age groups.  In the interview, they questioned them, “Why would you leave your current position where you seems to be quite successful and you are established?.”  The candidate responded, “You do similar things, but you are a family, and I miss the family atmosphere that you provide.”

It is true.  Our JEA Children’s Department prides itself in being a part of the growth and development of our children.  Whether it is helping with homework, teaching new skills, or just having fun, our staff loves watching the progression and growth.

Vignette #3   While DJ and Jackie and crew often get feedback from the parents and guardians during pickup and drop off, its not too often that a family shares with leadership.  We received this email (names withheld) last week:

_______ came home earlier this week and asked if we could play chess.  Being a chess playing family, I pulled out our game which regrettably had been getting dusty.  ___________ proceeded to put up quite a challenge.  We haven’t yet taught ________ how to play (he’s a third kid) so his skill was quite surprising.  He told me his JEA counselors taught him.  We’ve been playing with him almost every night, and he almost beat his dad (who thinks of himself as a skilled chess player). 

Thank you to the JEA and all the wonderful little surprises that continue to bless and enrich our lives.

See Vignette #2: It is true……

Vignette #4  Many of you know that our former CFO, Cheryl Lansing has returned to become our present CFO.  Oh, did we miss Cheryl and everything she does.  As you can imagine, when you take over someone else’s work, there are hundreds of items you do differently.  On Tuesday night, Cheryl was working on the Federation Income Statement and for those of you have dealt with Cheryl, she only accepts 100% accuracy—no fudging numbers for her.  We sat at her desk, and for 15 minutes she rattled off questions to me and I shot back with the answers.  It felt like a duel---she would thrust and I would parry….until ultimately, we had the statement correct. 

I looked at Cheryl’s exhausted face (it was close to 8pm and she had been looking at a computer screen for almost 12 straight hours) and I couldn’t help smiling.  It was one of the most satisfying time spent together in a long time.  I couldn’t help but offer a “high five” for the experience.  It’s so great to have Cheryl back at the helm!

In the busyness of all the things going on in this building, sometimes a few vignettes remind us of what we do and why we do them.

Shabbat Shalom