Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Christine DeSouza
Assistant Editor 

Heritage Human Service Award goes to Loren London

 

Loren London

The Heritage Florida Jewish News is pleased to announce the recipient of this year's Human Service Award is Loren London.

Words to describe London include creator, hard worker, organizer, enthusiastic, determined, thoughtful and loving. Those are just a few of the words that paint a picture of this lovely woman whose heart is deeply committed to her family and her community. As Cantor Alan Robuck of Congregation Ohev Shalom puts it, "Some people are thinkers and creators. Some people are great at getting a project off the ground. Some people are workers. In the case of Loren London, she is truly all three."

London's seemingly natural ability to lead and her compassionate spirit were molded in her childhood. The oldest of four children, she describes her childhood as idyllic-where she felt "truly loved and supported," which she immediately bases on her parent's strong, loving marriage. She lived in Coral Gables on one block that had "seven houses, seven horses and 41 children."

She and her husband, Robert, who has always supported her involvement from day one both in career and volunteering, also have a strong, loving relationship. They raised two children, Andra, 29, who works in Atlanta, Ga., as a global communication manager for Coca-Cola; and Brent, 27, who works for Google as a program manager in New York City. "My greatest achievement has been as a mother, raising my children, with bursting pride and watching them grow up to become successful, independent adults," she said.

Judaism permeated everything about her life growing up. "I found community through religious school and B'nai B'rith Youth Organization," she said. In BBYO she developed her leadership skills, serving as recording secretary, vice president, president, and parlimentarian.

She does not see herself as a fundraiser. Her background is critical-care nursing and legal nurse consulting. But she has spearheaded and chaired or co-chaired more than 25 events for Jewish Family Services, the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando, the Jewish Community Center and two synagogues-Congregation Ohev Shalom and Temple Israel.

"For as long as we have known Loren, she has been a tireless advocate for her family and our community," said longtime friends Bob and Judy Yarmuth. "

"It is very important that Loren's projects and volunteering are most often within the Jewish community. She wants to give back to this community that has become such a major part of her and her family's life," said Robuck. "She never, however, seeks the limelight or praise. Her work has always been selfless and truly a labor of love."

Some highlights of projects for the community that London was instrumental in bringing to fruition were the Community Women's Seder with Debbie Friedman, which brought together more than 300 daughters, mothers, grandmothers and aunts. "I had attended Debbie's community seder in New York and it was such a wonderful thing. So, I brought Debbie back here for a second time to do the seder. It was uplifting, dynamic, an amazing experience. Hundreds attended and it was a huge success, but an enormous undertaking," London said. (She also chaired the event that brought Friedman here the first time for a concert fundraiser in 1999.)

"I have often wondered how someone can be such a force in creating, organizing and accomplishing successful programs and events, yet still have time and energy to be the most thoughtful and loving acquaintance, friend, family member, wife and mother," said longtime friend JoAnne Kane. "Loren has the ability to do it all. This community would not have been the same if the London family did not plant their roots in Orlando."

The JFS Mitzvah Basket rental fundraiser was created by London back in 1999. "That was a lot of fun," she said. In fact, London puts the "fun" in fundraisers-the JFGO mission trips to Jewish Miami and New York City, and the JCC Idol contest were among her favorites.

London has also stepped to the front for serious causes. In 2001 when the World Trade Centers attack caught America off guard, London organized a JFGO communitywide musical tribute to 9/11 in a show of support for our country. She chaired the Seeds of Peace Gala, bringing Queen Noor of Jordan to Orlando. This event was dear to her heart as she is a great believer that someday there will be peace in Israel.

Three times London served as chairperson of JFGO's Choices. In 2000, London was the first recipient of the Woman of Choice Award, later renamed the Harriet Ginsburg Woman of Choice Award.

How did one person manage to stay focused in so many different areas? "She gets more accomplished in a week than most of us accomplish in a month," said Kane.

London is never without her smartphone, but in the past, before PDA or cell phone calendars, Cantor Robuck remembers how she did it all.

"She carried around a daily planner. This was like no planner I had ever seen. Every person and job had its own color and coordinated sticky notes. Loren did not want to take a chance that she might confuse her many projects and meetings. I was always amazed at how many different things she had going on.

"When our Visions project began, she and the other moms took on the responsibility of manager, publicist, traveling secretary, sales coordinator, website development, recording coordinator and group scheduling. This became increasingly difficult as the girls moved from Oralndo to begin college in different places. Nevertheless, Visions was always at their destinations on time and fully prepared."

"Visions was one of the greatest joys I could possibly have as a Jewish mother and I cherish the memories," London said. For those who may not know, Visions was a singing group of three childhood friends-one of whom was her daughter Andra. For more than a decade, the trio inspired Jewish communities in concert performances around the country. London loved her Jewish show biz years, learning new management skills and sharing in the joy with the other two mothers. "I knew even back then, this would be a short experience that would be everlasting in my heart," London said.

London is not a do-it-herself person. She has the ability to see a need and inspire others to become involved in each project she has chaired.

"Loren inspires, cajoles, and convinces other to share her vision," said Carol Miller, director of Social Bridges and one of London's nominators for this award.

"Anyone who has worked with Loren will say she keeps us all on our toes," said Kane. "She brings out the best in us all, making us work beyond our full potential."

Her latest accomplishment, "the crème de la crème," as Kane expressed, is RAISE-Recognizing Abilities and Inclusion of Special Employees-a work training program administered by JFGO for adults with special needs, providing part-time, paid, supported employment at partnering agencies.

Nominators Miller and Rachel Slavkin, job coach supervisor of Social Bridges and RAISE, had this to say of London in their nomination letter, "RAISE your glass in appreciation of all that Loren London continues to contribute as the consummate volunteer within the Jewish community."

Loren "sold" (as Miller put it in her letter) the concept of RAISE to the Federation and then networked to find professionals to volunteer their time and expertise to bring her vision into being.

Miller and Slavkin wrote, "Incredible passion, drive, organization, and communication skills enabled Loren to not only solicit funds from generous donors but to convince 10 community members to volunteer three hours of time per week to serve as job coaches. Loren spearheaded the creation of a community program many did not know was needed. She educated herself and created a comprehensive program from the ground up including structure, policies and procedures, forms, evaluations, and training. This unique program can be shared with other federations nationwide and has the potential for application in other faith-based communities."

Mention RAISE to London and she replies, "This is the most amazing team of bright, giving professionals. I feel as though I have earned an advanced degree in special education through osmosis just working with Carol, Rachel and Ken Schneider. Nobody is wearing an ego hat. We all know our roles and work together seamlessly to get it done.

"My legal background, experience on boards, my involvement in the Jewish community prepared me to be able to take on a project of this magnitude."

"To RAISE employees, she has given the gift of feeling productive and belonging; that is her greatest gift of all," said Miller and Slavkin.

With all that is going on at this time in the Middle East and concerns here about this Jewish community, London shared her dynamic optimism and what she won't give up: Feeling positive about the Jewish Federation. "There really is a lot of opportunity, a lot of support and the ability to help feel a part of this community. I think it is time to stay the course. With strong leadership that we have now and sound decision making, there will be a new normal and I'm along for that ride."

Jeff Gaeser, Heritage publisher, will present the Human Service award to Loren London at the annual JFGO meeting, Sunday, Aug. 24, 3:30 p.m. at the JCC.

 

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