JFCS celebrates opening of one-stop shop for all ages

On the first floor of the August Helbing building at 1710 Scott St., moms or dads visiting the Koret Family Resource Center can be found with toddlers in tow, browsing the postings on a community bulletin board.

On the second floor of the San Francisco building prospective adoptive parents can view a photograph collage of hundreds of babies who've found loving homes.

And on the third floor posters, streamers and other decorations hung by former Soviet emigre teens, give the walls a festive look.

But it's not what's hanging on the walls that make this new resource center tick.

It's what goes on inside those walls to connect a spectrum of ages — from infant to adult — with the relevant services of three Jewish Family and Children Services programs: Parents Place, Adoption Connection and the Club Noon youth emigre program.

"It's like a one-stop shop," said Amy Rassen, associate executive director of JFCS, referring to the newly renovated building that now houses the three JFCS programs. "We consciously mixed and integrated program components to create a stronger resource in our neighborhood."

The programs have been officially operating in their new space for the past two months. Parents Place and Adoption Connection formerly operated out of an old Victorian home on California Street, to be demolished during the renovation of the San Francisco Jewish Community Center. Club Noon was located at a separate facility around the corner on Presidio.

By putting them in one building, said Rassen, "a teen in our Club Noon could feasibly tutor a child from Parents Place. A person who wants to adopt a child through Adoption Connection could sit in on a parent-support class. Or a caregiver could browse our bulletin board to find a parent who needs their services."

The location, just around the block from JFCS San Francisco headquarters, allows the services to extend beyond the walls. The teens, for instance, often spend Shabbat with the seniors at Rhoda Goldman Plaza, and some do internships in the JFCS offices.

"We have grandmas, old kids, young kids," said Rassen. "You really get the feeling that it's a family."

The new center was named after August Helbing, the founder of JFCS' predecessor, the Eureka Benevolent Society, and several other major Jewish organizations in San Francisco.

To celebrate the center's grand opening, a block party, to include carnival games, food, face painting and other entertainment, will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 9 on Scott Street between Bush and Sutter.

The new facility on Scott Street is larger and more modern than the Victorian house, and has "better lighting, more windows and a much nicer atmosphere," said Randie Bencanann, co-director of Adoption Connection, a full-service adoption agency licensed by the state for domestic adoptions.

Adoption Connection has operated through JFCS for more than 15 years and handles between 100 and 120 adoptions a year for people of all religions, races and sexual identities.

"We help bring families and children together," said Bencanann. "We handle the legal aspects as well as the emotional."

Although Bencanann was originally "concerned that people would feel less welcome" in a building instead of a house, she said, "I don't think that's been happening."

Club Noon has also been flourishing in its new home and among compatible programs, said its director, Lauren Pearl.

A 3-year-old youth development program for emigre teens from the former Soviet Union, Club Noon primarily provides a place for teens to "drop in, hang out and socialize," said Pearl.

It also has organized social events, college preparatory classes, a drama group and a magazine called Transit, which is published by the teens a few times a year. This summer Club Noon placed 23 teens in internships with JFCS.

"We offer a whole range of opportunities and services," said Pearl, noting that Club Noon serves about 300 teens, from regular participants to occasional visitors.

Parents Place also offers a variety of opportunities and services. The 20-year-old program, which also has locations in Palo Alto, Marin and Sonoma, offers workshops, counseling and classes for parents, as well as fun and educational programs for both parents and their children.

In its new home, Parents Place has a library filled with resources on parenting and a bulletin board with postings for people seeking caregivers or offering help. There is also a drop-in center for kids to play in, with a one-way mirror for parents who want to watch.

"The whole flow on the first floor is of parents, support for parents, comfort and ease," said Rassen. "The assumption behind it is that all parents and caregivers need help — not just those who are in trouble."