Meet Our New Board President Justin Colby

We're pleased to announce Justin Colby as our incoming Beth-El Center Board President, succeeding the great work of our most recent past President, Max Case. Read on to learn more about Justin and his involvement with and plans for the Center:

How did you get involved with Beth-El?
My first exposure to Beth-El was with a community service group I belonged to at Foran High School here in Milford — the Interact Club. We used to volunteer for spaghetti dinners and food drives. Fast forward a few decades, and I have a good friend on the board of the Rape Crisis center here in Milford. I told her I thought being a board member seemed like something I'd love to learn more about, and she told me she had a friend on the Beth-EL board and they were looking to bring in some new faces.

What accomplishments are you most proud of since joining the Board?
In my opinion, the Center accomplishes great things, and it's our job on the board to support and clear hurdles to make that possible. So, in the 5 or so years I've been on this board, I think the thing I've been most impressed with was COVID. This was an event that changed everything – and suddenly everything we knew about sheltering and feeding people changed. What Jen and the Beth-El team were able to do, negotiating new protocols for our clients and staff, dealing with regulations that were changing by the day, arranging access to vaccines and starting up a hotel program for shelter was simply amazing. We're just now getting back to some of our pre-COVID protocols, and we learned a lot from them.

Do you have a fun anecdote that you would like to share about Beth-El?
One of my fondest memories is a breakfast with a reporter and a former shelter client along with staff and some of us board members. The reporter ended up having to reschedule, but we all sat and took down some pastries and talked for about an hour anyway. It was the most time I had had to get to know the staff, and I was really interested in the client's story. A few years pass, and now this client is on the board with us.

What do see for the future of Beth-El?
As you know, we have a lot in the works, The most evident is our building project which is going to allow us to better serve the men and women in our community experiencing homelessness, and to help us transition people to permanent housing. This new building is going to be a great resource for our staff and our clients, but I'm also hoping we're going to have a space where we can invite the community in. Our faith partners and other community organizations have been so welcoming, and we'd love to return the favor. Our goal is to eliminate homelessness, but in the mean time, we're going to continue to get better at meeting people in need, where they need us most.

What do you want the community to know about Beth-El?
I think it's important for people to know we're serving your neighbors. With so many of us living paycheck to paycheck, it's nice to know there's a safety net here in town set up to help in those worst cases — even if someone just needs a warm meal, or a place to stay for a few nights while they get back on their feet. And I'd also like them to know that we encourage everyone to get involved. The staff, the clients and the volunteers are some of the best people you'll get to spend time with.

How can someone help Beth-El?
There are so many ways to help. First, follow us on social media – Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. The Center's Community Kitchen will post immediate needs. Sometimes it's really satisfying to know the extra few cans of vegetables or boxes of pasta you drop off will go to feeding someone immediately.
Next, volunteer. Do you know we have outside groups serving meals in our Community Kitchen every day? We also have volunteers who come and help out in the kitchen, or paint a room — there's always something we need.
Finally, think of us for your charitable donations! If your company offers a charitable match, that can really add up for us. We really rely on the community's support, especially as sources of government grants become more challenging to pursue.

Do you have any goals in mind of what you would like to achieve while you are President of the Board?
My predecessor Max along with Jen really laid the groundwork for an incredible next few years. I want to deliver on the promise of a state-of-the-art facility, and continue to invite the public into the conversation. I think it's really important people know about the needs that exist in our community and the sometimes thankless work that the Beth-El staff does to meet them – cooking meals, providing emergency shelter, offering No-Freeze cold weather services, even meeting folks who might be reluctant to accept help and connecting them with services. We've got something special here, and it's because we have a wonderful community that makes it possible.

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