By Emily Williams
The Collat Jewish Family Services will honor Sherri and David Romanoff of Mountain Brook for their decades of service at its annual Hands Up Together event May 16.
“We’ve both been clients of the agency, so we know that the professionalism and compassion of its staff are great assets for the community,” Sherri Romanoff said. “We respect it, we volunteer for it and we want to be involved in it. It’s the agency of heart for both of us.”
A United Way agency, the CJFS was founded in 1989 and supports older adults and their families through various programs, according to a press release from the group. The organization also provides counseling for people of all ages and backgrounds.
Sherri Romanoff has been supporting the CJFS since the late 1980s, when it was known as Jewish Family Services.
“We were finding rides for people who didn’t drive. Before there was a purple Buz-A-Bus, there was a little room at the JCC where I sat, and there was a calendar, and we would get people rides to wherever they needed to go,” she said.
As CJFS became an independent agency, both of the Romanoffs benefitted from the addition of a counseling program as they navigated their respective divorces and single parenthood.
“At one time, there was a stigma that CJFS was only for people who couldn’t afford to go somewhere else,” David Romanoff said. “But we’ve always been big believers because we did use it, and we’ve wanted to make people aware that it’s for everybody and offers the highest-quality services in town.”
As his mother aged, David Romanoff sought guidance from CJFS once more.
“And then, when I was re-diagnosed with cancer, I called the agency and asked if they could start a support group for women cancer survivors,” Sherri Romanoff said. “They did, and that group meant a lot to me and the other participants.”
The couple has taken advantage of several opportunities to support the organization.
Most notably, CJFS paired Sherri Romanoff and her family with a family resettling in Birmingham from the former Soviet Union.
“My father (the late Max Corenblum) had come here from Russia when he was 5 years old, after his parents were killed in the pogroms,” Sherri Romanoff said. “When we were with our ‘friendship family,’ my father would speak Yiddish with them and take them groceries and fruits and vegetables from the farmer’s market. It was wonderful for us to see Daddy have a positive connection to his roots. We were all very involved, and it was a gift to us to help our friendship family transition to life in Birmingham.”
Over the years, both David and Sherri Romanoff have served as CJFS board president, and David Romanoff is the board’s vice president for fund development.
“Just to see how it has evolved and continues to evolve has been an inspiration,” Sherri Romanoff said.
The Hands Up Together event will take place at 7 p.m. on May 16 in the Alabama School of Fine Arts’ Dorothy Jemison Day Theater. The event will feature music by the Hot Tamales, a duo that includes Jan Hunter and Kristi Tingle Higginbotham. Tickets are $100 and can be purchased online.
For more information, visit cjfsbham.org.