It’s June All Year at LifeTown
Director of First Impressions Receives Presidential Recognition
June Schechner is affectionately called by many “director of first impressions.” Polite, unassuming, and down-to earth, she is usually the first person people meet, greeting them as they enter LifeTown. Her warmth flows naturally from somewhere deep inside and resides in the smile that she always wears.
Schechner, who lives in Short Hills, arrives in the morning and stays until the day’s programs finish. For more than ten years, she has done it all as a volunteer. She’s the person who leads the davening during Sunday morning Torah Circle; she regularly led Zoom programs through COVID; she’s the person who says, “Yes,” whatever the task might be: group leader, young adult manager, friends-at-home observer, fund raiser, proofreader, camp leader, LifeTown tour guide, even FCNJ representative on Greater MetroWest ABLE.
She has volunteered so many hours that she has achieved a gold standard of service: This year, she was awarded the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Presented by the White House to just a handful of people around the country each year who have dedicated at least 4,000 hours of service over 10 years to an organization, it marked her deep commitment to Friendship Circle.
“Everything June does, she does with her heart and soul, with her whole self,” said Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum. “She engages parents in just the right way, and she reaches out to children just when they need it.” Over the years she has forged deep ties with everyone at Friendship Circle. “You can see the relationship she has in the way participants respond to her.”
June discovered Friendship Circle in 2005. That year, her eldest daughter, MayaBea, who had recently become a bat mitzvah, started visiting a peer at home twice a week. The next summer, she volunteered at camp. “‘Mom, you would love volunteering at camp,’” June recalled her daughter saying. She took MayaBea’s advice and joined the December camp session. “I have always been inclusive with children with special needs at my kids’ birthday parties, so Friendship Circle was just an extension of that,” she said.
After the December session, she was hooked. “It’s been a passion of mine ever since,” she said.
Friendship Circle quickly became a family affair. All three of her children have volunteered, and her husband, parents, and in-laws also became avid supporters.
She steadily grew more involved, especially after her youngest daughter left for college. At that moment, LifeTown was just kicking off. Her family dedicated the reception desk, and Rabbi Zalman and Toba Grossbaum joke that she came with it.
“Doing for others is what makes my days worthwhile.” Over the years, she said, she’s learned so much from the therapists, behaviorists, parents, and Chabad teachings. Perhaps above all, she said, she has learned to “’Think good and it will be good!’ It’s a simple motto, but it can set your mind in a very positive direction.”
“I truly believe I have been blessed with the ability to see the abilities, not disabilities in people,” said June.