LifeTown Endowment Passes First Milestone: New Challenge Grant Set

The LifeTown endowment reached a critical milestone in June, matching its first challenge grant. Cash, pledges, and commitments now surpass $3 million.

A second challenge grant has already been set. If it is successfully met, it will bring the total endowment to $6 million toward an ultimate goal of at least $10 million.

Both grants came from the Paula and Jerry Gottesman Family Supporting Foundation. They challenged LifeTown to raise $2 million in a combination of cash gifts and pledges and legacy commitments to become eligible for a corresponding gift of $1 million from the foundation. 

“Jerry and I were proud to have the privilege of participating in the development of LifeTown,” said Paula Gottesman, referring to her husband of blessed memory. “Through the endowment, we hope the dreams and needs of so many will be nurtured today and for years to come.” 

On a recent visit to LifeTown, Paula was effusive. “Seeing all of this, knowing I can be a part of it, just fills me with so much joy. This is what life is all about,” she said.

“We are off to a tremendous start building a solid foundation for LifeTown,” said Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum, CEO of LifeTown and Friendship Circle. “We are thrilled to have reached this moment, thanks to Paula Gottesman and all of our supporters who are so “other-centric” — focused on the needs and well-being of others. And this is just the beginning!” 

The endowment campaign was inspired by Paula. Seeing the impact on the funding of LifeTown and the Friendship Circle when COVID forced the cancellation of the annual banquet, she offered the initial challenge grant and expressed her desire to find a way to ensure the long-term stability of the organization.

The goal of the endowment is to provide the funding to cover the core operating costs of LifeTown. All future fundraising, according to Grossbaum, would then support programs and services.

Since its inception in 2000, Friendship Circle and LifeTown have reached thousands of families who have children with special needs, providing the support they need to thrive. Through its volunteer network, the organization also reaches a much broader audience, creating real-world opportunities for inclusion, friendship, and community. More than 10,000 teens have volunteered over the past 24 years.

“We want everyone in the community to experience the love, the help, and all the good things LifeTown and Friendship Circle have offered us over the years,” said Barry Lefkowitz, president of Friendship Circle and LifeTown, whose son Sam has benefited from these programs since he was a boy. “Friendship Circle was always a place where Sam could go and just be himself, or enjoy the company of Friends at home. It’s been an inspiration for our whole family. Now we want to pay it forward.”

Avi Shua of Livingston believes that bringing in the broader community is the secret sauce of the organization. A board member whose two older daughters both volunteered as teens, Shua also has a son with autism who participates in programs. “Of course Friendship Circle and LifeTown help children and young adults with special needs,” said Shua. “At the same time, getting teens to volunteer benefits everyone. It translates into awareness and exposure and accepting kids with special needs for who they are. Everyone learns to think less about limitations and more about inclusion.”

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