January 12, 2021

Thank You Bill Wallen, We Will Keep it Going!

Filed under: Michael — michael @ 10:37 am

Over the past 18 years as our Federation’s Executive Director Bill Wallen has given us many things.  He has given us friendship, leadership, perspective, reason and inspiration.  He has given of his time, his sweat and his money.   He has also given one of the greatest gifts that one can give another, the gift of certainty. For over 40 years Bill has been a consistent and constant presence and advocate for justice, kindness and humanity through his work as a Federation board member, teacher, committee chair, President and finally Executive Director.  

We, our Federation community, have always known that Bill would get the job done with dignity and with consensus.  Bill has been a consistent community builder as a volunteer in our Jewish community, the interfaith community as well as in his professional life in the mental health field.  As I write these words, I am reminded of a quote by Winston Churchill, “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.”

His humility often prevents him from seeing the magnitude of his contributions to the lives of others, but I am thankful that after three attempts, our interfaith, Jewish and secular communities were able to honor Bill after his recognition by Penn State Altoona, as An Outstanding Alumni Award honoree two years ago. 

As Bill transitions into retirement, he has graciously committed to continuing to serve on the Federation executive committee and mentor our members as we transition to an all-volunteer organization for the next year.  Many tasks will need to be delegated and Bill has agreed to help make this transition as smooth as possible over the coming year.  He has also volunteered to continue representing the Federation in our interfaith activities in our community and at our local universities.

I believe it is appropriate at this time to evaluate where we are as a Federation and rededicate ourselves to the welfare of our local and global Jewish community through philanthropic, social, cultural and educational advancement.

Does the Federation still fill a viable need in our community?  Do we need a place for Jews of all denominations and beliefs?  Does our programming still resonate?  Is building Jewish identity in our children important?  Does our philanthropy still make a difference in the lives of our neighbors and Jewish throughout the world?  Does our interfaith activities and presence make our community a better place to live for all?  Is it important to have a Jewish presence in every community? I hope you say Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, and Yes.

The Executive committee has been discussing this matter in great detail for the last three months and we feel the best approach for the coming year is to mobilize our membership to handle our administrative responsibilities.  This will be beneficial in many ways.  Firstly, we would be significantly more aware of what needs to be done on a daily, weekly or monthly basis as well as help us more accurately determine what our future needs would be if we wanted to outsource or hire an administrative person.  Secondly, it would allow our community the opportunity of mitzvot in being more directly involved in helping each other and our friends and neighbors.  We are aware that this transition will have some rough patches but we believe our greatest strength is our people and we believe this will be a tremendous community building opportunity.  

Thirdly and most importantly, it is critical that each of us is involved in some aspect of Federation life.  There are many small tasks that most of us can do at home to continue our Federation’s mission.  We can no longer just assume that “it” will get done.  “It” will only get done if we individually and collectively choose to make it happen.  It was easy, too easy, to delegate when you had a Bill Wallen to run the show.  It is now time to honor Bill’s past efforts with a renewal of our effort.

As time goes by and things seem to be working as they should, it is easy to become complacent or take things for granted, not only in our Jewish community, but in all aspects of life.  If we want a vibrant and purposeful Federation, it is up to us ,the Board of Directors, to make it happen.  As our good friend of blessed memory, Judy Mesiel would say, “one person can do a lot.”

2021 is the time to create a new Federation dynamic.  Our house is in order but we need to change our methods to keep it in order. It doesn’t take a lot, just a little time for each of us to make a big difference.  The first six months will focus on defining our administrative needs, and we hope the next six months will allow a return to the social, and programming needs of our community.

So what have we done so far?  At our May 2020 Federation executive committee meeting it was decided to discontinue all in person Board of Director and Membership meetings until it was deemed safe due to the COVID pandemic.  Meetings would be held via Zoom as needed.  Susan Pohl, our Federation secretary resigned over the summer and her last day of work was August 13, 2020.  Bill informed me of his intention to retire and he submitted his resignation in September.   His last day on the job was December 31, 2020.

We have opened a PO Box in Hollidaysburg for mail collection at:

Greater Altoona Jewish Federation

PO Box 224, Hollidaysburg, PA 16648

Bill will continue to monitor the email and our telephone answering service and forward items to the appropriate committees or members.  Bill will also continue to maintain our Facebook page.  We are looking for a volunteer to gradually assume these responsibilities.

Neil Rudel, our secretary, will take minutes at all meetings and will arrange for someone else to provide that function if he is unavailable.  Clark Adelman, our treasurer, will make all deposits, and distribute allocations from the Federation as well as the Endowments.  He will also pay all invoices and work with our accountant to maintain proper financial processes with state and federal entities, maintain our QuickBooks software, and make sure our banks accounts are accurate and current.

The executive committee will continue the annual campaign which will soon commence.  The executive committee will also continue to make agendas, campaign and asset reports, and monitor all administrative and committee activities. This committee will also supervise and administer our certificate program, the PJ Library program, our Federation website, and camp scholarships.

The Finance Committee will continue to monitor Federation financial accounts and assets.

The Allocations Committee and Endowment committees will continue to meet to recommend annual allocations of campaign proceeds.

With regard to annual and special programs such as:

Film Festival

Veterans Service

Annual Picnic

Annual Curve Outing

We will resume these programs when it is determined to be safe and feasible.  A committee will be formed when these programs can resume, and it will be the responsibility of each committee for all planning and administration of said program.

We need volunteers for the following Federation liaison positions:

JFNA

PA Jewish Coalition

Historical Societies

IDA Board of Directors

Israel Bonds

I have great optimism and hope for our future.  Members have already stepped up and volunteered to contribute their time for our Federation.  I continue to be inspired and fulfilled with the opportunity to work with and befriend the great community builders of our Federation past and present.  

Finally, it has been a great honor for me to serve this Jewish community and embrace the banner on our Federation website, Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh v Zeh, Every Jew is Responsible for One Another.  I look forward to continuing our work together.

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