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My mother was a rare combination of strength and vulnerability,” says David Page, whose mother Gail just passed away after battling cancer for several years. “She carried the weight of the world on her shoulders and yet had so much dignity and pride. Only recently did I learn how she changed the course of my life by reaching out to the federation.”

When she was younger, Gail, a receptionist with four children and a sick husband, had contacted her federation for counseling and social services. As a child, Gail attended Jewish summer camp and wanted her children to enjoy the same experiences, but Jewish camp was a luxury the family couldn’t afford.

Once again, Gail turned to the federation for help. She recalled a federation professional telling her it would cost $1,200 to send her four children to camp.

Then the federation staffer asked Gail how much she could afford. Gail replied, “I can afford $8 for each child.”

“The federation took care of the rest,” said Gail. “I remember that day like yesterday. It was the first day of the rest of my children’s lives.”

At camp for the first time, David felt like he was on equal footing. His entire perspective changed and he became much more motivated to do well in school, to be socially active, to attend college, where he was a Big Brother to someone else who needed help. “For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people who cared, who motivated me to achieve great things and to be proud of my Jewish heritage. I learned how to be a good person; I learned right from wrong and I learned what it means to be Jewish, not only in the religious sense but in an ethical sense as well.”

“That first summer at camp and all those afternoons at the Jewish Community Center made me realize that I belong to a larger community that is willing to embrace me, no matter what.”

David and his mother remember those days clearly and feel that the federation was dedicated to helping the family, but quietly. No one ever knew the Page children were receiving assistance.

“Our pride was always left intact. Federation offered assistance in the most dignified way and never made me feel ashamed for asking,” said Gail.

Thirty years later, David is married to a Jewish woman, they’re raising a Jewish child and he couldn’t be prouder that his mother had the courage to ask.

“This story is a real tribute to my mother. By reaching out and asking the Jewish community for help, my mother has given her children the best gift of all: a meaningful life. And that is a lasting legacy.”