Palm Beach, Florida resident Phyllis Hoffman plays a critical role in her community. Hoffman mobilizes the community to provide housing for adults with mental as well as or in addition to physical disabilities. Hoffman is so passionate about the care of mentally and physically disabled adults, that she founded a nonprofit social service agency, Jewish Residential & Family Service. Though the program is titled “Jewish,” they serve persons of all faiths.
In addition, she is a full-time volunteer for Jewish Residential and Family Services (JRFS) and its parent, Alpert Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Hoffman has received local and national recognition for her dedication and hard work including awards last year from the Association of Jewish Family & Children’s Agencies for “Outstanding Volunteer Service” and the Junior League of the Palm Beaches – Wachovia “Woman Volunteer of the Year” prize.
Hoffman is a dedicated professional who has done everything from write grants to answering phones. She receives no compensation but a full heart. She first came to Alpert JFCS over three years ago when she helped obtain a Quantum Foundation grant of $160,000 to house and supervise disabled adults in a West Palm Beach apartment complex. Her daughter Troy, 38, lives a busy, active life in one of these apartments.
Hoffman and her husband, Timothy, have two other adult children. Several decades ago, when they moved to the area they found no resources for Troy. Her pediatrician even advised her that there was nothing wrong with Troy. Throughout her daughter’s childhood, discouraging doctors told Hoffman Troy would never live on her own.
This situation was more than discouraging, and Hoffman took matters into her own hands. She literally created services so her child could flourish and achieve some measure of independence. In 1974, she created a group home for mentally challenged children in Loxahatchee. One of the neighbors objected, and a controversy erupted. The day before a zoning board was to vote, the house was covered in graffiti. The next day, the house was vetoed, no reason given.
Yet, Hoffman did not give up. She started her own school for Troy and other children and redirected her considerable energies to creating day programs. One of the programs was out of a Lake Worth church, and another was out of Temple Israel in West Palm Beach. One program started with five students from Kindergarten through twelfth grade, and by the following May the program had 150 students. Phyllis also was instrumental in creating a special live-in school in Broward County, Florida.
With the help of Alpert Jewish Family and Children’s Service and the Quantum Foundation, Phyllis Hoffman was able to fulfill a special dream. Now, because of her tireless effort, Palm Beach County has two new group homes and dozens of apartments with 24-hour supervision and loving care for disabled adults. These men and women are now able to lead lives of relative independence.