August 16, 2017
Coming off the glow of an amazingly successful Our Serve: Military Appreciation Day, it is important that we recognize one person who was instrumental in its planning and execution. Jan Armstrong Cobb is a member of the Easterseals Board of Directors and is the Chair of the Easterseals Veterans Committee. In recognition of her longtime commitment to Easterseals and tireless efforts to support veterans, she is the August Easterseals Hero.
Jan has been with Neyer Management for nearly two years as the Senior Property Manager. She has had a long and illustrious career in real estate investment management, but her Master’s degree is in Special Education. Supporting individuals with disabilities has always been a passion of Jan’s. She had been on the board of Jewish Vocational Services (JVS) for years when it merged with the Easter Seals Work Resource Center in 2012 and became Easterseals.
She admits that she was skeptical that any organization could compare to JVS, but now praises the merger. “To have all these incredible people ready to tackle these issues with Pam at the helm,” she says, “It’s been educational and inspiring, and it makes the bond even deeper.”
There has also been the welcome opportunity to expand her passion projects. Jan’s background in Special Education made Easterseals’ work with people with disabilities an obvious fit. But when Easterseals created Veteran Services in 2014, Jan dove in with energy and dedication. She looks back with some regret on her college days spent protesting the Vietnam War. “We thought anyone in uniform was bad,” she remembers. “As the years passed, and we learned more about what happened, my whole perspective on soldiers and veterans changed. So I really jumped at the chance to kind of do penance by working with the veterans committee.”
“She quickly took up the flag for our early veterans services,” recalls Chief Operating Officer David Dreith. “When it comes to our strategic objective of expanding the circle of people who care about what we do, Jan is a leader. She was responsible for bringing three committee members to the Advisory Committee and has involved many others in our events.”
Events like Our Serve, which this year welcomed a record-breaking total of more than 400 guests and raised more than $205,000 for veterans programs. The event relies on effective collaboration between the Development Department, the Veteran Services Committee, and the Veteran Services program staff. Jan is currently the Chairperson of the Veteran Services Committee, and her strong leadership shows.
“Jan was a tireless advocate for not just the event, but our veterans program as a whole,” says Danielle Gentry-Barth, Vice President of Development and Marketing. “She brought energy and focus to every meeting, and she motivated the entire Committee to step up and make this year’s event the best yet—which it was.”
Director of Easterseals Veteran Services John Clancy has similar praise. “Her leadership as the Chairperson of Easterseals Veteran Services Committee has been inspiring as she continually challenges us to find new ways to provide assistance to those veterans in our community who need it the most,” he says. “Thanks to Jan’s efforts, the program has seen tremendous growth over the past three years, ensuring its sustainability for future veterans in need.”
Speaking of sustainability, during Jan’s tenure as Chairperson, Easterseals Veteran Services has received Homeless Veteran Reintegration Program grants for two years in a row. These grants aim to connect local homeless veterans with the resources necessary to achieve sustainable employment.
Jan has story upon story that remind her why she is a part of this mission. She has seen Veteran Services use their network of resources to find housing for a homeless veteran. She has witnessed the joy of individuals with disabilities leaving the Jewish Community Center after a day of employment as part of the Work and Grow job development program. She has seen the Veteran Services program staff obtain boots for a veteran who was down on his luck, so that he could maintain his employment.
“In Yiddish, we say kvell,” she explains. “It’s more than just ‘be thrilled for,’ or ‘be happy for.’ It’s like you love it and you are happy and you’re proud and all those things wrapped up together—kvelling. Just seeing them, I kvelled seeing that they were so happy, and that it was our program that had given them this opportunity…What we do is give them a sense of purpose and dignity in their lives.”