CHAI 5: Building leaders and connections
Photo: Courtesy Julie Morlend
Julie Morlend began her dedication to CHAI by giving manicures to CHAI residents.

Program applications due Feb. 29

By Deb Silverthorn

CHAI Community Homes for Adults, Inc., is introducing its CHAI 5 program. It will provide hands-on opportunities for community members ages 25 to 45 to receive leadership training and participate in in-person projects with residents of the organization’s nine homes. Applications are open until Feb. 29.

CHAI was founded in 1983. Its group homes for intellectually disabled community adults host 31 residents at its Bauer, Levy 1 and 2, Miller 1 and 2, Toub, Yale, Todd and Utay homes. In addition to its residential homes, as needed, CHAI provides services through its Wolens Program Services, Host Homes and Individualized Skills and Socialization (ISS) program.

“We’re looking for tomorrow’s leaders and we guarantee a meaningful experience. This will help our leaders be better equipped to serve. In addition to building CHAI’s team, we will have helped shape leaders wherever they are,” said CHAI CEO Lisa Brodsky. “Part of the Jewish community’s DNA is to bring along young leaders and to have them serve wherever we can. Through CHAI 5, a program that will be impactful for our residents and the future of CHAI as a whole, I know our participants will become more knowledgeable, connected and inspired.

“This program grew out of an experience our board president, Julie Morlend, had been a part of. As she took us through a strategic planning program, we determined how we could grow over the next five to eight years,” said Brodsky. “We built a roadmap which will be her legacy.”

Photo: Courtesy CHAI Community Homes for Adults, Inc.
CHAI residents and volunteers enjoy projects in the community including, as shown, decorating Temple Emanu-El’s sukkah.

While Morlend’s tenure as president is over in March, when CHAI 5 begins in April its first meeting will be at her home. She is the granddaughter of CHAI co-founder, Milton Levy, the namesake of the agency’s Levy House. Morlend says Brodsky will “without missing a beat continue to build us up. Mr. Levy is surely proud.”

From April to September, participants in the CHAI 5 Leadership Award program will meet monthly for sessions regarding nonprofit leadership, governance, finance and fundraising. Additionally, individuals will create their own schedules to bring their own spirit and interests — gardening, art, cooking and more — to projects with CHAI residents.

On Sept. 15, at its CHAI LIFE fundraiser at Punch Bowl Social, participants will be honored with leadership awards.

“We are bringing together like-minded people to grow and enhance leadership skills and understanding of how a nonprofit works from all angles,” said Morlend. “This is a pipeline to develop new leaders for CHAI and for wherever our participants may serve in our community, in their professions, for all of our futures.”

Photo: Courtesy CHAI Community Homes for Adults, Inc.
Crafting is a happy time for many CHAI residents including Morris, shown here with a CHAI staffer creating Hanukkah décor.

Ten years ago, Morlend began volunteering at CHAI; she recalls at first providing manicures for some of the residents. Because of her dedication as a community service leader, she was chosen for a similarly styled program at Parkland Hospital, the concept now coming to fruition at CHAI.

Morlend recalls her grandfather sharing his dreams and those of his fellow CHAI co-founders Dr. Carmen Miller Michael, Buddy Rosenthal and Herbert Shore, to enable adults with intellectual disabilities to live full, rich, safe lives while meaningfully participating in the community. The organization’s mission and those dreams have been in play every single day for more than 40 years.

Photo: Courtesy Julie Morlend
Julie Morlend, whose grandfather Milton Levy, of blessed memory, was one of CHAI’s founders, has been devoted to the organization herself for a decade.

“We want to reach out beyond our CHAI families and find those looking to make a difference while also enhancing their own lives. You can’t help but be inspired by CHAI as an agency and by our wonderful residents,” said Morlend.

Participants will be given a variety of educational opportunities and chances to progress according to their schedules.

To apply for CHAI 5, visit; for more details, email project manager, Brian Kaner, at

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