By Sean Shapiro
Special to the TJP
For two decades the Jubilee Park and Community Center has been a catalyst for community renewal and enrichment in southeast Dallas.
Established in 1997, the community center has become a focal point for growth and renewal in the Jubilee Park Neighborhood, which covers 62 blocks and is home to more than 5,000 residents — many of whom are working poor and are underserved when it comes to education and healthy resources.
The community center is built on five pillars: public health, public safety, economic development, affordable housing and education.
“The pillar that we are here to celebrate today is public health,” said Ben Leal, CEO of Jubilee Park and Community Center. “Jubilee has always wanted to provide mental health services in this community and we knew they were critically needed in this neighborhood.”
And that’s where an ideal partnership was formed with the Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas.
“We realize that we’re not the experts on everything,” Leal said at ribbon cutting July 25. “We are able to achieve so much success because of our partnership and relationships and we are thrilled to have Jewish Family service as a partner.”
The partnership started to come to life roughly 18 months ago.
Leal was giving a tour of the facilities to Joel Litman, and the topic of mental health services came up. Litman is the former board chair for JFS and put Leal in contact with then JFS CEO Michael Fleisher, together they started discussing how JFS and Jubilee Park could work together.
“We started talking about synergy and a year and a half later we’ve been able to create a new partnership that’s going to have a deep impact in this community,” Leal said.
It’s a partnership that works well for both sides. Jubilee Park is providing the facilities, while JFS took care of the staffing with a full-time family therapist and full-time play therapist. There is also a part-time psychiatrist on staff, who will provide clinical support. All employees speak both Spanish and English, which is an important element in the community.
“We’re very happy to be here,” JFS CEO Steve Banta said. “They are a world-class organization and they have very high standards. We do to … I think between the two of us we can really help a community, and we’d enjoy talking with him even more on future projects.”
The project is already off to a strong start. The first client was already seen before the ribbon cutting, and the numbers are starting to grow through summer programs.
Leal said a bigger impact will be felt as the school year starts when after-school programs pick up and so do adult education classes.
“Community impact and data drive the direction of our program, and we always want to add high-quality programs at Jubilee,” Leal said. “We felt and saw a need for mental health services in this community, and through JFS we can be that much more of an asset of our company.”