With a mother who was always passionate about giving back and a brother with Down syndrome, Stacy Jarett Levitan couldn’t have found a better fit than JCHAI. The Bryn Mawr-based nonprofit helps those with intellectual disabilities live as independently as possible. A former attorney, Levitan has been executive director for over 11 years.
1. Fraschetta in Bryn Mawr. “I love Italian food. They have a steak dish I get every time I go there, and the pasta is delicious.”
2. Louise Penny. “[She’s] my favorite go-to author. [Her books are] all just amazingly wonderful.”
3. Rolling Hill Park in Gladwyne. “They have beautiful trails, and we like to bring our dog—we’re a big rescue-dog family.”
4. Hidden Figures. “My daughter is studying bioengineering. And watching [the film] with her was such a great experience—to see how excited she was by the empowerment of watching the women overcome these obstacles.”
5. Past Present Future in Ardmore. “[It has] such fun stuff—a great place for gifts.”
MLT: Was giving back a big part of your upbringing?
SJL: My mother is my role model. She was the head of every organization that she ever became involved in. She was very community minded. I grew up in St. Louis, Mo. Once my brother was born, she founded what became the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis. She then came here and became head of the Montgomery County Association for Retarded Citizens. Public service was her life and I think that really filtered down to us. It was great for me to find something that was so meaningful to me, to be able to blend my community service passion with something that was so personal for me.
MLT: What’s JCHAI’s mission?
SJL: JCHAI’s goal is to dispel the myth that adults with developmental disabilities can’t work and live successfully in the community independently. We provide support on as-needed basis for adults with intellectual disabilities or autism so that they can live as independently as possibly in the community.
MLT: How’s JCHAI achieve that mission?
SJL: We have very individualized support. We do an assessment of everybody in the program to determine what it is they need to be the most successful they can be. We then provide support tailored around what they need. We have about 75 percent of the people in our program who want to work and have jobs in what they call competitive, integrated employment.
MLT: What do you find most fulfilling about your work?
SJL: When I see people in our programs out in the community living their lives like all the rest of us do. My brother [has] his friends, he has a job, he gets to do whatever it is he wants. He has this really fabulous life and so do the rest of the people in our program. The amount of relief that gives to their families is incalculable.
MLT: What are some of your goals for JCHAI’s future?
SJL: What we’re hoping is we’re able to figure out ways to bring this program to more people all over the city. We started the JCHAI home program in 2008—we had one client and one social worker and we now have seven social workers and probably 70 people in that program.