From making sure children have backpacks full of school supplies to dinner on the table, Gloria Max continues a family tradition.
A few minutes with Gloria Max and you are going to want to be a better person.
Diagnosed with ovarian cancer in September 2015, Max, the executive director of the Jewish Federation of Volusia and Flagler, didn’t miss a beat. The day after her first round of chemotherapy she was back at the Jerry Doliner Food Bank at 470 Andalusia Ave. in Ormond Beach.
“I made myself,” Max said. “I think that is what helped me. We get to work here at quarter past 5 or 5:30 in the morning and we stay late.”
A dynamic woman with lots of energy and the ability to get by on four hours sleep, Max is continuing a family tradition.
She said her father, Mendel Goldstein, was always one to look after the poor. An orphan at 5, he immigrated to Toronto, Canada from an orphanage in Poland.
“I think he would have been so proud of what we do here,” Max said.
Max is always looking for ways to raise funds for the food bank and backpack program, writing grants when she had no experience. She recalled the first grant she wrote for $1,000 from the Orlando Sentinel. A requirement was for someone to be there to accept the money. She was leaving for Canada to see her father, who was ill, so someone else from the organization went in her place.
“When I returned I asked him if he got the $1,000,” Max said. “He said, “they didn’t give me a $1,000, they gave me $5,000.”
Her husband of 56 years, Ray Max, is a big part of the nonprofit.
“He’s the shy one who does a lot of the work,” she said.
Some might be surprised that Gloria Max is asking for $15 to help the food bank provide Easter dinner for an expected 200 families. The money will go toward a traditional Christian meal of turkey or ham and side dishes.
“Ninety-nine percent of the people we help are not of the Jewish faith,” Max said. “We help our population too, but it’s small.”
Three times a year, coinciding with New Years, Hanukkah and Passover Max takes the Jewish elderly living in local nursing homes out for lunch and entertainment.
“For some of these people this is the only tradition they get and we will make them a Seder plate,” she said.
On April 22 the Florida Elks will be honoring Gloria Max and Gale Lemerand as Humanitarians of the Year. It isn’t Max’s first honor, and it isn’t likely to be her last.
Volunteer Marta Weisberg said she used to drop donations of food off until one time she decided she could do more.
“Gloria cares about each of these people and wants a better life for them,” Weisberg said.