Gloria Max is remembered by her generosity, work ethic, and relentless fundraising for those in need.
Gloria Max was a force to be reckoned with in the community.
As the executive director of the Jewish Federation of Flagler and Volusia Counties, Max, despite her short stature, was like a "6-foot-6-inch champion boxer" in spirit, said Marvin Miller, the nonprofit's president. Once she got an idea in her head, she pursued it relentlessly. She was at the Federation's Jerry Doliner Food Bank every day, Miller said, and it was her commitment to the nonprofit's mission that impressed him from the very first time he met her 20 years ago.
“People use that term — 24/7," Miller said. "Well, that was in truth for her. She probably set the bar for 24/7.”
Max died on Friday, Sept. 10, after a six-year battle with cancer, just days away from her 81st birthday. Remembered for her passion of helping others, and her persistent ways of fundraising for the Jewish Federation, Max, a native of Toronto, Canada, often remarked to many people that it was her job that was keeping her alive — that she gained energy from helping her community.
“What good were you if you were only for yourself," said Janice Sumner, her assistant at the Jewish Federation. "That was one quote that she always used to quote all the time.”
Fighting for your cause
Max and her husband Ray moved to Volusia County in 1983 after 15 years of operating a gourmet shop in Charleston, West Virginia, according to an Ormond Beach proclamation from 2019. Inspired by her father, Mendel Goldstein, a Polish immigrant, to look after the poor, Max has built the Jerry Doliner Food Bank into what it is today over the last several decades. Feeding approximately 25,000 people a year regardless of race or religion is a feat the Jewish Federation completes using only donations, since the nonprofit has always absorbed the administration costs. Max never shied away from asking the community for its support.
“If you believe in something, fight for it," Sumner said. "That was her belief.”
Sumner, who knew Max for about 10 years, said all one had to do was mention Max's name and people would be willing to help.
“Gloria just was relentless as far as supporting all of those things — supporting the needy," she said. "She was definitely someone you would want on your side.”
Sarah Crane, a friend of Max, used to be the one to drive her to her chemotherapy appointments. It was then, Crane wrote in a statement, that she became aware of Max's "larger than life presence." Max mourned the time it took for these appointments, mainly because they inconvenienced her productivity, according to Crane. There were phone calls to return, rents to pay, and she had to get back to work as soon as possible. On those days, Crane's car would become Max's temporary office.
"During the previous few weeks, I observed Gloria at her noblest as she lay in her hospital bed, still, but thoughtful, nearby a small pad and pen," Crane wrote. "Time has slowed, gently accommodating to the circumstances: The scene tells the story, her determination unfinished, figuring out how to call about turkeys for the holidays, before they became too scarce to buy, asking for an appeal to be made in her name to draw in funds for the flood victims in Louisiana."
'She was selfless'
Whether it was making sure 7,000 children in Volusia and Flagler counties had a backpack full of school supplies for the new school year, or ensuring families had enough to eat at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah, supporting Israeli causes, or simply raising funds for people affected by natural disasters, Max never lost sight of her mission.
Local radio host Big John first met her when he was the vice president of United Way of Volusia and Flagler Counties in the mid-1990s. He featured her on his show on WELE 1380 once a month, and runs an ad for the Jewish Federation twice a day. Max's life mission was to help the poor in the community, John said.
“It was hard for her to cut anybody any slack because was a worker," he said. "I referred to her as the Mother Teresa of Volusia County because she absolutely was. She was selfless. That’s the number one word: Selfless.”
He visited her during her stay in the hospital and all she wanted was for him to make an appeal on her behalf for funds for the Jewish Federation.
Before she underwent surgery in the hospital, Max asked Miller to bring her the nonprofit's checkbook. She said it would keep her busy, and simultaneously, keep her alive,
“So I did bring the checkbook to her and she wrote some checks from the hospital to pay our bills," Miller said.
Since her death, Max's team of dedicated volunteers have stepped up to make sure the Jerry Doliner Food Bank is continuing to meet the need in the community.
“We’re not going to miss a step if we can help it," Sumner said. "We’re going to keep her legacy alive.”
Max knew she would not return to the food bank after her last surgery. So instead, in line with her character, she calmly turned to Miller and asked him to do one last thing for her: start a fundraiser.
“She said, ‘Tell them that it’s for Gloria. It was my last wish,’" Miller recalled. "She said that way you’ll be able to raise more money.”
The Gloria Max Memorial Fund will help the Jerry Doliner Food Bank provide meals for the less fortunate for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah. It will fund the school supply project, and per usual, 100% of donations will go directly to aid people. To donate, visit https://www.mightycause.com/story/7wq0nf
“We’re going to carry on the legacy," Miller said. "We will make it work because she will not be forgotten. I promise that.”