You have to be extra-special to be known by one name—and to earn an exclamation point…well, that’s reserved for only a revered few. Over the span of a five-hour period during her farewell gala, retiring Jewish Family Service President and CEO Yana Vishnitsky heard Gov. John Hickenlooper declare Dec. 10, 2016 as Yana Vishnitsky Day in Colorado, and received the proclamation and the flag that flew over the State Capitol. She also was presented with an exquisite, custom award from JFS, received a standing ovation from 600 supporters and was told that the local headquarters will now be called the Yana Vishnitsky Administration Center. The celebration began in earnest after she was hoisted onto the chair prior to dancing the Hora with celebrating guests.

This scene was repeated throughout the reception as guests flocked to greet honoree Yana Vishnitsky.

This scene was repeated throughout the reception as guests flocked to greet honoree Yana Vishnitsky.

A must-attend event that took the place of the organization’s annual Real Hope holiday fundraiser, Yana! A Farewell Celebration was held at the Hyatt Regency Denver at the Colorado Convention Center. The gala, full of warmth, sincerity and fun, not only celebrated Yana’s 38 years of service to JFS, but also became the organization’s first million-dollar fundraiser, with a $1.1 million tally.

Yana’s retirement tribute began with a cocktail reception and red-carpet entrance, plus lively strings sounds by Spinphony. Guests had the opportunity for their own red-carpet photo experience before the Cossack Men dancers led everyone into the Centennial Ballroom for a casually elegant dinner setting served family style. Those who spoke onstage included: board chair Jane E. Rosenbaum, Rabbi Steven Foster, new JFS president and CEO Shepard Nevel, event co-chairs Geri and Meyer Saltzman, co-chair Andy Miller who took the mic to describe Gov. Hickenlooper’s “Yana Day” proclamation, and a short talk by Yana’s cousin Robyn Tsesarksy.

The Cossack Men performance had everyone grabbing their phone for photos.

The Cossack Men performance had everyone grabbing their phone for photos.

Yana urged the crowd to donate freely, especially with a matching-funds gift to $100,000 donated by Elaine and Max Appel. After Yana accepted the JFS award and spoke to the crowd, she was hoisted onto the chair before a spirited Hora dance. The evening ended with dancing and desserts, and guests were each given a bottle of Russian vodka to take home as a memento.

Jewish Family Service of Colorado believes in strengthening the community by providing vital services to people in need. Every day, JFS helps people overcome life’s challenges to live fuller, more meaningful lives. Founded in 1872, JFS is a nonsectarian, nonprofit human services agency serving metro Denver and Boulder. The organization helps seniors live independently at home, provides quality mental health counseling, offers training and job placement to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and other people with barriers to employment, and provides food and financial aid to people in crisis. Every year, the agency benefits nearly 25,000 people of all ages, faiths and incomes. Its mission: To enhance well-being to those in need throughout the greater Denver community by delivering services based on Jewish values.

Yana Vishnitsky and granddaughter Zoe

Yana Vishnitsky and granddaughter Zoe

Jewish Family Service is recognized as a premier human services agency serving metro Denver and Boulder by providing innovative and professionally delivered services that empower participants to overcome difficult challenges and live fuller, more meaningful lives. JFS exists to fulfill one of the most important Jewish values: that of Tikkun Olam, the obligation to make the world a better place. For more information, please visit: www.jewishfamilyservice.org.

Yana was interviewed by KOA Radio about her incredible story immigrating from the former Soviet Union to Denver via JFS. For the link to that broadcast, please visit JFS on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jfscolorado.