Stage 4 ovarian cancer should slow you down a bit.
But in between chemotherapy treatments, Gloria Max still works seven days a week to make sure programs formed under her 25-year reign as executive director of the Jewish Federation of Volusia and Flagler Counties continue to flourish.
Ms. Max, 77, was diagnosed two and a half years ago and was in remission for 18 months, but the cancer has returned. What hasn’t changed is her passion and love for the work she does, despite severe neuropathy and rashes.
“They don’t even know if the chemo is going to work,” she said.
“I go to work every day because it gives me energy” Ms. Max said. “If I stayed home, I would pity myself. I see people so much worse than I. When I help somebody, it makes me feel better. I forget about my troubles. Don’t pity me. I enjoy helping people. I believe in helping people regardless of race or religion.”
Programs she has nurtured include the Jerry Dolinar Food Bank, the School Supply Back Pack program and the newest program, the Disaster Aid program. For the latter money and/or supplies are sent wherever the need exists, such as internationally to the disadvantaged in Israel. The federation has built nine bomb shelters there, which are used as community centers during the day. Ms. Max noted anti-Semitism still exists and many amazing works of charity are done behind the scenes by Jewish people, especially people from Israel.
Still, about 98 percent of the people the federation helps are not Jewish. Also, she noted the federation absorbs all administrative costs, so all donations go directly to the programs.
For the food bank, there is a screening process to make sure people receiving food are truly needy. People can potentially receive food each month, but they also have to qualify each month.
“We make up the bags according to the size of the family,” Ms. Max said. “We help 24,000 people a year (through the food bank program) and 7,000 kids (through the school supply program)” she said.
The school supplies are given out at all educational levels and are relevant for the child’s age and grade. The federation relies on school counselors to determine student eligibility.
“I want it to go to the kids that really need it,” Ms. Max said. “We give quality stuff and I am really proud of it.”
Schoolchildren throughout Volusia and Flagler counties benefit from the program.
The Volusia County School Board recently honored Ms. Max for her “generous donations and continued commitment” to local schools.
School Board member Carl Persis joked that people cannot say no to Ms. Max when she calls asking for help for the federation’s school backpack project or Jerry Doliner Food Bank. Ms. Max replied by asking for donations at the meeting.
The federation has a board of directors and about 40 volunteers. It also sponsors other events, such as bringing in internationally known speakers, that are free and open to the public.
Raymond Max, 84, volunteers at the food bank and supports all his wife’s endeavors. They will be married 59 years this fall. They have two adult children.
“We grew up together,” Mr. Max said. “We had a successful business. She is incredible. I appreciate her. I have never missed a meal in my life with her. I don’t understand why (the cancer) is happening to her. She still takes care of me. She is such a good woman. She is my everything.”
Ms. Max admits she gets all the glory.
“He stays in the background,” she said. “He keeps this place clean.”
As to her legacy, she wants people to know, “I was allowed to help people, I was allowed to give back. I think if more people who are alone would go to an organization and help them, they would feel better.”
Key people for the programs, she said, include her assistant Janice Sumner, “right hand woman” and all the volunteers, especially George Gosselin, Marta Weisberg and Cory Lancaster.
For more information or to make a donation, visit jewishfederationdaytona.org or call (386) 672-0294. Checks also can be dropped off at 470 Andalusia Ave. in Ormond Beach.