The Talmud values acts of lovingkindness as "equal in weight to all the commandments." These values are embraced by the Lassin family, which has performed countless deeds of lovingkindness benefiting Federation Early Learning Services for more than three decades.
The family holds a special place in its heart for the FELS site formerly known as the Northern Hebrew Day Nursery. Established back in 1921 to serve children of working families in Philadelphia's Northern Liberties area, the center relocated to Jamison Avenue in the Northeast in 1978. The center's relocation coincided with the 50th wedding anniversary of Rose and Philip Lassin, and provided an ideal opportunity for the couples' children -- Ron and Harriet Lassin, and Lynne and Leonard Lassin -- to honor them in a unique and meaningful way.
"This was the beginning of a very long and wonderful relationship with Ron and Harriet, and their children, Robin and Gary Lassin, and Lynne and William Garbose," said Ron Perilstein, the board chair of FELS.
"They epitomize the concept of giving back to the community, and teach their children and grandchildren to do the same," said Perilstein, explaining that their philanthropy encompasses health care, senior services and arts organizations throughout Greater Philadelphia.
A gift from Harriet, Ron, Robin and Gary Lassin established the Lassin Family Research Fund at the Abramson Cancer Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Their generosity has also enriched the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and the Leonard and Madlyn Abramson Center for Jewish Life, which recently honored them with its Family Award.
In June 2008, the world's first comprehensive medical unit for mothers carrying a fetus with a known birth defect will open, thanks to a generous gift from Lynne and William Garbose. This delivery unit will offer comprehensive medical care -- from prenatal diagnosis through delivery.
Perilstein fondly talked about Harriet Lassin's personal, hands-on involvement with the 65 infants, toddlers, preschool, kindergarten and school-age children who consider the Lassin Early Learning Center their home away from home. "For as long as we can remember, Harriet has been our holiday angel -- calling to find out the age and gender breakdown of our students, and purchasing Chanukah presents," he said, adding that "she enjoys visiting the center and delivering the gifts, either alone or accompanied by her grandchildren."
During the recent Thanksgiving-holiday weekend, the center celebrated another milestone made possible largely through the many "deeds of lovingkindness" performed by the Lassin and Garbose families.
Center staff, children, their families and community dignitaries offered their appreciation for a new building replacing the center's three modular units, which, according to FELS president and CEO, Maddy Malis, had deteriorated beyond repair.
Malis acknowledged that the lead gifts of the Lassin and Garbose families inspired others to contribute to this project, which gives the center the capacity to serve 164 children.
The first organizational pledge of $30,000 came from the Early to Learn Quality Initiative, which is funded by the United Way.
Architect Marc Clair, a friend of Scott Barsky, a former FELS board chair and a longtime agency board member, donated more than $100,000 worth of planning and design services to the project, which features such environmentally friendly innovations as a roof design that reflects heat, a passive ventilation system and windows that maximize natural lighting.
The new building's drainage system uses rainwater through a "rain barrel" collection system.
Malis said that "our kids will use this water when caring for the vegetation and flowers outside."
She is proud that the center -- which has served more than 3,500 children since it opened its doors in Northeast Philadelphia -- ranks in the top 8 percent of early-childhood education programs in Philadelphia, and in the top 7 percent of programs nationally.
Said Malis: "It has earned accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and has been awarded four stars in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's Keystone Stars Quality Initiative Program -- the highest designations a center can receive on a state and national level."
The Lassin Early Learning Center is located on the Myer & Rosaline Feinstein Campus, 10800 Jamison Ave., in Northeast Philadelphia. For more information about the center or for a tour of the facility, call 215-677-7191.