Each year at our Annual Meeting, the J recognizes volunteers, community members, lay leaders and program participants for their amazing contributions, their incredible journies and their dedication to the community. Please join us in celebrating this year’s award winners (clockwise from top left):

J Associates Emerging Leader Award: Bryan Sanger
I.E. Millstone Community Service Award: Lisa Wallis
Richard S. Weiss Presidents’ Award: Lynne Kipnis, Ph.D.
Mark C. Kodner Inspiration Award: Matthew Schultz

J Associates Emerging Leader Award

Each year, the J recognizes a volunteer who has distinguished him-or-herself as a rising leader. Several years ago, this award was renamed in honor of our J Associates in recognition of their amazing contributions to the J, including the development of new leaders. 

2022 Award Recipient: Bryan Sanger 

Professionally Bryan is a partner at the injury litigation firm of Mandel, Mandel, Marsh, Sudekum & Sanger, LLP. He just completed a 6-year term as a member of the Judicial Commission for the 22nd Judicial Circuit in the City of St. Louis. He’s a former Assistant Circuit Attorney and a former Chair of the Young Lawyers Section of the Missouri Bar. He’s also a Charter Member of the Theodore McMillion American Inns of Court at St. Louis University Law School. 

In his spare time, of which he has very little, Bryan is the Chair of the Board and President of Burns Recovered and Midwest Children’s Burn Camp. 

Several years ago, Bryan accepted the nomination to join the Board of the J, primarily as an honor to his very dear friend, Eli Abeles. Eli would be very proud of the impact Bryan has made in just a few short years. 

Bryan’s connection to the J actually started at a very early age. He is a former Sports Camper and Maccabi athlete. And he served as a basketball coach of the JCC Maccabi Games, giving back to the Games because of the great experience he had as an athlete. He also volunteered to be a Director of Athletics when we hosted the Games in 2016. 

Bryan joined the J’s Board of Directors in 2019 and currently serves as an at-large member of our Executive Committee. 

Lynn Wittels has shared that she always appreciates that Bryan agrees to any and every role she has asked him to take on, and she truly appreciates his “can do” attitude. 

In the past few years, Bryan has served as a member of our Finance Committee and Chair of the Covid Safety Committee. More recently, Bryan stepped up to Chair the Strategic Operations Subcommittee on Early Childhood Education to address issues of concern in a post-Covid environment with all the challenges that emerged with the pandemic. 

Most important, though, Bryan is husband to Rachel and father to Samuel, Aliyah, Theodore and Benjamin.

I.E. Millstone Community Service Award

The I.E. Millstone Community Service Award is named for our esteemed patriarch, Isadore Millstone, a leader who was a man of vision, passion and great wisdom. Mr. Millstone believed that everyone could do good things and live better lives. He was an innovator who was always interested in what the future would bring. It was because of this interest that he was so proud of the award which we are about to present. The J is so fortunate to have Thom Kuhn, Mr. Millstone’s grandson, and a dedicated member of the JCC Board of Directors, present this award annually. 

2022 Award Recipient: Lisa Wallis

Lisa Wallis was nominated for the I.E. Millstone Community Service Award by the J’s Early Childhood Center staff, for her incredible work in creating a resource library for all the Early Childhood teachers. Lisa began this beautiful endeavor in 2008 and since then has not only created a flourishing resource library for the EC teachers but has also become a part of the J family. Lisa works directly with the teachers to find out what kinds of books they would like for their classrooms as resources for their planning. Prior to this project, Lisa volunteered with the EC classes and accompanied teachers to the pool for the kids’ swim classes. 

In order to start this project, Lisa even put up the initial funding for the books and supplies herself and volunteered twice a week in order to organize all of the resources in each classroom, creating the entire program from scratch. She orders books, subscribes to magazines and distributes resources to all the classrooms. Lisa, who has a Masters in Library Sciences, ensures that all the resources are catalogued and are vetted to ensure that they are appropriate for each classroom. Lisa has even established relationships with the County Library and the Brodsky Library to increase the number of quality books circulating each week in the program and takes on the responsibility of transporting books and resources between the J and the libraries. 

Lisa has attended trainings and staff meetings so that she understands the curriculum and has a better grasp of child development. Lisa saves the J money on resources by working hard to find quality resources at reasonable prices, and even has spent additional time scouting used book sales and other outlets for bargain books. As a result, the J’s Early Childhood curriculum is incredibly rich and diverse, which benefits our children even more. 

Ask any Early Childhood staff member about Lisa and they will tell you that Lisa goes above and beyond whatever they ask of her. Not only that, but she anticipates ways in which she can be helpful, by helping out with a child or reading to a group of children and other ways that the teachers and staff really appreciate. Lisa enjoys seeing the kids interact with the books and seeing how happy the teachers are when they receive the books that they request. Seeing the vast collection of books and resources flourish through the years and how it matches the needs of the J’s Early Childhood program is what makes Lisa happy.

Mark C. Kodner Inspiration Award

The Mark C. Kodner Inspiration Award was generously established in honor of Mark Kodner, past JCC board member and lifetime member of the J family – from the board members of Triad Bank. More than 20 years ago, Mark was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, and this award honors those who live life to the fullest and thrive in the face of adversity. 

2022 Award Recipient: Matthew Schultz

Matthew Schultz is a wonderful young man. He has been part of the J’s IN Program for more than 5 years. Matthew is a very intelligent young man, and in fact, received several high school scholarships when he graduated from grade school. But in his sophomore year of high school, Matthew started to experience increased and advanced episodes of anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder  (OCD). These episodes prevented him from engaging in regular classroom settings. He was also diagnosed as having autism. These struggles continued and required a shift to homeschooling to complete his high school education. 

After high school, Matthew worked at a guided work program to improve his work skills. But his struggles remained and made it difficult for him to stay on a schedule for an assembly line process. Matthew enrolled at St. Charles Community College, getting exceptional grades. But, again, anxiety and delays in class scheduling caused him to step away from the college world. 

Matthew then enrolled in several Day Programs, including behavioral health day programs, work-study/assistance programs, and church-based day activity programs. Although these programs were professional in their approach, Matthew could not connect in an engaging way, and his condition improved only very modestly. 

And so, Matthew’s family continued to pursue new programs. In 2016, they found the J’s IN Program, which had just opened. A Psychologist in St. Charles recommended Matthew and his family consider our program and he started attending in April 2017. 

Matthew’s family reports the following: 

“We look back and can truly see the tremendous growth and progress Matthew has made since his start in this program. He can transition between activities with little to no prompting (and reduced anxiety), he can manage his time schedule much better, and he gets exercise twice every day. Matthew’s speech and handwriting have also improved tremendously.  

Matthew’s new favorite activity is providing a Weather Report in front of all the participants every Monday! He really looks forward to giving these presentations to his friends at the Adult Day at the J program.  

Matthew has even started teaching some of the older adult participants how to use iPads and he enjoys reading to the kids in our Early Childhood Center. Matthew has regained his confidence and is proud of the progress he makes each day.” 

Matthew has had some tremendous success in his personal life as well as he has met a wonderful young woman who is also a participant in the IN Program with whom he has established a wonderful growing relationship based on mutual respect! 

The IN Program provides unique opportunities for Matthew, including: 

– Developing improved life skills, including cooking and even gardening
Volunteering in the local community, which has been especially helpful in building a spirit of caring for others
Connecting and interacting with the seniors in the Adult Day at the J, which supports older adults with cognitive impairments
Special exercise activities (swimming, walking, stretching) to assist all young adults in caring for themselves and improving their health
Team-building field trips
Assisting the pre-school children in preparation for various activities and programs. 

The entire J staff is so thrilled that Matthew has discovered new friends and family at the IN Program.  Matthew is an amazing young man who has not had an easy journey, but, throughout that journey, he is a true role model and has inspired so many.

Richard S. Weiss Presidents’ Award

The Richard S. Weiss Presidents’ Award is given annually to honor dedication and service to the JCC by one unique person. Past board chairs established this award in 1984 to honor Richard S. Weiss, who served the JCC for more than 25 years. After Richard’s untimely death, the board chairs sought to honor him by renaming the award in his memory. 

2022 Award Recipient: Lynne Kipnis, Ph.D. 

Dr. Lynne Kipnis is a retired clinical psychologist with over 35 years in private practice. She holds an appointment with the Department of Psychiatry at SLU Medical School.  Lynne has been active in the non-profit world focusing on issues involving domestic violence, access to post-secondary education, access to healthcare, and reproduction education and freedom. For more than two decades, however, she has focused much of her volunteer activity on educating the Jewish community about hereditary cancer risks.  In fact, Lynne was a key contributor to one of the earliest educational pieces published by Siteman Cancer Center (winter 04/05) on hereditary cancer risks. She also (along with other medical professionals) began presenting at various congregations to educate the Jewish community on hereditary cancer risks impacting our community, specifically people of Ashkenazi descent.  

Specially at the J, Lynne was instrumental in securing our original funding that helped create the St. Louis chapter of Sharsheret, which has now received the designation of “partner of excellence.”  Since that time, Lynne has been instrumental in the grant process that brought more than $100,000 in funding from the Foundation for Barnes Jewish Hospital over several years.  But that’s not all, Lynne has been an active member of our Sharsheret Advisory Committee, serving as Chair, and is a regular presenter at many of our Sharsheret programs. 

– As a pre-vivor (at increased risk but has not developed cancer), Lynne shares her personal story openly as a way of emphasizing the importance of knowing your family’s history.
Lynne continues to participate in all one-on-one outreach meetings with Rabbis, congregational lay leaders, medical professionals, and psychosocial team members.
– S
he is also involved in the annual presentation to the senior class at EMBY (Esther Miller Bais Yaakov) Girls High School on self-care and the importance of knowing your own health. 

Lynne was a member of the team that recently presented our first program targeted to increased heredity cancer risks in men. 

Sharsheret is a relatively new program of the J (about 10 years old) and it has experienced, thanks in great part to Lynne’s leadership, tremendous success in educating our community about the risks associated with our heritage.  In fact, a number of people who have attended these programs have subsequently reached out for medical and genetic counseling support.  There’s no doubt that Sharsheret, and Lynne by extension, have helped to save lives. 

The Talmud teaches us that whoever saves a single life is considered by scripture to have saved the whole world.  By this definition, Lynne has helped to save the whole world.