Judy Immerman Payne Receives Prestigious Irene Zehman Volunteer Award

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Recognized for “Highest Ideals and Practices of Volunteer Service”

The Jewish Federation of Cleveland announced today that Judy Immerman Payne is the 2023 recipient of the Irene Zehman Volunteer Award. Each year, the Federation recognizes a Jewish woman or group of women who demonstrate the highest ideals and practices of volunteer service on behalf of the Jewish and/or general community. Payne, founding executive director of Goods Bank NEO, was honored at the Federation’s Women IN Philanthropy MaIN Event on November 29.

Goods Bank NEO is a nonprofit that works with and supports nonprofits, schools, and faith organizations throughout northeast Ohio. The organization helps these partners obtain the supplies they need to run their programs and meet the needs of the people they serve, with support from generous corporate donations.

After an early career in fundraising and public relations, and living all over the world, Payne settled in Cleveland and became a co-founder of the Cleveland Kids’ Book Bank in 2016 and later the founder of Goods Bank NEO. Through her leadership with these organizations, she has helped get more than 2.5 million books into the hands of underserved children and families, and 200+ nonprofits have brand new products with which to serve their own clients.

“I thought it was so important given the high poverty rate in Cleveland and the large number of nonprofits trying to meet the needs, that if we could somehow make available resources to help them stretch their budgets, we had to do it,” Payne said. “It’s never too late to make a contribution. My hope is that I will be able to inspire the next generation to do their part.”

The Irene Zehman Volunteer Award was established in 1980 by Roslyn Z. Wolf and Judith Z. Sherman, both of blessed memory, in honor of their mother, Irene Zehman, who devoted much of her life to giving back to the community through volunteering. Recent recipients of the award include Heather Schlang, chair of Share What You Wear, Shoshana Dessler Jacobs, co-founder and executive director of Israel Medical Fund, and Mariely Luengo, founder of the West Side Community Food Co-op.

“Judy is a very special woman who goes out, sees a need, and then she does something about it,” said Jennifer Cohen Women IN Philanthropy chair. “She does it all with a smile, positive energy, and determination. She is so well-deserving of this honor.”

In addition to the presentation of the Irene Zehman Volunteer Award, the Women IN Philanthropy MaIN Event featured remarks by Danyelle Neuman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, and Keren Flash, a survivor of the October 7th massacre and terror attacks in the community of Kibbutz Kfar Aza. Erika B. Rudin-Luria, Federation president, and Beth Wain Brandon, general Campaign chair, also shared their experience on a recent solidarity mission to Israel.

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