The Jonas Fund - Advocacy at its best

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Many members of the Children's Mental Health Network have had the honor and privilege of knowing Art and Marlene Penn, who started the Jonas Fund in loving memory of their son. Their advocacy for young people with emotional challenges and their families has been an example all of us would be privileged to emulate. With permission of the Penn family, we are sharing the letter from the Board of the Jonas Fund sent out to friends far and wide detailing the accomplishments of this amazing organization.

  • Dear Friends and Supporters of The Jonas Fund,

    It is with gratitude and a sense of wonder that we tell you about the final accomplishment of The Jonas Fund. This organization was established 10 years ago to honor the memory of Jonas Penn, a dearly loved young man whom we lost tragically to suicide. His parents and close friends formed a non-profit to continue the work Jonas had begun as an advocacy leader for young people with mental health challenges. Thanks to your enormous generosity, The Jonas Fund was able to spearhead many efforts during its lifespan.
    Jonas attended Rider University because it offered a broad array of services for students who need special educational support. We wanted to endow something in Jonas’s memory that would be relevant to his life and a permanent addition to Rider's facilities. After many discussions with Rider officials, we decided to donate $50,000 to the University to establish two rooms in the Center for Students with Disabilities. These rooms were named in Jonas’s memory at a dedication ceremony on October 19, 2012.
  • The Jonas Richter Penn Technology and Proctoring Room houses new computers and assistive software designed to support the academic accommodations needed by students in the program. This space is also used to facilitate proctoring services required by students with special needs.
  • The Jonas Richter Penn Study Room, with newly purchased furniture and desks, is used for group meetings for students with disabilities and as a secure and comfortable study area. We chose this time to dedicate the rooms because Jonas would have turned 30 this past October. To support the education of so many young people is a fitting tribute to him.

    Some of our other major accomplishments include:
    The Jonas Fund
    sponsored a workshop, “Preventing Suicide on College Campuses,” facilitated by Dr. Carole Christian at the Symposium on Depression and Suicide Prevention in Youth held by the Mental Health Association in Southwestern New Jersey. We subsequently sponsored the implementation of nationally recognized Q.P.R. Training (Question, Persuade, Refer) for graduate students and faculty at Rider University.
    We awarded a total of $66,000 to eleven students at Jonas’s former high school, the Burlington County Alternative High School. These students overcame difficult challenges, had financial need, and wished to further their education via college or vocational training.
    Youth M.O.V.E was a fledgling group of young people and adult advisors seeking to create a strong voice for youth receiving services and support in youth/children’s public systems. Jonas was a part of their early leadership. In 2008, The Jonas Fund awarded them $25,000 to sponsor a Board Development retreat. Young people from all over the country were able to work on a strategic development plan with a professional facilitator. Today, Youth M.O.V.E National has a strong advocacy voice. They are a staffed 501(c)3 organization with chapters nationwide, and credit the support of our organization as instrumental in their success.
    The Jonas Fund
    has awarded a total of $20,000 since 2003 to Rider University to more fully support students experiencing mental health crises. Rider University has used our annual awards to purchase medication and to provide mental health services for students who could not otherwise obtain them.

    We thank all of you for your support and your love over these years. Although The Jonas Fund is no longer seeking contributions, we are deeply gratified that Rider University has chosen to continue to honor Jonas's memory in such a worthwhile manner. Should you wish to donate to these efforts, checks should be made payable to Rider University and sent to:
    • University Advancement Office, L-137 Rider University
      2083 Lawrenceville Road
      Lawrenceville, NJ 08648-3099

      Donors should designate on their check memo that their gift is for the Penn Rooms Project”.


      The Board of The Jonas Fund
      Jane Becker, Cheryl Bierman, Pamela Litwack, Marlene Penn


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