A giving Oldsmar couple find themselves receiving

David and Jean Abelson live in Oldsmar but have spread their goodwill throughout Pinellas County.

Their generosity was rewarded recently when they received the 25th annual Humanitarian Award, presented jointly by the Golda Meir/Kent Jewish Center and the Jewish Community Center of Pinellas County.

David Abelson said that receiving the award was a humbling experience, and that he hopes he and his wife are deserving of it.

"We do work we feel is necessary to the community," he said, "and we want to do more. You can never really do enough."

Since arriving in the area in 1989, the Abelsons, parents of two sons and a daughter, have made nonprofit organizations their vehicle for moving and shaking the community.

A financial adviser, David Abelson has chaired the board of Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services, headquartered in Largo, for the last four years. From that vantage point, he has reached out to fellow citizens in need.

"We basically take care of all the people no one else takes care of," he said.

Among those cared for are people who live on the streets, the mentally ill, abused women and prisoners with mental problems rather than criminal behavior.

"It's really an amazing agency in terms of how many lives it touches," Abelson said.

Michael Bernstein, president of the organization since 1978, said the agency operates on a $32-million yearly budget and provides help for about 50,000 people a year.

He said he is grateful to have Abelson on board.

"He is a great leader and a smart businessman," Bernstein said. "He's available 24 hours a day to help me if I need him."

Abelson put his business skills and energy to work elsewhere as well. He is past president of the Jewish Federation of Pinellas County and the Golda Meir/Kent Jewish Center, both of which provide services to the larger community, regardless of faith or ethnic background.

He has chaired the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce North Area Council, worked to get the Countryside Recreation Center constructed, and served on a Pinellas County Parks and Recreation committee. For many years, he coached youth baseball, football and soccer leagues throughout the county.

Abelson's wife, Jean, has focused on schools and women's organizations. A substitute teacher at Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa, which the couple's youngest son attends, she chaired the parents' club of both the lower and upper divisions. She also substitutes at the Pinellas County Jewish Day School.

Jean Abelson is a past president of the sisterhood at Temple Ahavat Shalom in Palm Harbor and a member of Lion of Judah, the women's philanthropic arm of the Pinellas Jewish Federation. The money donated to this division goes to numerous local agencies and facilities, including the Menorah Manor, a residence for the elderly and infirm, and the Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services.

The Abelsons, natives of Pennsylvania, were raised with a spirit of giving and have followed their parents' lead.

"My family has always been philanthropic on a large scale," Jean Abelson said, "or just helping a neighbor two doors down."

A giving Oldsmar couple find themselves receiving 12/02/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 2, 2008 8:15pm]

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