| 16 Feb 2015 | 11:52

    THE CHARITY LIST In 1986, John Engel made a fateful decision to join a law firm with a focus on estate planning. It wasn't just a big professional move. As the ensuing years would prove, it was an important choice that made a difference for both one lawyer and one organization representing thousands of senior citizens. 2008 marks Engel's 20th year working with Jewish Home Lifecare, which provides services to more than 5,000 senior citizens throughout the New York City metropolitan area. According to many, the organization's growth over those years would have been impossible without him. "Mr. Engel has been a long-term supporter of Jewish Home Lifecare and [an] advocate for our Community Services Division," said Bridget Gallagher, the organization's senior vice president. His support of the division, "has made a big difference in so many lives, and it is lovely to see him recognized." Estate planning led naturally to working with the organization. Engel volunteered for the geriatric outreach program in 1988 and became a member of the board of trustees a year later. Currently, he serves with both the community service and Manhattan divisions. His efforts since the beginning were focused on helping the organization move beyond its facilities in Manhattan, The Bronx and New Rochelle and into surrounding communities. "The most interesting thing that has developed during my years here has been the emergence of community services as a major program focus for Jewish Home," Engel said. "It has come outside of its walls and recognized that the community it serves is all around them, rather than simply contained within. There's been an explosion of services available for people who are not necessarily living in nursing homes, and that has been a tremendously exciting development. It has extended the benefits we can offer to the elderly." Engel was always interested in helping his community. Before entering private practice and after graduating from Harvard Law School, he worked for both the South Bronx Development Organization and the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. Engel's expertise in estate planning led him to help the elderly population of Jewish Home Lifecare with issues like power of attorney and health care proxies. Now 62, the Upper West Sider still feels there is plenty of word to be done. "The elderly community has gained much greater clout and recognition over the past 20 years, but I still feel that in the United States elderly people don't get the respect that other cultures sometimes give them," he said. "The challenge is to continue providing incredibly high-quality service in an environment that is constantly demanding."