David Mandel
Chief Executive Officer, OHEL Children's Home and Family Services


In May 1998, Israel celebrated its 50th birthday as a nation.

In my capacity as CEO of OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services, I was fortunate to be invited to multiple celebrations by then New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and New York State Governor George Pataki. These celebrations actually spanned three years throughout 1997, 1998, 1999. The celebrations began in 1997 leading up to its 50th year, the 50 year birthday and then coming out of its 50th year. I learned much about political partying and how to extend a birthday celebration.

People celebrate their birthday milestones in many ways. Most do it quietly with family and friends. Some may carry on a tradition such as former President George Bush who parachuted out of an airplane on his 90th birthday. And then there is the Malcolm Forbes way who threw himself a birthday bash on his 70th birthday in 1979 flying 800 of his closest friends to a three day weekend party at his Palace in Tangiers, Morocco replete with 600 drummers and jugglers. The cost, $2.5Million, equivalent to $16Million today.

How would you celebrate your 50th birthday?
How would you celebrate your
Golden anniversary married 50 years?

How do we view it, are we reflective, do we take stock, do we have a bucket list we’re preparing or half way through?

Birthdays, similar New Years Day is often a day marked with resolutions. Our list to resolve to improve in one or several areas may be short or lengthy. Take a quick survey of friends and you’ll often hear included a personal item such as exercising more, seeking a promotion, weight loss, or in general trying to be a better person.

Yet, a milestone birthday often gives a person pause to reflect on his or her accomplishments in life.

Did I accomplish the goals I set for myself? Better yet, did I have goals?
Do I like myself, where I am in life, marriage, relationships with family, friends, co workers.
Am I spending enough time with my family? Am I financially successful, secure?
Am I a happy person?

The older the milestone the more these questions take on meaning to each person.
And health becomes a major contributing factor. A serious illness in your family or a loss of a loved one can completely change the balance of these self journeys.
Who today as they age does not think or worry about dementia or Alzheimer’s?

We’d like to believe that a good way to reflect on a milestone is by ones achievements personal or professional.

It belies an assessment not only of what you have done to improve yourself but how have you changed those around you.

How have you made the world a better place?

I am fortunate to work in an organization that in its 50th year is akin to a Start Up Nation as Israel has been called.

If each person is a universe then OHEL has indeed changed many worlds not only for the tens of thousands of lives it has touched but even more so as an influencer.

A mentor’s role be it as a parent or in the workplace is to teach, guide, cultivate.
You plant the seeds and you watch from close or afar as the saplings mature.

Whether OHEL in its 50th year has nurtured children in foster care or enabled those with mental illness or addictions to lead a fuller more enriched life it has influenced an entire generation in many communities and cities to lessen the stigma of mental illness and abuse. Moreover, it has defined a generation to understand that getting help is more important than worrying about stigma.

An organization like an organism needs to grow. It thrives by doing its work, by reaching those out to those who reach in. Otherwise it atrophies as a person moribund in bed whose limbs don’t function.

We all need to continue growing every day so that our special days especially those big ones make us feel good about ourselves.

What birthday milestone is next for you?
Who are you influencing?
How are you changing the world?
Every one of us has the ability to do so.

About the Author
David Mandel is CEO of Ohel Children's Home and Family Services. For more than 50 years, Ohel has provided a safe haven for those suffering in the community. Ohel cares for more than 17,000 individuals in the New York metropolitan area and across all communities offering a broad range of mental health services including outpatient counseling, trauma, anxiety, eldercare, respite and housing.