When Mia Buchwald Gelles co-founded Milestones Autism Resources in 2003 with Ilana Hoffer Skoff, she knew she wanted to help and support families in the local Jewish community. As operations director, Buchwald Gelles continues to impact thousands of families through her work at Milestones.
“I’ve always been interested in nonprofits and in making a difference,” Buchwald Gelles said. “This field of work sort of chose me rather than me choosing it.
“It was clearly a need in the community when I realized that whomever I came in touch with didn’t necessarily have information about what was really effective. After figuring out what worked to help my own family, I knew it was important to try to spread that information.”
Buchwald Gelles, along with her staff, works one-on-one with families who are impacted by autism or autism spectrum disorders. She also provides recourses and training for teachers and therapists.
“Our whole focus has been on practical, evidence-based information that can make a difference in people’s lives right away,” she said.
For Buchwald Gelles, the most enjoyable aspect of her career is witnessing first-hand how Milestones is impacting local families. Her work touches all manner of Jewish schools and agencies.
“Autism can be pretty isolating for families and there aren’t easy answers,” she said. “Seeing that you’re really helping people who don’t know where to turn and who don’t realize that there can be hope for the situation that they’re facing, that’s the most rewarding part for me.”
At a Glance
Employer: Milestones Autism
Children: Ruth Link-Gelles, Noam, 19, Shani, 18
Synagogue: Beth El-The Heights
Synagogue in Cleveland Heights
In the community: Beth El-The Heights Synagogue, The Center for Jewish Nonviolence, National Havurah committee, Honey Bee Jewish
Noteworthy: Gelles helps parents help their children lead Jewish lives.