Jewish Family Service Chanukah Gift Program 2015

by | Jan 8, 2016 | Other News

Hebrew Academy Student Government Association officers pose with donated gifts from Hebrew Academy and Strelitz Early Childhood Education Center.

Hebrew Academy Student Government Association officers pose with donated gifts from Hebrew Academy and Strelitz Early Childhood Education Center.

Jewish Family Service of Tidewater’s 23rd Annual Chanukah Gift Program was a huge success. Each year, JFS provides local Jewish families in financial need with gifts and gift cards for their children and teens, as well as money for those without children. In 2015 JFS received donations from individuals, families, groups, companies, organizations, congregations, area religious schools, and schools. Boxes filled with new clothing, winter coats, boots, shoes, books, games, toys, bicycles, school supplies, and Hanukkah wrapping paper/decorations lined the hallways of JFS.

Many of the families who seek help from JFS’s annual Chanukah Gift and Financial Assistance program are active members of the local community who attend schools and temples with everyone else. Although gifts are collected during the Hanukkah holiday, many are used throughout the year by these families. Maryann Kettyle, JFS special needs case manager, says, “We request gifts that are needed by our families, like clothing, shoes, underwear, and winter coats. The children can then use these items all year long, not just during Hanukkah. We request gifts of toys, games, and books and these are the fun items that children and teens want for playtime. We request gift cards so that pre-teens and teens can have the joy of shopping for themselves and pick out exactly what they want. All of this is possible because of the many donors who support us year after year.”

Consistently, one of the largest groups of donors—the students, parents, and teachers from Strelitz Early Childhood Education Center and Hebrew Academy of Tidewater—donated several hundred gifts of toys and clothing this year.

This year, a total of 120 different families, consisting of 278 people, benefited at Hanukkah time due to the kindness of local donors. Specific “wish list” gifts and gift cards were provided to 37 local Jewish families with children/teens, consisting of 70 different children and teens. Throughout 2016, these same families will continue to benefit from these donations as JFS provides gift cards towards medication, food, gas, clothing, and school supplies.

Some of the thank-you notes JFS has received this year include:
• “Thank you so much for the Chanukah gift. I certainly was overwhelmed and very grateful. When lighting my menorah last night, the light and strength it represents to me that all is possible with Hashem.”
• “Thank you for your generosity this time of year. You are the ones who helped my mom bring me happiness in her situation. There is not much else to say, just thank you for your kindness and gift giving nature…yours truly, a 13-year-old boy.”
• “All three of us are so thankful to be able to receive these gifts. We enjoy them so much every year.”
• “I want to express my thanks to you for making this one of the best Chanukah’s ever for me and my children…. I was able to pay some overdue bills knowing that JFS and donors would be helping out with Chanukah gifts…what a wonderful Chanukah it was for us…the gifts we received truly will last us—from clothes to games to necessities (like toothpaste, bath gel, and floss)…we felt blessed by the kindness of others…so thank you, thank you, and eight nights’ worth of thank yous!”

To assist JFS help local Jewish families in need year-round:
• Donate food, gas, and grocery store gift cards, or cash.
• Support the JFS Special Needs Group activities.
• Donate items such as grocery bags; toiletries, cosmetics, bath and body products; Judaic/Jewish items; school supplies; baby supplies; paper goods; and cleaning/ household supplies.
• Purchase Baskets of Hope centerpieces.
• Volunteer.

All donations to JFS are tax deductible. For more information, contact Maryann Kettyle, JFS special needs case manager, at 757-459- 4640 or

A complete list of donors is available at If anyone is left off this list, JFS thanks you and apologizes in advance.

Jewish Family Service is a constituent agency of United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.

by Debbie Mayer, LCSW, JFS clinical director