Now in its 29th year, Jewish Family Service of Tidewater’s Annual Hanukkah outreach programs helped local Jewish families in financial need. Because of safety concerns with COVID-19, families received assorted gift cards for each child, along with a small bag filled with chocolate gelt and dreidels. VISA gift cards were sent to families without children. Families who receive Kosher Meals on Wheels and Jewish individuals who are socially isolated or living in facilities received a box of Hanukkah-themed cookies.
The community response this year was incredible, raising nearly $21,000 in gift card and cash donations. JFS received donations from individuals, families, groups, companies, organizations, congregations, and schools. Staff and families from Strelitz International Academy contributed money and gift cards amounting to more than $2,100. Temple Israel held a gift card drive and was the largest group donor in the history of this program with $3,390 in donated gift cards.
This year, a total of 286 different local Jewish people (50 of whom are children and teens with specific wish lists) benefited from the program. Families will continue to benefit from these donations as JFS provides gift cards and financial assistance toward rent/mortgage, medication, food, gas, clothing, and school supplies throughout the year.
“The gift cards relieved some of the financial burden of the holidays,” says one recipient. “As a single mom, I wanted to ensure my child enjoyed this time of year. The donated gift cards helped immensely. Thank you all so much.”
Beyond financial support, other gifts and acts of kindness included:
• The “Knitting for Others” volunteers made more than 150 lap blankets and scarves that were distributed to clients.
• Hundreds of beautifully knitted hats and gloves were donated by the “Knit and Chat” group at the Talbot on Granby. One volunteer made handmade quilts for both adults and children.
• Ohef Sholom Temple’s Religious School made 75 Hanukkah treat bags that were filled with cookies, gelt, and dreidels. JFS distributed these to seniors in nursing facilities or senior living apartments.
• JFS’ food pantry shelves were stocked on December 12 from a magnificent food drive organized by Temple Israel. Teens and young adults helped sort and shelve the donations from this food drive.
• JFS staff held a Thanksgiving food drive in November and collected toiletries and personal hygiene supplies for clients in December.
“I am constantly reminded of what a wonderful community I am part of,” says Jody Laibstain, JFS volunteer and special projects coordinator. “People want to help others in so many ways—donating time, talents, food, and money. Jewish Family Service could not do the wonderful things that we do without the support of our donors.”
In addition to its Hanukkah campaign, JFS also provided support to families in need at Thanksgiving. The Milk and Honey Food Pantry and the Community Food Pantry distributed 85 turkeys and bags with all the trimmings to help families have a Thanksgiving dinner. The food and turkeys were given by Chesbay Distributing and the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia.
To help local Jewish families in need year-round, consider:
• Donating food, gas and grocery store gift cards, or cash.
• Donating grocery bags; toiletries, cosmetics, bath and body products; Judaic/Jewish items; school supplies; baby supplies; paper goods; and cleaning/household supplies.
All donations to JFS are tax deductible. For more information about making a contribution of food or personal hygiene items, contact Jody Laibstain; for other gifts, contact Brooke Rush. They may both be reached by calling 321-2222.