Jewish Family Service’s 21st Annual Chanukah Gift Program was a huge success. Each year, JFS reaches out to local Jewish families in need with gifts and gift cards for their children and teens and with money for those without children.
This year, the JFS staff was concerned that donations might be low since Chanukah came in November. Instead, they were overwhelmingly happy to receive so many donations from individuals, families, groups, companies, organizations, congregations, and schools. Boxes of new clothing, books, games, toys, bicycles, school supplies, and Judaic items filled many of the JFS offices.
JFS’s annual Chanukah Gift and Financial Assistance Program provides direct help to local Jewish families who are struggling financially. Many of the families who seek help are active members of the local community who attend schools and temple with everyone else. Although gifts are collected during Chanukah, many are used all year by these families. Maryann Kettyle, JFS special needs case manager, says, “Children need clothes, socks, shoes, and books every day. Some of our families save up the donated gifts to use for birthdays and other family celebrations. This was my first year working on the project with JFS, and it has been such a wonderful experience to work with so many generous donors.”
One of the largest annual group of donors is the students, parents, and teachers from Strelitz Early Childhood Center and Hebrew Academy of Tidewater. JFS also received gifts and/or cash donations from many of the area religious schools and congregations. One large individual contribution came from Andrew Gross who created a mitzvah project for his Bar Mitzvah and asked his family and friends to send donations to JFS for the Chanukah Program. He raised more than $4,000 in donations of money and gift cards. Another local young donor, Benjamin Katz, used this project to perform one of his monthly mitzvahs by buying gifts and asking his grandmother to also contribute, all for his upcoming Bar Mitzvah in 2014.
This year, a total of 122 different families, consisting of 304 people, benefited at Chanukah due to the kindness of local community donors. Specific gifts and gift cards were provided to 43 local Jewish families with children/teens, consisting of 92 different children and teens. Throughout 2014, these same families will continue to benefit from the donations given at Chanukah, as JFS provides gift cards towards medication, food, gas, clothing, and school supplies.
Some of the thank you notes JFS received for the Chanukah Gift Program include:
“Thank you for helping my family this Chanukah. Your generous donations gave my family the opportunity to celebrate… My family is struggling financially and I was stressing on how we were going to be able to celebrate…your generous donations has given my family hope for a brighter future!”
“Thank you again for helping my family… you have made our Holiday!”
“I just wanted to take a brief second to tell you thank you so so much. My family is so grateful. You have all done so much for us and it has truly been a blessing…Without you all, I’d be lost. Thank you, thank you so so so much from my whole family!”
“Thank you very much for making our Hanukkah special! My girls were happy to open a different gift every night of things that they really wanted!”
All donations to JFS are tax-deductible. For more information about any of these programs, contact Maryann Kettyle, special needs case manager, Jewish Family Service of Tidewater, at 757-459-4640 or MKettyle@jfshamptonroads.org.
Jewish Family Service is a constituent agency of United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.
by Debbie Mayer, LCSW, JFS clinical director