A 3-day sprint is underway in New York to complete a mountain of work in a short time. The mission is to supply food boxes and financial assistance for hundreds of families throughout the Flatbush area, and by the end of the day on Thursday, March 18, the sprint will be completed.
Dozens of volunteers from local yeshivas and schools got together with community leaders to help pack boxes filled with Yom Tov food for the Flatbush Community Fund to distribute to 400 families throughout Flatbush. Additionally, the Flatbush Community Fund is sending monetary assistance to over 800 families throughout the neighborhood.
Due to needing two entire warehouses on Flatbush Avenue to complete the food packages, there was a natural separation available for all of the girls and yeshiva boys who volunteered to pack boxes, helping the whole operation remain b’tznua.
The food packing, which included items such as grape juice, wine, meat, and more, took place over a full 2 days, happening on Tuesday, March 16 and Wednesday, March 17. On Thursday, March 18, volunteers will put in a full day of distributing the packages.
Throughout the time spent packing the boxes, board members and community leaders came to help, including Yoel Zagelbaum and Leon Goldenberg. David Greenfield, the CEO of Met Council (a partner in the food distribution), watched the food packing and said, “out of all 101 sites that the Met Council is partnering with for Pesach food distribution, your system for volunteers here is one of the best I’ve seen.”
Chief Jeffrey Maddrey’s office of community affairs was represented as well by Deputy Inspector Richie Taylor and his outreach team, working together with the other volunteers to get the boxes packed and ready for distribution. NYPD Clergy Liaison David Heskiel remarked that, “it’s refreshing to see such exemplary leadership from Deputy Inspector Richie Taylor. He and his entire team are involved with the youth, the community, with those in need, and making sure to go above and beyond for our community and for all the various communities throughout the city. He proactively reaches out to community leaders to see how he can help.”
This food distribution was arranged by the Flatbush Community Fund. The Flatbush Community Fund was founded by a group of concerned Flatbush baal habatim 3 years ago, when they recognized that Flatbush needed a central agency for residents to be able to rely on for help. Flatbush is a large orthodox community, with hundreds of shuls and thousands of frum residents. In such a large community, people who are struggling can easily fall through the cracks.
Yitzy Weinberg, Executive Director of the Fund, was inspired by the community working hand-in-hand to help all types of Jews, even during a global pandemic. “It’s incredibly inspiring to see how the entire Flatbush community comes together to help their neighbors in need. Last year, when COVID first hit, we put an emergency campaign together and distributed over $1.5 million for Pesach. This year we’ve raised almost $900,000, which is amazing, but there are still hundreds of families who need our help.”
The Flatbush Community Fund
The Flatbush Community Fund, which arranged this food distribution, has grown rapidly under the leadership of Executive Director Yitzy Weinberg and Director of Operations Yonason Schwartz. In only 3 years, close to 200 shuls are affiliated with the fund and hundreds of families rely on the fund for assistance. Flatbush Community Fund operates under the guidance of HaRav Shmuel Kaminetsky Shlita and is endorsed by many rabbonim, including HaRav Elya Bruny, HaRav Yisrael Reisman, HaRav Moshe Tuvia Lieff, and more.
Some of the programs that the Flatbush Community Fund is running include emergency mortgage/rent assistance (partnering with Met Council), a sponsored tutoring program already established in 13 schools, grocery accounts for needy families, a food pantry (servicing over 1500 people monthly), and a pilot program (with Mesila and My Extended Family) to teach financial literacy to single mothers.
Getting the Volunteers
Distributing hundreds of boxes does not happen alone. Such a large distribution required two locations, staffed with many dedicated volunteers, with dozens of Yeshiva boys packing food in one warehouse and dozens of girls packing food down the block. All led by the powerhouse duo Bathsheba Hersko and Tzivi Solomon, whose leadership helped everything run smoothly.
What is amazing is that there was almost no recruitment necessary for the food packing. One boy heard about it from his father, and told his yeshiva friends – and there were dozens of volunteers from different classes. Amazingly, the same thing happened with another board member’s daughter – she told her friends, and many volunteered.
Giving People Food AND Respectability
Receiving a food distribution can be difficult on many levels. This food distribution used different strategies to help the needy retain their respectability.
One strategy used was delivering the food boxes in supermarket boxes, so the people can feel good about the delivery, knowing that the delivery looks like every other delivery happening on the block, and avoiding awkward questions from children.
Additionally, extras were included in the boxes to truly give the recipients a good Yom Tov. Small things were included that are in every home but their own, such as chocolates and candy for the children, and delectables like pastrami for the adults.
When visiting the website for the first time, one amazing aspect is that the site immediately asks you – Need Help, or Donate Now. Simple, confidential, and makes it easy for those who need help to ask for help.