Home March 2011 Helping Hands

Helping Hands

Mitzvah projects come in all forms and apply to all ages.  Whether the doer is a young child making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for someone who has nothing to eat, a preteen getting ready for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah by engaging in a project of his or her own choosing or an adult who has developed a passion for a certain cause, the rewards begin with the satisfaction of helping someone less fortunate.  Hopefully, the passion is contagious and the satisfaction never ends.

Megan Mettler’s Kids Read! Book Drive

A seventh grader at the Fairmont School, Megan Mettler loves to read.  Because she knows so many teachers, she realizes that access to books is not something that every young person can take for granted.

In fact, in deciding on her mitzvah project for her Bat Mitzvah at Temple Beth Sholom on April 9, Megan did research and found that schools ranking low in achievement have a lack of books in their libraries and that access to books has been found to be the critical variable effecting reading ability.  She discovered that 61 percent of low-income families have no age-appropriate books for their children and that more than 13% of school-age children in Orange County are living in poverty.  She also found that 56 percent of students in California are performing below grade level in reading, 57 percent of students failed the California Standards Test in English and 25 percent of the six million students in the California school system are unable to perform basic reading skills.

Megan’s answer to these problems is a program she calls “Kids Read!”  She began collecting books and donating them to schools, literacy programs, hospitals and shelters.  As of the beginning of February she had collected 9.235 books that were ready to donate, had 1,000 more books to sort through as a result of a book drive at her congregation and wanted to reach 13,000 by her birthday, March 22.

Thanks to posters and flyers Megan has created and support from family, friends and fellow congregants, the word has spread.  Most organizations are willing to accept used books, except for Children’s Hospital of Orange County, which only takes new ones.  Megan likes to collect small children’s books that she can pack up easily and donate, but she is happy to accept books designed for anyone up to 12th grade.

“I hope to keep the project going on after my Bat Mitzvah, because there will still be a need for books,” she said.

For instance, one of the schools Megan has helped is a Title I school.  “The kids get breakfast and lunch at school, and there’s no money for the parents to be able to buy books,” she said.  She hoped to collect at least one book for every student, and she has been able to donate two for each thus far.

Current beneficiaries of Kids Read! are Andrew Jackson Elementary School, Assistance League of Orange, Betsy Ross Elementary, California School, Camino Real Elementary, Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC), Friendly Center, Fullerton Interfaith Emergency Services, Hands Together, Jumpstart@UCI, Orange Grove Elementary, Orangewood Children’s Foundation, Prospect Elementary School and Santa Ana Unified School District: Early Childhood Education.

Megan, who is in the academic pentathlon and the student ambassadors at her school and who has participated in the Summer Institute for the Gifted, said that she feels great about how well her project is going.  Besides Kids Read!, Megan helps with a soup kitchen called Grand Street.  “I’m still involved with that, but I couldn’t do something I was already doing as a Bat Mitzvah project,” she said.

She concluded, “I fell in love with the idea of helping people to read.  I’m glad I’m really making an impact on kids being able to read and always having books at their disposal.  It’s also amazing how many people have helped me to make it a reality.”

For any questions please contact: kidsreadbookdrive@yahoo.com.

9th Annual Temple Beth Emet/Temple Beth Tikvah Mitzvah Day

A shared mitzvah day between two congregations puts many hands to work together.  Now in its ninth year, the Temple Beth Emet and Beth Tikvah Mitzvah Day is scheduled for Sunday, March 27, at 12:30 p.m. at Temple Beth Tikvah, 1600 N. Acacia Ave., Fullerton.

There are activities for all ages.  Plans include visits to Emerald Court Senior Residence and Orangewood Children’s Foundation, preparation of sack lunches for Mary’ Soup Kitchen, making gift bags, frosting cupcakes, making blankets and preparing gift boxes for soldiers in Afghanistan and other sites.  The two congregations are also collecting gifts for soldiers, non-perishable food, toiletries, school supplies, art supplies, pet toys and other items, as well as cash donations.

Chairing the event are Bob and Ruth Wilkoff, who can be reached at (714) 447-9435 or rbwilko@aol.com.  Other team leaders for Mitzvah Day are Ken and Nancy Levin at Temple Beth Emet and Miriam Van Raalte at Temple Beth Tikvah.

Hadassah Medical Organization: Kippot and Beanie Baby Drive

Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) has made a request for several things: kippot (the type given out at Jewish events of all kinds), and beanie babies or small bears.  The hospital likes to give children going into surgery or having medical procedures a small item of comfort.  Hadassah has found that the small stuffed animals are perfect to give and would welcome any donations.

The hospital also hosts thousands of visitors each year from all over the world who come and learn about HMO and see the 12 stained glass windows by Marc Chagall in the Abbell Synagogue at the Hadassah University Medical Center.  Hadassah provides kippot for everyone who comes into the chapel, and the numbers are huge.
Donations can be sent to: Hadassah Southern California Attention: Donation for HMO, 10495 W. Santa Monica Blvd., #110, Los Angeles, CA 90025-5031; phone: (310) 234-8300.

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