Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Beth Am Mitzvah Brigade adopts Clarcona Elementary

 

Mitzvah Brigade members and volunteers in the food pantry and clothes closet

In September 2014, the Mitzvah Brigade at Congregation Beth Am (CBA) in Longwood, Florida became aware of the acute need of hundreds of students at Clarcona Elementary School for food and clothing. They decided that "adopting" the school was one more way that they could perform tikkun olam, to heal the world. This ongoing project has evolved and, as it moves into its second year of meeting the needs of these deserving students, needs the support of the entire Central Florida Jewish community.

The Mitzvah Brigade at CBA is a group of volunteer women dedicated to serving the needs of the community, Jewish and non-Jewish. Within the congregation they have long provided support, both physical and spiritual, to members in time of need through the Care Team. Members of the Mitzvah Brigade assist the Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando Food Pantry. They sort food for the Second Harvest Food Bank and prepare meals for families at the Ronald McDonald House, especially at holidays like Mother's Day and Christmas Day. They collect nonperishable items of personal care for abused women and children seeking shelter at Safe House of Seminole County. Yet their most ambitious project to date was the "adoption" of the students at Clarcona Elementary.

Clarcona Elementary, part of the Orange County Public Schools, was not eligible for Title 1 resources. Title 1 is part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and is the foundation of the federal commitment, through the U.S. Department of Education, to closing the achievement gap between low-income and other students. It provides financial assistance to schools with high numbers or percentages of children from low-income families to help ensure that all children meet state academic standards. When the Mitzvah Brigade at CBA learned that more than 770 students would not have nutritious food during the fall and winter holiday recesses, they formed the Holiday Break Project to feed these children.

Initially propelled by the efforts of Fern Lefkowitz with funding obtained through private donors, tax-deductible donations were made to the Clarcona Elementary Fund through Orange County Public Schools to establish and maintain a food pantry for the students of Clarcona Elementary and their families. As the seasons changed, the Mitzvah Brigade recognized the need for warm clothing for these students and the Clarcona Clothes Closet project was established.

In addition to financial donations made to the Clarcona Elementary Fund, donations of food and clothing are necessary for the continuation of these worthwhile programs. Some food is purchased from the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. Donations of 600 packages of rice and lentils came from Feeding Children Everywhere following a member's simcha. Jars of peanut butter came from the League of Women's Voters; and members of CBA donated nonperishable boxed and canned foods. During last year's Holiday Break Project more than $9000 was spent on food and more than 1600 bags of food were stocked in the pantry for Thanksgiving, winter break and spring break.

On Wednesday, Nov. 18 from 3 until 5 p.m. at Clarcona Elementary School, 8723 Hackney Prairie Rd., Orlando, the Mitzvah Brigade will be bagging food to stock the pantry for this year's Thanksgiving Break. Focusing on the critical need for the emergency food pantry and clothes closet, the Mitzvah Brigade is welcoming donations of food and children's winter clothing sizes 4T to 16 (no adult sizes are necessary). Financial support for the Clarcona Elementary Fund is always welcomed. Matti Harac is serving as the Mitzvah Brigade representative for this project. Please contact her at michael.harac@gmail.com with your offer to donate food, clothing or much-needed funds. For more information on the projects of the Mitzvah Brigade and all activities at Congregation Beth Am go to the synagogue's web site at http://www.CongBethAm.org.

 

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