Youth Volunteers Are ‘Beacon of Light’ for Sid Jacobson JCC Community Needs Bank

sid jacobson jcc
The Sid Jacobson JCC held a fundraising event, “Shine a Light on Hunger,” to honor 17 local students who went above and beyond for its Community Needs Bank. (Courtesy SJJCC)

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, there has been a greater need for acts of kindness than most people have ever seen. Seventeen students from the North Shore rose to meet that need by contributing to the Sid Jacobson JCC (SJJCC)’s Community Needs Bank.

The Community Needs Bank started in early 2019, one year before Covid-19 hit Long Island. It originally served as a central food distribution site for small, local pantries. The SJJCC offered roles to interns with special needs who helped package and organize the food and household items for the pantries.

But food insecurity took on “a new definition” at the height of the pandemic, says Susan Berman, director of SJJCC’s Center for Community Engagement, which runs the Community Needs Bank. Not only did folks out of work suddenly have little money for food, but those in need were unable to visit food pantries in person.

So the Bank, as it’s known among the community, began a home delivery service. Local families pitched in with both donations and contactless pickup and drop-offs so that those in need were both safe and fed.

After this community initiative, which involved getting parents and their kids to help their neighbors, several youths reached out to the SJJCC asking how else they could help. They embarked on all kinds of projects and donation drives to fill boxes of food and treats for the Bank to distribute to families in need.

The 17 students, whom Berman has named the Bank’s youth ambassadors, will be honored at the SJJCC’s “Shine a Light on Hunger” event on Dec. 9. The youth, who range in age from 5 to 21 years old, are: Ryan Altman, Rebecca Birnbaum, Ryan Buslik, Anna Dubner, Jonah Glasman, Eliza Liebowitz, Sophie Plotnitzky, Miles Posner, Sophie Rosenman, Benjy Rubin, Remy Tauber, Ava and Lily Weinstein, Skylar Weitz, and Cole, Drew, and Luke Jacklin.

“We call them our beacon of light,” Berman says. “During a really dark time, they were able to be a light for others.”

Some of the students’ projects included raising money for the Bank by selling mask chains, holding donation drives, delivering Shabbat meals to local seniors, writing cards to families in need, donating winter hats to a women’s shelter, and helping seniors schedule Covid vaccination appointments.

“All of the youth provided something that we could give to people who were getting packages from us,” Berman says. “They felt that extra love, care and connection, which was so much more important during the pandemic.”

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