Archive for : Featured

Alternative Winter Breaks for Sandy Relief: Rebuilding in Breezy Point

Benjy Brandwein’s home in Belle Harbor, Queens (next to Breezy Point) was badly damaged in Hurricane Sandy. So in the days after the storm, the mechanical engineering student rallied friends to come help him recover and rebuild. Inspired by the outpouring of support, he wanted to help other people rebuild as well.

His opportunity arrived a few weeks later when he received a call from the Bnei Akiva youth group, asking if he could organize an alternative winter break trip for Jewish college students who were home in New York for break. As long time supporter of the Bnei Akiva (he’s been a camp counselor and program coordinator there, and is currently involved in coordinating year-round programming), Benjy jumped at the chance. Partnering with Habitat for Humanity oF Westchester, and with micro-grant support from Repair the World, the program he created paid the kindness he’d received forward, and enabled students to make a difference.

How did the service program come about?
My house was severely damaged in the Hurricane. Once the storm passed, I posted on Facebook to rally friends, and had a lot of people come out to help me. A few weeks after the storm, I got a call from the heads of Bnei Akiva in New York saying they wanted to host some kind of volunteer program to help homeowners whose homes had been damaged or destroyed. They were open to any kind of program, so I put together a schedule and budget for a mission that partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Westchester. The idea was that participants would volunteer during the daylight hours, and have bonding activities – like going to the movies and hanging out – in the evening.

One of my bosses let me know that Repair the World was offering micro-grants to support Sandy recovery alternative breaks in New York. We applied and received the funding, which really helped us move the project forward.

How many participants did you have?
We ended up with 12 college student participants from all over the New York area – they drove in from as far away as Riverdale, Washington Heights, and the 5 Towns.

What kind of projects did they work on?
We split into two groups of 6 every day. We had the teams help with demolition – in one of the houses, all the floors had to be ripped up. In other cases, they shoveled sand or removed debris. Their volunteer work was dictated by whatever the needs were in a specific house.

Whose houses did you work on?
Habitat for Humanity had a station set up in Breezy Point where homeowners could come to them and say, “I need help with X,Y,Z,” and they’d help match needs with volunteers. Each morning around 9:30 we would head over there and be sent wherever we were needed. In most cases, the people we were helping would be there watching us rip up their homes and getting all the debris out. Seeing their reaction to having their homes demolished was difficult at times.

What kind of response did you see in participants?
At the beginning, the overwhelming response from participants was, “Wow – what are we doing coming into people’s homes and destroying them?” But they came to realize that tearing down the damaged structures was a part of the rebuilding process. In the end they were happy to have helped. They didn’t realize in advance just how bad the damage was, and they were excited to make a positive difference.

And how about your response? You put together a pretty amazing program!
Honestly, I was slightly overwhelmed. I had never done anything like this. I had worked as a camp counselor before and done a little construction work on my house, but to put them together to help people was entirely new. Luckily, Habitat for Humanity made it all easy. They were there to help us through the process. We have a second group of alternative break students coming next week, and I am looking forward to doing it all again.

It’s Coat Drive Time! Help Keep Others Warm This Winter

Unless you are lucky enough to live in California or another warm and sunny locale, winter can get pretty chilly! And for too many Americans across the country, winter also brings the painful choice between paying rent and putting food on the table, or buying adequate winter coats for themselves and their families.

This year, with the recession continuing to put an extra strain on families, and many families on the East Coast still suffering from losses after Hurricane Sandy, we think there’s a need for a little extra warm stuff. Fortunately, there’s something you can do. Got a new or gently used extra coat in your closet? Instead of letting it hang around collecting moth balls, put it to good use in a local coat drive that redistributes gently used gear to those in need.

According to New York Cares, “90% of homeless adults need a new, warm coat each winter because they have no place to keep one over the summer months.” That means, coat drives play an important role every year in making sure everyone has equal access to warm clothing during the colder months. Here are a few coat drive opportunities across the country:

  • New York Cares’ Coat Drive: Help this New York City-based organization collect 200,000 winter coats through December 31 to help New York City families who are living in poverty keep warm.
  • One Warm Coat: This national organization helps individuals and local charities organize coat drives for men, women and children in need. They’ve helped distribute close to 3 million coats since 1992. Help them do even more!
  • Clothes4Souls: This national clothing donation organization teamed up with outdoor retailer, The North Face, this holiday season. Through December 24, bring your gently used clothing and coats to participating North Face retail locations and help give the gift of warmth.

There are too many local coat drives across the country to list them all – so we’re counting on YOU! Do you know about a local coat drive in your neighborhood or city? Let us know by tweeting @repairtheworld.

#GivingTuesday

Last week we gave thanks, this week let’s give back!

From the genius minds of Henry Timms, deputy executive director of the 92nd Street Y, and Kathy Calvin, CEO of the United Nations Foundation, this newly launched movement aims to transform the way people think about this consumer-driven season.

“We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals. Why shouldn’t there be a day for giving back?” asks Timms.

As of today, more than 2,000 charities, for-profit businesses, community groups, religious groups, and schools have committed to launch their own volunteer and charity-centric projects as part of the #GivingTuesday movement. With the launch off to a strong start, the campaign aspires to become part of our national holiday season lexicon, joining the likes of Black Friday and Cyber Monday as an annual staple to look forward to.

 So what can YOU do to get involved?

You can also work with us! Donate to Repair the World this #GivingTuesday, and every dollar will be matched! Read more about Repair’s fundraiser here.

There are no rules when it comes to who, what or how you give – you’re encouraged to think creatively based on your own unique interests and skills. Are you designing a new flier for your favorite charity? Volunteering with your youth group?

Tell us what us what you’re doing @RepairTheWorld or connect with us on Facebook!

Thanksgiving Harvest: Three Great Jewish Farming Organizations

With Thanksgiving coming up tomorrow, our collective thoughts are on family, friends and, most importantly, food! That means it is the perfect time to celebrate the world-changing work of three (yes three!) Repair the World partner organizations that put food justice, sustainable food production and the intersection of food and Jewish life at the center of their agendas.

We’ve written about these organizations before. But as turkey day (or tofurkey day, as the case may be) draws near and we break out bubbe’s pecan pie recipe, we thought we’d check back in with them to see what great, on-the-ground (and in-the-field) work they’re up to!

Adamah A pioneer in the field of Jews and farming (the program launched back in 2003), Adamah is known for it’s 3-month fellowships that combine communal living, Jewish life and learning, and sustainable farming. They are also a working CSA, providing farm-fresh vegetables to families in Connecticut, and make uber-tasty kosher, lacto-fermented pickles and cheese (more info on where to buy here).

Jewish Farm School was founded to teach participants about “contemporary food and environmental issues through innovative trainings and skill-based Jewish agricultural education.” They lead all sorts of great, hands-on, in-the-dirt programs (including running the farm at Eden Village, a Jewish environmental summer camp). Their new FeastForward initiative uses visual media (like short films) to raise awareness about food and environmental issues.

Urban Adamah Founded as a West Coast, urban version of Adamah, program participants live, farm, learn, teach, and celebrate together in Berkeley, California. Their innovative take on Jewish life and urban farming has gained widespread attention, including articles by Grist and San Francisco Chronicle. The farm also runs a variety of programs for the public, including an upcoming “earth skills” event on Nov. 29 (register here). Apply to be a fellow in 2013 here.

Are you working to transform the food system here or abroad? Tell us your story @RepairtheWorld!

November, Movember

Ah, November – a time for family feasts, autumn leaves, giving thanks…and growing mustaches.

Started in 2003, Movember (a mash-up of “Moustache” and “November”) is changing the face of men’s health – pun intended! Each November, over one million men around the world begin the month clean-shaven, and spend the next 30 days cultivating their mustaches, all with the goal of getting their supporters to pledge money for men’s health.  By committing to growing a mo’ for the 30 days of Movember, these men become walking billboards, raising awareness and funds for prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and other prevalent men’s health issues.  Last year was a staggering success, with participants raising over $42,000,000!

The movement’s greatest success is the awareness and education it spreads. By diffusing awareness through a quirky, fun facial adornment, Movember is able to break down stigmas and social barriers that often surround men’s health issues. The discussions sparked by these furry accessories prevent illness and encourage healthy living – and ultimately, save lives.

Movember occurs every year, around the world, and it’s not just your friends and colleagues getting involved. Many high-profile celebrities and athletes have supported the Movember Foundation, including Joe Jonas, Justin Bieber and Foster the People’s Mark Foster, creating great press fodder and increasing knowledge about a creative and worthwhile initiative.

Do you know someone growing out their stache for a good cause this Fall? Tweet us a pic and we’ll send you a Repair the World tee! @repairtheworld