Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The CIS Yom Chesed program is anything but one day of chesed. “Chesed” means many things to many people, and to some people it means absolutely everything! Congregation Israel of Springfield apparently has a lock on this concept—over 50 families gathered on Sunday, May 19, to prepare, complete and deliver diverse, multi-faceted chesed projects to their respective recipients.

This unique program brings together shul families, including children ranging in age from very young to young adult, as well as seniors. Families are divided into project groups, each with a group leader. The varied skills and interests of each family are engaged for each project. For example, the “Community Helper” group prepared and delivered packages to show appreciation to the public service professionals of Springfield: the police, firefighters and EMTs. Included in their packages were drawings and sticker designs made by the younger children, and snacks and cupcakes decorated and packed by the older children and adults. The appreciation packages for the Springfield police and fire departments were hand delivered, bringing smiles to the faces of these dedicated professionals.

The culmination of months of preparation and planning converged on this day with the gathering of material, provisions and the power of caring people. Families worked in dedicated focus groups making specialized packages targeted for seven very special recipient groups, known to most as “chesed” organizations. Other packages will be transported to Camp HASC this summer, some will be hand carried to Lone Soldiers in Israel, still others will be sent to CP 360 for cancer patients in numerous treatment centers, to name a few. St. Barnabas Hospital Cancer Center receives food for the “Comfort Cart” in the center.

The remaining target organizations are local hospitals supplied with Shabbat-in-a- Box, prepared foods for JFS and plants for the JFS garden project, Chai Lifeline and Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. With eight different organizations receiving packages or goods, the logistics required to select and acquire the vast array of contents for this massive project were considerable.

The event is co-chaired by Chana Horowitz and Miryam Smilow, and each target group is coordinated by a shul member. Part of the responsibility includes the facilitation of delivery in the way each organization deems appropriate. The JFS
recipients, for example, are selected by JFS, which also provides sensitive and confidential delivery of the packages. The JFS gardening project, however, is a hands-on, on-site activity where families actually go and plant in the garden.

Horowitz described the Chai Lifeline teddy bears, dressed in hand-decorated T-shirts, custom designed and created by the children in that group. The Alex’s Lemonade groups set up shop in two locations, and earned $500 for that charity. Jessica Blank, the project manager, explained CIS has also received acknowledgments from both recipients and organizations that have benefited from the kindness of the Yom Chesed project in the past.

Some families have taken packages to Israel, and reported that they went to the lone soldier center, where they were able to meet lone soldiers and hand them packages in person. The soldiers expressed an outpouring of appreciation and warmth.

Sometimes a Yom Chesed can last a lifetime.

By Ellie Wolf