From the COLlive Inbox:
When I lost my husband to COVID, I learned a lot about people, about myself and about our community. During the shivah I got to know the shivah people; The Misaskim Volunteers who made that life-changing week a tad more bearable. But during the busiest month in the Jewish calendar, I got to know a whole new side of The Misaskim People. I got to know their incredible division known as Project Yedid.
I was just looking through the kids’ supplies list when there was a knock at the door. At my foot lay a box filled with school supplies divided by the age and gender of my kids. I started to cry. Who else knew how difficult a new season was without my husband? Who else understood what a simple errand meant?
The Project Yedid School Supplies Distribution delivered over 800 beautifully packaged boxes filled with school essentials to children in the Tri-State Area. Packages were also shipped to children in Baltimore, Miami, Cleveland, Los Angeles and many more locations. A fellow widow, a friend I met through a support group, shared with me that when her children’s packages arrived, her daughter said, “You see Mommy, I told you Project Yedid will come through.”
When Hurricane Ida hit New York, I huddled with my children in my room. My husband’s presence was sorely missed. He had a way of lightening a situation and making the most of it. We heard a thud outside the house. One, Two, Three. It sounded like trees were falling. We looked outside the window and saw two guys unloading large boxes and carrying them up to our front door. It was our Yom Tov Paper Goods Delivery. Apparently, several generous donors made a paper goods distribution possible for almanos in our community. Every family received 12 cases (!) of paper goods. From bowls to plastic tablecloths, from cups to cutlery, my storage room got filled with the basics that make such a difference during Yom Tov. When the storm left us feeling so lonely, Project Yedid Malachim showed up.
I made a mental note to reach out to Misaskim and express my thanks, but before I could say anything a Sukkos Package arrived at my door. My children excitedly opened the box to find a wonderful craft, sukkah poster and an assortment of toys, books and games. It was the most thoughtful gift my children have ever received. I finally picked up the phone and called Misaskim’s office. The woman on the other end of the line waved away my thanks and said, “You’re our inspiration. You’re the hero.” That gave me enough strength to start cooking for Yom Tov.
Since my husband’s passing, my oldest son, just 10 years of age, has taken on the father role for my younger daughters. I found him Tuesday afternoon lugging Sukkah panels to our porch. He smiled widely, but it was obvious that the weight, both physically and emotionally, was too heavy for his young shoulders. I knew I needed to do something.
Seeing what Project Yedid had done so far, I decided to reach out to the volunteer coordinator of my neighborhood. I started to explain myself but before I could say anything he said, “I have a great volunteer who has extra time tomorrow morning.” Erev Yom Kippur my son spent 3 hours with the volunteer as they assembled the sukkah together. I watched as the volunteer made my son feel empowered and supported. My eyes were wet, my son’s eyes were shining.
If I thought all this was a lot, I didn’t understand yet what Project Yedid was all about. We received a beautiful invitation to a full day Chol Hamoed Trip in Brooklyn. My children were over the moon and counted down the days. Chol Hamoed Thursday we climbed aboard a bus that took us from Monsey to Boro Park. My children looked around the bus and couldn’t believe that everyone was literally in the same boat. All these children were yesomim just like them. They shyly smiled to one another, but I knew that soon great friendships would start. When we arrived at the first stop, we were greeted by the wildest carnival slash festival slash park a kid could ever imagine. Stations of airbrushing, money booths, build-a-bear workshops, arcades, racetracks, mega raffles, games and races; We didn’t know where to look first.
Before we knew it, it was time for a delicious Yom Tov meal that was served in a large 3,000 square foot sukkah built by Misaskim Volunteers. It was there that I bonded with several women as we laughed and cried about doing Yom Tov alone. After the meal, we transferred to another hall for an uplifting Simchas Beis Hashoeva. Avraham Fried and Joey Newcomb made a special appearance lighting up the faces of close to 800 yesomim! I sat next to a family of children who had just lost their mother. The oldest said to me, “I felt like Mommy was watching over us, making sure we have a good time on Chol Hamoed.”
At the event, I got to meet Yankie Meyer, the founder of Misaskim and Project Yedid. I expressed my thanks and told him how much every one of the projects and distributions meant to my kids and I. We talked about the organization and how it came about. I was shocked that all this was happening while I thought Misaskim was just about the week of Shivah.
I want to personally thank the volunteers who dedicated thousands of extra hours and the generous donors who sponsored these projects. May Hashem reward you in the most abundant way possible. Thank you for remembering the yesomim and almanos of our community. Thank you for showing up when we think no one will.