We’re thrilled that our first ever Passover Dinner Drive resulted in extra Seder foods for all 200 Holocaust survivors in our program! We provided each struggling survivor with an extra $50 grocery gift card at the end of March so they could choose and purchase Passover holiday foods. The idea for the drive came from one of our donors, who suggested we do something similar to our Thanksgiving Turkey drive, with Passover foods in mind. One of our liaisons with a community of survivors in Los Angeles wrote, “This is particularly helpful because many of the grocery assistance programs which started during Covid have ended, and it’s a difficult adjustment.”
When our partner at Human Rights First told us about Malya V., she was about to be reunited with her three children after ten long years apart, and the family was in need of EVERYTHING. Malya, a refugee from Haiti, had been a rape victim there, and her husband had been beaten to death trying to stop the rape. Her experience drove her to become an activist for women’s rights and the prevention of domestic violence, but that activism led to threats against her life and the lives of her children. In 2012 she sent her kids to the Dominican Republic for (relative) safety while she was on a trip to the U.S., but was unable to return and the family became permanently separated. Malya applied for asylum here, but there was no program that allowed her children to join her. Then, in the fall of 2022, an existing immigration program was expanded to include Haitians, and in mid-March her kids flew into Philadelphia International Airport to join her. An overjoyed Malya was not only reunited with her two sons and daughter, but met her five-year-old granddaughter, Lheina, for the very first time. Since Malya, who works at a food packaging company, had no resources to purchase bedding and other items for the family, we stepped in and set up an Amazon wish list with all the items they needed. There was an outpouring of support from our donors, and the family quickly received the beds, bedding, towels, clothing, phones, shoes and other basic items they needed as they started their new lives here in the U.S.
While Family-to-Family hosts a kids pajama drive every year, this winter we added a second drive for orphaned and displaced children still living in Ukraine. Working with two other nonprofits, ForWellBeing.org and The Ukrainian Refugee Resettlement Project, we distributed a pajama wish list to our donors that resulted in over 1,000 pairs of cozy, warm pajamas as well as 150 blankets! The items were packed up in Florida, shipped to Ukraine, and then distributed to orphanages, hospitals, and boarding schools by a volunteer group of doctors. The goal was to provide warmth and a bit of cheer to children in areas of Ukraine relying only on generators after Russian missile attacks on the energy infrastructure cut off electricity (and heat).
When an non-food emergency need arises for one of the families we sponsor, we do our best to jump in and solve the problem. So when we heard that a disabled grandfather and his grandson in Pembroke, Illinois were sleeping in a run down house that had no beds, or even mattresses, no working refrigerator, and a badly leaking roof, we reached out to our donors for help. We happily have been able to provide new beds, mattresses, blankets, sheets, towels, and a refrigerator. And we’re working on getting the roof, windows, and rotted deck replaced.
Another Pembroke family we sponsor with monthly groceries had the pipe that carried propane (which they use for heating and cooking) from an outdoor tank into their home dug up and stolen! The family, a mom with three children, suddenly had no heat to stay warm or fuel to cook with. We purchased and had a new pipe installed, and also bought the family a badly needed new front door, and a fan for an asthmatic daughter.
When Covid first hit, many of the already struggling moms and dads in our sponsored communities found themselves suddenly out of work, and desperate for help. We responded by doubling up sponsors for most families in our program who received grocery gift cards, so each family received double the funds on their gift card every month. A $35 gift card became a $70 gift card, and for local Rivertowns (NY) families, one donor per family turned into three or four. Now, with inflation causing food costs to increase, it makes sense to us to continue that protocol indefinitely, even as many of our recipeint families have returned to work.
In addition to Hastings on Hudson and Dobbs Ferry, NY (our local community), the places “doubled up” are:
- Boston, MA
- Braddock, PA
- Brookside, AL
- Burton, MI
- Flint, MI
- Jenkins, KY
- Kermit, W.VA
- Lake Providence, LA
- Los Angeles, CA
- Mamaroneck, NY
- Ossining, NY
- Pembroke, IL
- San Elizario, TX
- Staten Island, NY
- Waco, TX
- Whitney, NV
- Worcester, MA
- Yonkers, NY
We continue to hear from our on the ground community partners about families that don’t have a computer at home… causing their kids to fall behind as they struggle to complete school assignments. To help solve that problem, we’re working with The Loyalty Foundation, a not-for-profit that donates refurbished Chromebook computers to impoverished students, with the goal of providing them with more equal access to education. So far this fall 95 low income students in three of the communities we serve (NYC, Waco, Texas, and San Elizario, Texas) have received a computer. That’s on top of the 112 students who received one last year (in Flint, Michigan… Jenkins, Kentucky… Yonkers, New York and NYC).
Three years after launching our Refugee Family and Holocaust Survivor sponsorship programs in the New York area, Family-to-Family has expanded both programs to California. Working with Seniors At Home (part of Jewish Family and Children’s Services) in San Francisco, and Human Rights First in Los Angeles, we’ve begun providing monthly grocery gift cards to impoverished refugees and Holocaust survivors in both cities. We’re in the initial stage of expanding our Sponsor A Family program to L.A. as well.
44,000 and counting…
Thanks to donations from Eileen Fisher Renew, to date we’ve found homes for more than 44,000 gently used Renew women’s clothing items (by designer Eileen Fisher) – passing them along to low income women struggling to rebuild their lives. The clothing, which includes both casual and professional items perfect for job interviews, has gone to women in need at 20 poverty outreach organizations, including Westhab, Inc. in Yonkers, N.Y., The Henry Street Settlement House in New York, N.Y., The Bronx VA Women Veterans Clinic in New York, N.Y., Vet2Vet in Buffalo, N.Y., Family Justice Center in New York, N.Y., People to People in Nanuet, N.Y. and Integrity House in Newark, N.J.
What started in 2017 as a small pilot sponsorship program to provide monthly groceries to a handful of elderly and impoverished U.S. Holocaust survivors has grown steadily. Today, over 100 survivors are sponsored, with the potential for many more. That’s because an estimated one-third of the approximately 67,000 Holocaust survivors living here in the U.S. live in profound poverty. F-to-F’s one on one sponsorship program links each participating donor with one senior in need, and for either a $55 or a $27.50 monthly donation (for a shared sponsorship), will provide that senior with a monthly gift card to a local grocery store of their choice. Learn more or sign up here.
Launched early last year, our Sponsor A Veteran program has reaped some immediate and heartwarming benefits for the sponsored vets.
In addition to providing each vet with more than a week’s worth of groceries every month, many veterans have received birthday gifts, shoes, shirts and pants, personal hygiene products, books and more from their sponsors.
Our contact at Westhab Inc.’s veterans housing facility in Yonkers, New York wrote about one sponsor’s gift: “I just delivered the sweatshirt to Edward S. HE LOVED IT. It was the perfect size and warmth for the weather. It’s like they knew what he liked, AND it was red for the Boston Red Sox! He sends his thanks and appreciation to his sponsor. He is wearing it now. 🙂”
When we heard that one of the vets we sponsor had no mattress in her apartment, we reached out to our donor community and were able to provide her with a mattress and new bedding. Last summer two disabled vets, one in a wheelchair, were badly in need of air conditioners, which we were able to provide through the generosity of our donors. Several vets have needed work clothes for job interviews…. another need we were able to meet, providing gift cards so they could go shopping.
Donors have also sent designated funds for our “Veterans Adopt the House” program, so we’ve been able to provide a hot take-out meal for every monthly house meeting at the Westhab facility since we launched!
To date, 42 veterans in the suburban New York area have been sponsored. These are vets living at or below the federal poverty line, who were recommended by one of three veterans services organizations: Family Services of Westchester in White Plains, N.Y.; Mental Health America of Dutchess County in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; and Westhab Inc. in Yonkers, N.Y.
Learn more about how to sponsor a struggling veteran here.