Hanukkah will be here before we can count to eight bright nights. Jewish Children’s Regional Service (JCRS) started “shopping” long ago to support the children and families it will service this winter.
For the 19th year, JCRS will bring warmth, smiles and joy in the form of unexpected wrapped wonder.
“It’s our goal that these children know they are not alone and we want them to feel a part of the community — their community — at what is for most an incredibly joyous time of year,” said Ned Goldberg, JCRS executive director. “We receive referrals from regional organizations, schools, and synagogues but we also realize there are those in the community who may not be affiliated or who do not wish to share their personal situation with the community.”
In 2015, Hanukkah gift bags with more than 1,500 individual gifts were delivered to more than 250 children and 30 Jewish residents of adult care facilities in JCRS’ regional states: Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. Some of the families are recovering from natural disasters, job losses or significant illness to one or both parents; some are living with special needs; and some are new immigrants to the country. Recipients may have parents who are deceased, disabled, in prison or deployed overseas. It is not necessary that applicants produce financial disclosures in order to qualify, just to make a case for their need.
Goldberg reassured that privacy is paramount.
“This is an incredibly sensitive situation and we know people’s privacy is a gift in and of itself — that’s one gift we aren’t going to open. If anyone has children of their own we can help, or family members or if you know of someone we can help, please contact us right away. We’re in the midst of putting our packages together and we really don’t want to leave anyone out.”
The packages include eight small Hanukkah gifts, one for each night. There is communication between the agency and the children’s families and if they are made aware of a hobby or interest, be it gift cards, toys, grooming supplies, stuffed animals, minerals and polished stones, Legos, sports cards, magic kits, action figures, small cars, games and sporting equipment. There’s little that can’t be found; few desires that can’t be met. All gifts are age and gender selected and each is wrapped with Hanukkah-related treats and a card handmade by a volunteer from throughout JCRS’ region.
“As a doctor, I ‘live’ confidentially so I know how important that concept is and I’m honored to be the Dallas representative to deliver the gifts. I can’t tell you how appreciative people are — really it’s just precious and being the messenger is awesome and incredibly fulfilling,” said Dr. Jeanie Tolmas, former JCRS board president. The Tolmas family (Connie and the late Dr Hyman and Gina and Alan) has for many years been the connecting force for the program in Dallas.
“Last year we had more helpers than we had recipients, and I know there’s more people out there that we can help — we just have to get the word out and Ned Goldberg, he’s the man — with 28 years on the job, he’s the impetus to get it done,” Tolmas added.
From 7 to 9 p.m., Monday, Dec. 12, at the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, Younger Set, will host a Hanukkah Wrapping Project, tying another local bow on the mitzvah. JCRS is one of the JFGD’s beneficiary partner agencies and also a recipient of a Federation Community Impact Grant to benefit camp scholarships.
Younger Set, chaired by Staci Rubin, is a division of the Federation’ Jewish Women’s Philanthropy Center, is dedicated to creating and providing opportunities for women under the age of 45 to learn about the purpose, mission and goals of the Federation. Younger Set invites ladies to join them in the wrapping project. The deadline to RSVP is Dec. 7.
Camp scholarships are one of the many manners of provisional support offered by JCRS for nearly 162 years. The organization also provides College Aid, in the form of grants and scholarship. PJ Library, Special Friends Club, Special Needs Program and support groups round out the programs which reach more than 1,000 children each year.
“We appreciate the many who want to donate the physical gifts, and we need those, but we really want to be sure we reach all of the children who need the gifts who might not know about us or whose families aren’t sure they are comfortable to make contact,” said Goldberg. “We really do come with an outstretched arm and we want this holiday to be a happy one.”
To apply for Hanukkah gift assistance, to volunteer to adopt-a-child or to make a donation, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-729-5277. For more information about JCRS, visit www.jcrs.org. To participate in the Dec. 12 wrapping project, RSVP by Dec. 7 to email@example.com.
— Submitted by Deb Silverthorn