By Vivienne Frank
Quarters are worth holding onto. They’re the favorite food of those voracious Cedarhurst parking meters! However, dimes, nickels, and pennies don’t do much, other than weigh down my pocketbook. Every once in a while, I empty the coins out of my pocketbook and put them in a jar. Coins keep popping up when I’m cleaning too. They roll around the floor of the car and nestle in the couch cushions.
Then there’s my pushka. Of course, it has a place of honor right next to my Shabbos candles to remind me to feed it every Friday. After a few months, it’s full and it’s time to empty it. When I add the pushka contents to the jar of coins, it can sometimes be as much as $50 or more!
Today I elevated my coins to a higher spiritual level by giving them to Tomchei Shabbos Yad Yeshaya. You can do it too! It’s easy! Just bring the coins to TD Bank–conveniently located on the corner of Central Avenue and Cedarhurst Avenue–throw them in the “Penny Arcade” machine, and they get counted. (The 8% fee is waived, since Tomchei Shabbos Yad Yeshaya has an account at TD Bank.) A printed slip comes out of the machine. Just bring it to the teller and say to deposit it to Tomchei Shabbos Yad Yeshaya.
What a great way to teach kids about tzedakah–show them what happens after they stick a coin in the pushka. Take them on a “field trip” to TD Bank to deposit the coins, then go on any Thursday night to TAG or Young Israel of Woodmere to see the food going out for delivery. Or bring them to the parking lot before Pesach where huge cases of matzah, wine, and other necessities are going out to our neighbors.
When it comes to tzedakah, priorities are a must. The halachah is clear: “Aniyei ircha kodem”; the struggling families in our own community must be our first priority. Even in an affluent area like ours, more people than you probably realize cannot afford the basic food necessities to feed their families. Imagine having to worry that your child will go to sleep hungry. Imagine not being able to put chicken on your table in honor of Shabbos. It is our first responsibility to ensure that no family in our neighborhood lacks these basics.
Tomchei Shabbos/Yad Yeshaya provides Shabbos food for over 200 families weekly all over Far Rockaway and the Five Towns. This is our local branch. It raises its funding locally, and spends every dollar on food. Other neighborhoods have Tomchei Shabbos branches as well, but they don’t fund ours. Our Tomchei Shabbos is named for Yeshaya Alpert, z’l, and is staffed by volunteers. Among these wonderful volunteers are TAG girls who pack every week, even during school vacations; Ari Schonbrun and the Katz family, who do a huge distribution for Pesach; and many dedicated drivers who show up weekly in all kinds of weather to get the packages out.
The recipients of our packages range from the unemployed to single parents and the elderly. Every Thursday night they receive a package which consists of chicken, challah, grape juice, potatoes, and other basics so that they no longer have to worry about how they will feed their families on Shabbos. We struggle to meet our annual budget of $600,000 so that we don’t disappoint these families.
The next time you open a drawer full of change, think of all the chickens it can buy for someone’s Shabbos table. That bowl in which your husband drops his spare change every night can turn into challah and grape juice for someone’s Shabbos table. Now all of those jars, cups, and drawers full of coins that have been sitting in your house for years can be put to good use. Small children (and maybe some of us adults too) will delight in dumping the change in a machine and seeing its surprising value. As you clean for Pesach, you can clean up those coins and put them to good use.
If we all unite as a community to help our struggling neighbors, together we can try to bring good mazel, which is desperately needed, to us all.
As Pesach approaches, everyone can help Tomchei help our community. Our Pesach campaign to provide food packages is over $100,000 and you can contribute by dropping off change at the TD Bank, mailing checks to 634 Oak Drive, Far Rockaway, NY 11691, or visiting yadyeshaya.org. v