Three years ago, I was participating in a holiday gift drive. The family I was buying gifts for had identical triplets, and the parents could not afford presents for each of them. The three children asked for socks, underwear, and toilet paper and the mother and father needed towels and gloves for the winter.
The shield that defended me against the perils of reality shattered that day. I was astonished to see families so close to my home needed such basic items. I realized that if I spent the rest of my life waiting for somebody else to make a difference, there was a chance that I might never see the world improve. There was a chance that more children would depend on strangers to get them underwear for Christmas, and that more mothers and fathers would have to cut back on items like medicine just to put food on the table. There is so much work to do, and it suddenly landed in my hands.
I founded Project Hearts to Homes, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization to help low-income families get the supplies they need to lead healthy lifestyles. Our mission began by providing basic baby necessities to families with premature infants in New Jersey. We delivered laundry baskets full of supplies such as diapers, baby soap, detergent, and children’s books to homes in need. Each one of the baskets could support a baby for two months and we were sending out approximately 25 per month.
I watched as my dream flourished and soon enough, we went from one basket distributor to five. Several other organizations that aid low-income families sought us out and we expanded to helping underprivileged homes with ill children as well as teenage mothers who were abandoned by their parents because they decided to parent their children.
When Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in September 2017, I had already worked with large corporations like TD Bank, Valley National Bank, and BJ’s. I was written about in magazines and I had sent out hundreds of baby baskets. Yet, I was followed by the news on the destruction in Puerto Rico, I thought back to the Jewish value of tikkun olam, repairing the world. I had aided my community significantly, but there was a whole world outside of my front door that I was ready to take on.
It took strenuous planning on my behalf to find a reliable distributor in Puerto Rico as well as remarkable generosity from donors for my mission to succeed. By April, I had filled a shipping container with $18,000 worth of baby supplies and was able to deliver it to the still-devastated people of Puerto Rico right before hurricane season began again. I saw a change beginning to make its way into the world and it was coming from me and all the support I had behind me.
Just a few weeks ago, I got an email from a mother of eight-month-old triplets in New Jersey. The new family of five was of low-income and the three girls were born prematurely at 29 weeks. This family had received three of my baby baskets and had reached out to tell me that my baskets were a blessing to their home because, without them, the parents would have to eat at a soup kitchen to afford diapers.
From the broken shield that once blocked me from reality, I had made an impact. Project Hearts to Homes has changed the lives of countless families, but it also changed mine. I refuse to wait for someone else to make a difference. There is still so much work to be done, but one family at a time, I know I am making a difference.
For more information or to make a tax-deductible donation, please visit our website: www.hearts2homes.org or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow us on Instagram: projecthearts2homes
Emily Char is a BBG from Greater Jersey Hudson River Valley Region and enjoys eating guacamole and spending time with friends.
All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.
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