It has been three months of “craziness,” yet the young people in our community are still creating new and creative chesed opportunities to show their hakarat hatov to our first responders. In this sense, we are definitely winning the battle.
Beginning with the college students in our community, Corona Connects is the brainchild of three young women, two of whom are current students at the University of Pennsylvania and residents of Teaneck and Englewood. Together with Co-Founder and President Hadassah Raskas of Silver Spring, Co-Founder and Creative Director Elana Sichel of Englewood, and Director of Media Strategy Shalva Gozland of Teaneck, the three young women came up with a creative opportunity to facilitate a nationwide cadre of volunteers of all kinds during this pandemic. Currently a team of 24 college students from across the U.S., Corona Connects is an online platform that seamlessly connects volunteers to COVID-19-related volunteer opportunities.
Gozland, a rising junior majoring in consumer psychology and PPE (philosophy, politics and economics), and Sichel, a rising senior majoring in management and marketing, explained that they found themselves at home with a strong desire to help and plenty of time to do so. Pooling their technological and social media skills, they designed a full-blown website and spreadsheet detailing hundreds of volunteer opportunities across the country and how to sign up for them. These opportunities include in-person activities such as manning a food pantry or shopping and delivering food to the elderly and infirm. Other opportunities offer online services such as helping with technical skills, translating documents, tutoring in all areas and even simply calling shut-ins and lending them a sympathetic and caring ear. Volunteers also sign up to create face masks and shields and other protective gear. To date, Corona Connects offers 170 volunteer opportunities across 15 states, with new opportunities becoming available daily. Over 4,500 people have visited the website since its posting over two months ago, which has resulted in 1,300 people being connected to 2,900 opportunities through the platform. Raskas, Gozland and Sichel invite the community to come aboard as the long stretch of summer approaches and join in the opportunity to volunteer meaningfully. Visit https://coronaconnects.org/about-us/.
Darbie Sokolow just completed her freshman year at NYU. She too found herself home after Purim looking to contribute to the community’s battle with the coronavirus. In pre-corona times she often helped out at Noah’s Ark on Cedar Lane, owned by her father Noah Sokolow. She became acquainted with nurses from local hospitals who would come by to purchase lunches. With that thought in mind, Sokolow, together with Englewood neighbor Hannah Schwalbe, decided to put the community’s resources to work on behalf of first responders. Thus, HERO4HEROES was created, through which frontline workers would be treated to “yummy”’ hero sandwiches delivered directly to their work locations. Through a flier disseminated through social media, the duo have raised $3,500 to date and have distributed over 100 lunches prepared by the staff at Noah’s Ark consisting of several varieties of meat and chicken hero sandwiches as well as a bonus cookie. Recipients so far include first responders at the Teaneck police and fire departments, TVAC, Englewood police, volunteer ambulance and fire stations, and Holy Name and New York Presbyterian Hospitals.
Sokolow and Schwalbe conveyed, “Our heroes have spent countless hours helping us and keeping us safe. HERO4HEROES is our small way of paying them back.”
Each package, including delivery costs, is $9. To contribute to the continuing efforts of HERO4HEROES, Venmo @Darbie-Sokolow or @hannahschwalbe.
Liat Polinsky of Teaneck is a rising senior at Yeshivat Frisch High School. Beginning in her freshman year, Polinsky has been involved in the Family Promise Youth Council in Hackensack, which provides for the homeless. As a junior, together with Abigail Chachkes, Polinsky founded The Home Club at Frisch, which meets twice a month to discuss and work on ways to become involved in “homelessness, open-mindedness and education” regarding the homeless population. The club has attracted 20 members who together created a GoFundMe page to collect funds from the students and faculty at Frisch for meals to be distributed to the homeless who have been relocated to local shelters during this pandemic. To date, 140 meals prepared by Teaneck restaurant Yalla were delivered to the shelters in one night thanks to the generosity of the Frisch community. To contribute to this ongoing project, email [email protected]
Daniel Lipshitz of Teaneck is a rising senior at MTA High School. Realizing his exceptional talent in photography, his parents, Shira and Clive Lipshitz, provided him with a professional-grade camera with multiple lenses. Recently, they purchased a professional printer with the capability of printing large photographs. On his many walks through the neighborhood, Lipshitz was witness to several backyard weddings taking place during the last few weeks. Moved by their simplicity and yet unbounded happiness, he decided to photograph the events with the permission of the hosts. He tried to capture meaningful moments that may not have been noted by the professional photographers. Lipshitz shared these photographs with the couple and their families, offering them an enlargement of the photograph of their choosing without charge. And so, four Teaneck couples can add to their recent simchas by displaying a large photograph of a “Kodak moment” gifted to them by a budding photographer. Lipshitz would like to continue gifting local couples with his photographs as he is inspired by their determination to proceed with building their lives despite the limitations of the current pandemic. He can be reached at 201-396-1710.
Ellie Wartelsky, a fifth grader at Yeshivat Noam, is the youngest “chesed creator.” As her bat mitzvah is planned for November, Ellie had been considering creating heart-shaped keychains as keepsakes for her friends. As the coronavirus hit the community harshly, Wartelsky realized that there was a more immediate opportunity to express gratitude through her keychains. Learning of the daily commitment of frontline nurses from her aunt Michelle Sorscher, who volunteered her services to the ICU at Mt. Sinai Hospital where she works as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Wartelsky decided to gift her keychains to these “heroes.” Naming her project “Heart to Heart,” each creatively crafted, heart-shaped keychain was accompanied by a colorful, heartfelt, personalized note to each recipient. Wartesky delivered 100 packaged keychains to her aunt to distribute at Mt. Sinai Hospital. Little did she know that her donation would be made at a hospital-wide, Zoom Town Hall meeting honoring the top nurses. After a passionate presentation by Sorscher about the selfless dedication of the nurses to their patients, Ellie herself was afforded an opportunity to speak.
She shared, “I remember how kind and caring the nurses were to me when I had a procedure at the hospital. Now I would like to express my gratitude to them for that special care. In our community, when the girls turn 12, they do a bat mitzvah chesed project, which basically means that we do something nice for the world. I want to thank you guys who save the world every day even though you are risking your life.”
By Pearl Markovitz