When Hadar Sandler, an incoming sixth grader at Yeshivat Noam, was deciding what she wanted to do for her bat mitzvah chesed project, she knew that she wanted it to have something to do with the holiday of Sukkot, which is her birthday. She also felt strongly about the idea that chesed starts at home, which she learned from her parents, referring not only to her own house, but also to her community.
So when she heard about The Bayit Association, an organization that is building homes for Orthodox young adults with developmental disabilities right in her neighborhood, Hadar immediately knew that it was perfect for her project. “This chesed project relates to me personally because the theme connects to the holiday on which I was born—the theme of a home where Hashem’s Shechinah is present,” Hadar wrote on her fundraising page. The Bayit Association homes will be places for these young adults to live halachically religious lives, while receiving all the support that they need. “Because of this,” Hadar continued, “Hashem’s Shechinah will definitely be present to guide them in these special homes, just like it was present in the Sukkot in the desert.”
About a year before her bat mitzvah, Hadar set a fundraising goal of $18,000, and got to work. Just as important as raising money, she wanted to spread the word about The Bayit Association, and involve as many people as possible. She started by coming up with a logo for her project, making business cards and setting up an email account specifically for donations. Hadar also designed mugs with The Bayit Association logo, and personalized pens with construction hats and smiley faces to give to donors, too.
“She wanted to do something that’s meaningful and that relates to The Bayit,” her mother, Irit Sandler, said. “The smiley faces on the pens as well as her phrase ‘Help Hadar Build Homes’ written in a ‘semi-circle smile’ under her logo relate to another theme of the holiday: v’samachta b’chagecha—the mitzvah to be happy on the holiday of Sukkot.” As Hadar commented, “I hope that living in these homes will bring them great joy and happiness.”
Every week, Hadar would set up a table for donations outside of local stores, and “was overwhelmed by the response,” Irit said. “A ton of people were touched by the cause. Some of the store owners did not want to be recognized for graciously allowing Hadar to stand outside. That said, Chanani and I greatly appreciate them giving her this opportunity.”
As different holidays approached while she was fundraising, Hadar worked to incorporate them each into her project. For Purim, she spent hours packing bags of candy for mishloach manot, and included her business card and a pen in each one. When Shavuot came around, Hadar enlisted her mother to help make flower arrangements to sell in the mugs: “We used fake flowers, but we like to call them ‘forever flowers,’” Hadar said. For the remaining mugs, she filled them with Hershey Kisses, taking the time to affix a sticker on each. “The chocolate-filled mugs were the most popular by far,” Hadar said proudly, noting how much effort she put into their creation.
Since this is such a local cause, Hadar has really been able to see the impact of her chesed, and that has made her feel even more connected. With the new Bayit Association home being built just a few blocks from her house, Hadar has been able to visit the site and follow the construction. “It’s been very exciting to see the progress,” her mother said.
Hadar also had the opportunity to attend a Bayit Association event for young adults with special needs, where she was able to meet the very people who will benefit from her tzedaka and live in The Bayit Association homes. “It was very meaningful for me to interact with them, laugh with them and meet the young men and women who are actually waiting for these homes to be built,” she said.
In the six months since Hadar started her campaign, she has raised over $11,000 with the help of over 130 donors. “One important lesson that I learned from my chesed project is that every person counts,” the young project manager shared. “What I mean by this is that there were a few times that people came by my table and said, ‘I only have $1; I’m sure that won’t make a difference to you.’ But it did. Every person who contributed, even a small amount, made a difference.
“I learned from this that in life I should never think that I cannot make a difference if I only participate in something a little bit. Every small deed, and every small action counts and adds up to a larger sum. I was only able to raise as much money as I did, because of all the donations combined together from more than 130 donors. Every person counted.”
Hadar decided that every donation over $36 would receive a mug, filled with personalized Hershey kisses and beautifully wrapped in a bag. She also loves to throw in a construction pen as an extra gift to show how grateful she is for each and every person who helps her reach her goal. Irit added that having so many donors also means that her daughter is achieving her goal of spreading awareness as well.
“We at The Bayit [Association] are just so appreciative of what Hadar and her family are doing,” said Co-Founder and Jewish Link Co-Publisher Moshe Kinderlehrer, “and we have been blown away by how hard she is working and how much has been raised so far. … The sky is the limit for her and this campaign, and we are sure she will achieve and exceed her current fundraising goal.”
To learn more about Hadar’s campaign, or to donate, please visit:
https://thechesedfund.com/bayitnj/hadar, or scan the QR code above. For anyone who lives in Bergen County, Hadar will hand-deliver a Bayit Association mug for any donation above $36, or three pens for $18—while supplies last. Please send your address to he[email protected] to receive a mug or pens with your donation.