July 18, 2024
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July 18, 2024
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Teaneck Baby Gemach Merges With Project Ezrah

The Teaneck Baby Gemach, a “virtual” gemach facilitated by photo sharing, was seeking to expand its reach, and searching for an umbrella not-for-profit organization closely aligned with its own mission of social welfare. Merging with Project Ezrah seemed the natural step to take.

Ginnie Fried, who manages the gemach’s day-to-day operations, explained, “Partnering with Project Ezrah enables the gemach to become an additional arm in an organization that is pursuing precisely the same goal of providing assistance to those in need in the Jewish community. It also smooths out the referral process for those truly in need, who might not have the wherewithal to search out the gemach independently.” Fried has served as general coordinator for the Teaneck Baby Gemach since 2011, and will continue in this role moving forward, but now as part of Project Ezrah, along with existing volunteers from the gemach.

Fried explained the way the gemach operates: “Someone offers a donation by sending a picture. Our equipment coordinator, Stacy Horowitz, maintains a list of requested items, so that if a recipient needs a double stroller and then one is offered, she contacts the next recipient on the list immediately so that they can arrange pickup of the item directly from the donor, anonymously, upon request. If no one has yet requested the particular item, she disseminates it to our email list of recipients. The first requester who is able to arrange pickup is selected to pick up the item. We find this way of managing the gemach to be the most efficient for both sides.”

She also expressed appreciation for how responsive the community is to their requests for donations. “We actively attempt to procure items in response to requests, and there have been times that we request something and a donor will go to Target and buy it new for the recipient. This is one of the greatest ways your relatively small donation can have a direct impact on someone in need.”

There are five coordinators of the gemach, one for each area: baby equipment, clothing, formula, diapers and breastfeeding. This divides the workload, making it easier for volunteers to serve recipients’ needs.

Elaborating further, Fried said, “We will be operating in the same manner, but anticipate that we will be introduced more easily to the people who need us the most. We have found that the involvement of Project Ezrah’s social workers has been critical in coordinating donations where the recipient may have difficulty managing them. Project Ezrah provides a double layer of support that we would not be able to supply on our own, because as layman volunteers, we do not have the skills of serving some particularly needy populations.”

Rachel Krich, executive director of Project Ezrah Needs, Inc., summarized the process of initiating a relationship at Project Ezrah, “We start every intake with a conversation. We like to get to know everyone and understand their unique needs, and determine what information we require to do a proper assessment of the situation, and create a personalized plan. Applications are reviewed only by myself, our social worker and our staff financial analyst. We require a release from our clients to speak with anyone else about their situation. Once we review the documentation, we meet with the clients to review our suggested plan of action.”

Project Ezrah prides itself on discretion and commitment to confidentiality, and personal information about clients is not even shared with Project Ezrah’s own staff. If it’s necessary to speak with someone outside the inner circle about a case, a signed release determines the exact information they share, so that clients control precisely with whom and what is shared. The initial meeting therefore also serves to help initiate and create a bond of trust, especially regarding confidentiality, and also determines what level of support is needed.

To maximize the services provided, many of which are not necessarily direct financial support, Project Ezrah also helps determine eligibility for government benefits and helps with the application process. “We connect families with outside resources, and direct families to pro bono service providers,” said Krich. Generally financial support lasts from six to 18 months, and an update meeting every three months helps to evaluate how things are going. Between meetings, adjustments to the plan are made as needed, as well as the creation of a workable plan to determine when it’s appropriate to begin tapering support.

Fried noted, “A permanent home in a social welfare organization will benefit the Baby Gemach, because the symbiotic relationship will enable the gemach to continue to serve the community as a whole.”

Expressing appreciation for its former hosts, Congregation Ahavat Shalom and the Jewish Center of Teaneck, Fried said, “The ‘Project Ezrah Baby Gemach’ name better reflects their mission.”

While technically having served all of Bergen County just like Project Ezrah, the Baby Gemach will proudly carry forward and strengthen their legacy along with Project Ezrah’s legacy of being a pillar to the entire Bergen County community.

Krich echoed, “The Project Ezrah Board is excited at the prospect and we all felt that it just made sense.”

Because some families’ income exceeds the qualification for WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Fried added, “The gemach will continue to purchase diapers and formula for families in need.” They also refer to Baby Basics in Bergen County for diapers and formula, if they are below a certain income threshold.

As a general notification about infant and child equipment, there is a warning on the bottom of every Baby Gemach email advising recipients to examine the equipment before using and check the CPSC website for recalls.

Project Ezrah also wishes to invite volunteers during their annual Purim campaign, which is currently underway. Please reach out if you are interested in packing or delivering Purim Packets!

Contact information to donate, inquire about services or volunteer for Purim are available on their website: https://www.ezrah.org/ or specifically for the Baby Gemach by visiting https://www.ezrah.org/baby-gemach/.

By Ellie Wolf


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