Olam Chesed distributes goods to needy families through a network of volunteers and partner charities, empowering them to lead healthy and productive lives. On Wednesday, March 18, Olam Chesed delivered over 50 packages to New Rochelle families under COVID-19 quarantine. A week later, Olam Chesed offered the same services to over 100 SAR families in Riverdale.
Rabbi Mordechai Roizman, who founded this organization after volunteering following Hurricane Sandy, explained, “I contacted Rabbi Fink, who I know through Young Israel. Rabbi Fink is a superstar! He put me in touch with Ellie Goldenberg. We partnered in getting products to the families who were in quarantine and those who did not have access to needed products.”
Through SAR, they supported the Riverdale community. Roizman added, “I really see this as a way for Jews to get together. I think the impact for SAR is a beautiful part of achdus. That is who we are as people, that is our strength, and when we do what we do, it is a kiddush Hashem. Our hope is that one of the positive things which will come from this is it will create more achdus.”
Olam Chesed receives large volumes of donated products in tractor trailers from Amazon, Walmart, CVS and others, which they distribute to families who are in need, including people who are ill and needy youth. “We are in full COVID-19 mode now. We are focusing on immediate and basic needs. Just a few weeks ago we gave out 13,000 Purim costumes; now we are giving out hazmat suits. Last summer, we gave out 1,200 bikes and now we are giving out 12,095 masks. We gave out recliners and now we are giving out disinfecting wipes.” Roizman noted that the trucks are still coming in with supplies, but, unfortunately, not at the same pace as before. “We are in this for the long run. This is something that will be with us at least ’til the end of the year.”
Due to the economic impact, people losing their jobs or being furloughed, Olam Chesed’s biggest challenge is funding, just to keep the trucks rolling and the operation moving. Their second biggest challenge is getting the right products. “We already had some trucks earmarked for us, delivering paper goods, which didn’t arrive.”
Roizman explained, “Many people don’t know the world of product donation/leverage giving. Last year, we gave out over $3 million in goods. This year, we will be giving out over $10 million in goods. It is a way of doing a lot with little resources, because the products themselves are donated. We only need to pay for the trucking and staffing to get the goods from point A to point B.” Roizman continued, “Usually, with an organization with a $600,000 budget, you are lucky if a small percentage of that makes it to the recipients. Here, the formula is the opposite. Our budget of $600,000 leverages $10 million worth of goods. It is really a unique way of doing chesed.”
“At this point, I think even the Red Cross is behind the eight ball,” stated Roizman. “Usually, they distribute out of a community center. Now this is a different formula, because we need to have social distancing. What we did in New Rochelle is that we dropped off at people’s houses. In Monsey, we have a drive through where people did not have to leave their car. We put the boxes in their trunks and they drove off. We are learning as we go along. It has been quite something.”
Roizman concluded. “We know we are making a tremendous impact. At a time when everybody is afraid and shutting down, we are there, even for a person who would not be in a position of receiving anything at a different time. Just getting a package shows that someone cares. There is camaraderie out there. It makes a huge impact and we need to be there.”
Ellie Goldenberg, YINR’s current Women’s League President, described the reaction of YINR recipients. “It was so positive; everybody was happy to receive a package. There was so much overwhelming positive support that so many members asked how they can give back and donate to Olam Chesed.”
Working with UJA, Olam Chesed will be distributing over 1,000 meals for Passover to Westchester residents. They are based in Spring Valley and operate a warehouse in Haverstraw. To learn more about Olam Chesed, please visit their website at www.worldofgiving.org.
By Judy Berger