Great Neck volunteer organization assists families in difficult times
Fountain of Kindness is a remarkable initiative, fostered in the Great Neck Jewish community with the goal of spreading kindheartedness and encouraging others to follow suit. The diverse group of over 500 active volunteers and supporters provide gift baskets for hospitalized children and their siblings, supplies meals to hospitalized patients and their families, and fulfills the wishes of sick children. Through word of mouth, Fountain of Kindness has assisted families during difficult times.
Charlene Aminoff, motivational speaker and founder of Gali’s Couture Wigs, explained the underlying mission of Fountain of Kindness. “Kindness is something that needs to be spread far and wide.” The organization takes pride in uniting genuine individuals from across many Jewish communities. One volunteer observed, “Helpers selflessly dedicate time to bring a smile to somebody else’s face.”
Melody Aziz, founder, president, and CEO of Fountain of Kindness, was inspired to launch the program to honor her two children. “Fountain of Kindness is my way of teaching my children about giving back to the community, spreading kindness, and encouraging others to do so, too,” said Aziz. In conversation with the Queens Jewish Link, Melody explained, “The organization started around two and half years ago, after assisting a 21-year-old girl who was struggling with brain cancer. The woman had all but given up, and she told doctors to cancel her treatments; I was there to give her hope,” detailed Melody, a cancer survivor herself. On her visit to the hospital, a stay expected to last just an hour, Melody’s friends suggested she bring along gifts to cheer up the young woman. Melody chose a few headscarves, some jewelry, and an iPad, and spent the better part of the day beside the frail girl. “Eventually, the young woman opted to continue treatments, and I organized volunteers of all ages to visit, bring meals, and cheer up this wonderful patient with a variety of gifts, all in a remarkable show of support,” noted Melody. As the young woman entered remission, the crew of volunteers continued to seek opportunities to spread joy and began the Fountain of Kindness. “So many people want to do good, but do not have the available outlet,” explained Melody.
Elisheva Gazal, a volunteer, explained, “Fountain of Kindness is not a food bank, gemach, or bikur cholim resource; it is all of these things coupled in one.”
Fountain of Kindness is the destination where individuals, including housewives, young, single girls and boys, and many others are looking to channel their kindness. The program offers volunteer opportunities without the hassle of commitments, a strict schedule, or intake forms. Opportunities are both big and small, ranging from delivering a gift basket to a child in the hospital or delivering food to a disadvantaged family for Shabbos meals, to preparing meals for a shiv’ah home. During the pandemic, Fountain of Kindness emerged as a strong resource for struggling families and first responders. Many families finding it hard to make ends meet were assisted with food packages, and hundreds of meals were distributed to various hospitals throughout the New York area.
Volunteer Donna Hedvat commented, “Fountain of Kindness is a perfect name for such an incredible organization centered on chesed and giving a helping hand to others.”
In a fresh take on fundraising, due to the gathering restrictions of COVID-19, a family in Jamaica Estates that was a recipient of the organization’s kindness opted to collect gently-used adult and children’s sneakers in lieu of a cash campaign. Three dollars is donated for each pair of sneakers collected, with all funds from the drive going towards helping those dealing with unforeseen hardships. “The Queens fundraiser has seen much interest and will continue throughout the year,” expressed the drive’s local host, Tanya Nissani. “Community members have been excited to drop off their sneakers and recycle them for a good cause.” The company that reuses the sneakers – keeping them out of landfills – provides the Nassanis with prepaid shipping bags and deposits the funds directly to Fountain of Kindness. “It is a win-win situation, if you ask me,” noted Tanya.
Tanya spoke with the Queens Jewish Link, offering a deeper context to her family’s involvement with Fountain of Kindness. “The organization was extremely supportive of our family as we dealt with the reality of our son’s brain surgery at the start of the year.” The volunteers at Fountain of Kindness made it their business to conduct check-ins and send gifts for the entire family to enjoy. “I started the sneaker program as a show of gratitude for all the kindness the group showered upon our family. It costs us nothing and accrues funding for a special cause.” Tanya runs a busy home; her children Rina, 19, David, 17, and Yitzy, 15, all help in the campaign efforts, but Yehuda, 13, and Zahava, 10, deserve much of the credit for starting the campaign, as they have been tasked with much of the collecting. Yehuda remarked to his mother, “I can’t believe the response from my friends; everyone is eager to help and have begun donating their sneakers!” Tanya continued, “Yehuda felt proud that he could make a difference.” Tanya, alongside her dedicated husband, Ronen, are delighted to instill the trait of chesed in their children from a young age. Their younger children, Liora, 5, and Yosef, 2, support their older siblings, remembering the generosity that Fountain of Kindness showed for the family’s youngest, Avraham Shalom, one and a half years old, who underwent the February operation. “Fountain of Kindness volunteers are amazing on many levels, helping struggling Jewish families across New York in a very dignified manner, spanning far beyond their hometown of Great Neck,” concluded Tanya.
By Shabsie Saphirstein