Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel's Intergenerational Volunteers Help Feed the Hungry Through The Interfaith Food Pantry of the Oranges

Top Quote South Orange Synagogue's Members and Students Donate Food, Time and Hands to Keep Shelves Stocked and Serve Clients. End Quote
  • Jersey City, NJ (1888PressRelease) November 16, 2013 - Janet Schwamm, a member of Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel (TSTI), has been volunteering at the Interfaith Food Pantry of the Oranges for the past 16 years. During that time, her personal passion for giving back evolved into a community outreach program for TSTI's Women's Connection group, and today it is a synagogue-wide social action initiative that spans age and gender. The entire TSTI community, from preschool and religious school students to older members, works to keep the pantry stocked and serving its clients monthly.

    The Interfaith Food Pantry (IFPO) is a volunteer-staffed collaborative effort by four houses of worship in South Orange and Short Hills: TSTI, Congregation Beth-El, Christ Church of Short Hills and Congregation B'nai Jeshurun. Housed and run out of the Church of the Epiphany, 105 Main Street in Orange, N.J., IFPO provides supplemental and emergency food to low-income residents of Orange and East Orange three or four Wednesdays a month.

    "Just three miles away from TSTI there is such a tremendous need. You don't have to go around the world to see hunger," said Schwamm, who lives in Short Hills and is the IFPO's volunteer coordinator. Each month she enlists 10 to15 synagogue members to cover the temple's assigned day. The volunteers pack and distribute groceries for upwards of 120 families each week that IFPO is open. Each household is entitled to two bags per visit.

    "TSTI's day is often the busiest since many clients run out of food stamps or the money to pay for groceries towards the end of the month," said Schwamm. The bagging and distribution takes place in just over two hours, from 8:45 to 11 a.m.

    Social Action for All Ages

    After accompanying Schwamm on a visit to the pantry, TSTI's associate rabbi, Ellie Miller, was inspired to involve the entire synagogue as a social action initiative. The temple's multi-generational volunteers are deeply committed: Retirees, adults and older teens pick up the bread donated by several local bakeries and sort and bag it at the food pantry; younger members help with bagging and distribution. Some parents bring their children late to school on the days they volunteer, and several students have stayed active with the pantry through college. The minimum age to volunteer at IFPO is four years old.

    TSTI's preschool and religious school students collect canned goods and other non-perishables for the pantry throughout the school year, and during school breaks many volunteer with their families and teachers. The synagogue encourages all members to bring donations to weekly services, including in-demand items such as peanut butter, jelly, tomato sauce, tuna and cereal, as well as canned fruits, vegetables, soups and pasta.

    In addition, teens from Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel are members of IFPO's Teen Board, which is comprised of students in grades 9-12 from religious organizations and high schools throughout the area. They fundraise, run food drives and help out at the pantry. "It's wonderful to see people of all faiths working together to improve the plight of people with food insecurity," said Schwamm.

    IFPO Manager Diane Stein said the pantry relies heavily on monetary and product donations to ensure there is enough for its increasing numbers of users. "We are seeing many more people come for assistance, including more military veterans and the elderly," she said, adding that current demand is double or triple what it had been in prior years.

    TSTI will have a U-Haul truck on its premises from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Sunday, November 24 to collect frozen turkeys, pantry staples and new or gently used winter outerwear for a pre-Thanksgiving delivery to the pantry. Area residents interested in donating these items are invited to bring them to the synagogue, located at 432 Scotland Road in South Orange, that morning.

    For information about donating to the IFPO visit www.orangesfoodpantry.org/donate. To learn more about Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel go to www.tsti.org.

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