Hanukkah Helpers

"Jewish Federation of Howard County focuses on community service projects during December to honor spirit of ‘mitzvah’"


By KATIE V. JONES

BALTIMORE SUN MEDIA | DEC 08, 2021 AT 7:02 AM


Nathaniel Wilderman, 4, of Ellicott City hands over the groceries he helped purchase as a volunteer with the Jewish Federation of Howard County on Sunday night to Connie Drey, administrative assistant with the federation. About 30 families volunteered Sunday during the Hanukkah Helpers event. (Jeffrey F. Bill/Baltimore Sun Media)

Nathaniel Wilderman, 4, of Ellicott City hands over the groceries he helped purchase as a volunteer with the Jewish Federation of Howard County on Sunday night to Connie Drey, administrative assistant with the federation. About 30 families volunteered Sunday during the Hanukkah Helpers event. (Jeffrey F. Bill/Baltimore Sun Media)


On the last night of Hanukkah 2021, volunteers with the Jewish Federation of Howard County organized a shopping spree at a local grocery store to purchase food and necessities to donate to neighbors in need.


Shopping with her son Nathaniel Wilderman, 4, on Sunday night, Rachael Wilderman of Ellicott City was able to get everything on their list, including canned fruits, hot cereal, diapers and peanut butter, while showing her son the importance of helping others.


Connie Drey, administrative assistant, Jewish Federation of Howard County, (left) receives groceries from shopper volunteers, Gayle Miller of Bet Aviv Sisterhood and her granddaughter, Lexee Miller, 10, both from Columbia. About 30 families gathered at a local grocery store to shop for donations to local nonprofits on the last night of Hanukkah. (Jeffrey F. Bill/Baltimore Sun Media)

Connie Drey, administrative assistant, Jewish Federation of Howard County, (left) receives groceries from shopper volunteers, Gayle Miller of Bet Aviv Sisterhood and her granddaughter, Lexee Miller, 10, both from Columbia. About 30 families gathered at a local grocery store to shop for donations to local nonprofits on the last night of Hanukkah. (Jeffrey F. Bill/Baltimore Sun Media)


The event, dubbed Hanukkah Helpers, showed her son “we can share.” “Even at a young age, it is something they can understand,” Wilderman added.


The “shopping scavenger hunt” was a great way to celebrate Hanukkah, according to participant Judy Silver Weisberg of Columbia, because it is a way “to give.” “The federation is really reaching out to the community and involving more people,” Weisberg said. “It was nice to focus on giving food. We distributed to a lot of different programs.”


More than 30 families participated in the Hanukkah Helpers event, according to Allison Weil, Programming and Communications associate for the Federation. Volunteers shopped and also helped to deliver the purchased items to nonprofit groups such as Howard County Food Bank, Community Action Council of Howard County and Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center.

Weil said she was pleased with the turnout on Sunday and hopeful for many volunteers with future events this month and beyond. “We collected an incredible amount of food,” she said.

Jewish Federation volunteers will continue their good deeds during Mitzvah Days Dec. 21-24.


“Mitzvah means ‘good deed,’” Weil said. “The goal is to do something good for other people.”

Typically, the federation has held one Mitzvah Day on Dec. 25, Weil said, with participants doing hands-on projects such as creating no-sew blankets or making cards for different groups. Last year, due to the pandemic, volunteers dropped off donated items. This year will be a hybrid of in-person and drop-off events over several days, Weil said.


“We are doing things early to make sure clients receive everything on time,” Weil said. “People are signing up to help. We are having a great turnout.” Six projects are planned for Mitzvah Days. Volunteers can cook casseroles to be delivered to Elizabeth House; donate items to Howard County General Hospital for the employee wellness carts; offer cleaning items for Columbia Community Care; create crafts and provide other items to clients of Meals on Wheels; fill holiday wish lists for Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center and Linwood School; or clean up a stretch of Grace Drive in Columbia.


Monteith Mitchell, volunteer coordinator for the Grassroots center said the Jewish Federation volunteers are “wonderful.” “We can’t do what we do without faith communities,” Mitchell said. The Federation approached the center last year with a desire to help children during the holidays, Mitchell said, and will continue that assistance this year by providing gift cards for the purchase of toys and other Christmas gifts. “I think it is extraordinary for them to do this for us,” Mitchell said.


The Federation doesn’t just help the Grassroots center during the holidays. Volunteers assist throughout the year, Mitchell said, including making meals for the program. “They’re very flexible and I really appreciate that,” Mitchell said. “It is a match made in heaven.”


Gayle Miller of Columbia said she took her granddaughter, Lexee Miller, 9, to the Hanukkah Helpers event on Sunday to show the importance of helping others. “At this time of year when there is supposed to be goodwill and support for whoever you are, people who are able to help people help,” Miller said. “It is very important to do this not only for your community, but for people in general.”



Katie V. Jones

Katie Jones covers Howard County government and news for Baltimore Sun Media. She is a graduate of The College of Wooster.

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