We all felt helpless. Every one of us. Seeing the devastation in Ukraine, and wondering how we would manage if it was us, fleeing with our own precious children? And – where will they go?
Then they start arriving in Israel. The government is putting them up in hotels. Awesome- But what next?
One person. Kelly. She has an idea. We need to help them get supplies. She calls four friends to help her set her idea in motion. And Jerusalem Volunteers is born. She contacts Chabad, and gets a small empty store to get supplies for the refugees that are being housed in Jerusalem hotels. Soon there are 240 volunteers on the WhatsApp group.! We are raising money to buy basic necessities. Soap. Shampoo. Toothbrushes. Deodorant. Clothing is donated. The shop runs from 10-4.
And the refugees come. In droves. One tells another. And another.
Yes, we vet them. They show us their Israeli teudat zehut before they enter our store. They are Olim chadashim! Just like most of us were, not so long ago!
We give them bags, and they “shop”. We make signs in Russian so they can identify the various items. Dimitri- one of the first refugees- knows English, so he has started coming to the store 2/3 times a week as a translator! Paying it forward…..
The store is now too small. Way too crowded for the 4 volunteers at each shift, and the shoppers. BH, Chabad helps us get a bigger store in Cinema City! Just amazing!
Then Melissa has an idea. Costs of supplies are so much cheaper in the US. Let’s involve our American counterparts, and ask them to bring suitcases of supplies for the refugees. Thus, Operation Suitcase is born. Kelly gets 40 boxes of underwear and socks donated for our cause. Forty boxes? Amazing!
One problem. They r in a warehouse in Dayton NJ. There’s a Dayton in NJ? Texts flurry back and forth. How will we get those boxes? Hashgacha. Kelly finds a volunteer who picks up 26 boxes and will drive to NJ! Awesome. But where will we store them? I call up my amazing friend Mimi. You need to store boxes? Sure, no problem! Great. We advertise everywhere, and people step up. Yes, they will take an extra suitcase filled from those boxes.
It’s done . We did it!
Still so much more to do. After Yom Tov we will continue.
One person. One idea. It’s been a privilege working with these young women- young mothers with families who need to get their kids to school, and take care of them. I, on the other hand, am retired. Priceless.