Jewish, Catholic teens team up on food-for-needy project.
Westchester teenagers have plenty of things to do on any given Sunday.
For about 50 Jewish and Catholic teens, sorting through bags and boxes of donated grocery items at the UJA-Federation of New York-Westchester building on Feb. 9 was the only place they wanted to be.
They had clearly taken to heart the motivational quote from Anne Frank that was on display in the space where they shared kosher pizza together: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
The Jewish teens joined their counterparts from St. Peter’s Church in Yonkers, as well as a group from the Church of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Port Chester Catholic, in preparing the food donations for ultimate delivery to a food pantry at the Bronx Jewish Community Council, a UJA beneficiary agency, as well as other food pantries in Westchester run by Catholic Charities.
“What’s important are the values that bring us together,” said Marlee Baumberg of Scarsdale, a junior at the Master’s School in Dobbs Ferry who was the teen chair for UJA on this program. “I definitely see kids I would never have known, and I’m so happy I got to meet them.”
Relieving hunger is part of Feeding Our Neighbors, an initiative that represents a joint effort by UJA Federation of New York and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York. The donations for this particular drive came from Catholic Charities, which had gathered non-perishable food from local churches, Catholic schools and Catholic agencies, as well as Westchester Day School, the Rosenthal JCC of Northern Westchester, the Challah Fairy, Greenburgh Hebrew Venter, Krasdale Foods, Sinai Free Synagogue, and the JCC of Harrison, among others
“This is our second year partnered with Catholic Charities,” said Donna Divon, manager of community and volunteer services of UJA Federation of New York-Westchester (for the past nine years the organization has been involved with similar anti-hunger programs). “We can reach larger amount of people who need food. It’s a serious problem here in Westchester. January and February are difficult. There is so much need in the pantries, where the shelves literally go bare.” The combination of bad weather that keeps many people from getting to their jobs, and higher heating costs means that there is even more pressure on the pantries to supply food to those who need it.
“As Catholics, we are called to service,” said Luz Tavarez-Salazar, the special assistant to the executive director of Catholic Charities and coordinator of the “Feeding our Neighbors” initiative for Catholic Charities. “Hunger is just something we can all get behind.”
The food pantry sorting was the second part of an anti-hunger initiative that had brought these teenagers together earlier this winter. During a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, service event, the teens had provided meals to 300 needy patrons at the Don Bosco Community Center in Port Chester.
The combination of socializing and doing their part for a good cause appealed to the teens.
William Gregson, a freshman at Horace Greeley high school in Chappaqua, said, “I think it’s a good thing. I know people are in need.” He enjoyed working with some of the teens he had met at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day event, some of whom are now Facebook friends.
Brianna Noriega, a junior at Good Counsel Academy in White Plains, and a co-leader of the St. Peter’s youth group, said, “I felt really inspired with serving, and seeing our religions are coming and helping together.”
As UJA’s Divon said, “Hunger doesn’t know race or class. Our cooperation [with Catholic Charities] reflects our mutual values.”
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