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December 15, 2008

SOVA -- How a (Wannabe) Jewish Mother Feeds the World

Handcircle_2 Yesterday, I stood in our school's Parent Center with the principal, among bags and boxes of toothbrushes, toiletries, cereals, canned Veg-All and pasta mixes, searching for another jar of peanut butter.  "I have four jellies, too!" our principal called out, somewhere behind the brown bags.  "Damn!  We need another PB and two more jellies," I mumbled.  Then, behind a bag of miscellaneous canned fruits and Jello packets, I found the last peanut butter and, within minutes, we had two more jellies.  We added them to the six somewhat equal piles of food and toiletries on the tables and began to fill bags, hoping that the families we will offer them to will take them. 

Otherwise, we will donate them along with the rest of the food to a local food pantry, SOVA.  For the past three years, I have led the canned food and toy drives at our public elementary school.  Though some of our families do just fine, others in our school and neighborhood have struggled with jobs, money, food and shelter.  With a few dedicated volunteers, I have been happy to collect and donate these items to those less fortunate than us.

"Less fortunate than us" has taken on an entirely new meaning this year, as I've watched many of my friends seriously struggle with making ends meet.  "Less fortunate" means harder times for the middle class than I've seen before.  "Less fortunate" means that, instead of just handing the food and toys over to SOVA as I've done in the past, I saw that some of our own families needed the food just as much as those who seek help from SOVA.  I am not Jewish, but I married into a Jewish family and have seen how they take such good care of each other and their community, particularly with wanting to be sure everyone is fed.  And that is probably why I've become a devoted SOVA and food drive volunteer.

With help from the front office staff and principal, I learned of a grandma who is struggling to raise three boys at our school, a single mom with addiction problems and two sons, a mother who dreams of raising her two daughters to have a life better than the one they have with their alcoholic father, a 1st grader whose teacher noticed that he wore the same shirt to school each day... So we put the bags together and we will offer them to these families, putting them in a quiet place on campus so that they can come by and grab them without fear of others knowing.  I just hope they will come for this food, and perhaps seek out SOVA for more help.

SOVA provides Sustenance, Opportunity, Volunteerism and Advocacy for our community, through Jewish Family Services (though they serve all faiths).  They are located at 16439 Vanowen Street, Van Nuys, CA 91406. (818) 988-7682.

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