TORONTO — For 30 years, National Council of Jewish Women of Canada, Toronto section’s Passover Food Drive has made the holiday easier for Jews in need.
That need has increased since 1983, when the drive started with the delivery of 25 boxes of food, and now volunteers pack and deliver more than 2,500 boxes across the GTA.
Recipients include people living in poverty, recent immigrants in need and people with disabilities. They’re referred from agencies, synagogues, schools, service groups and chaplaincy services.
Each box contains such items as matzah, gefilte fish, tuna, canned fruit, matzah ball mix with soup, Passover wine, a Haggadah, candles and sweets, and they’re packed by volunteers from schools, groups and organizations.
Janice Landy, a member of the food drive committee, which is chaired by Karen Fenwick and Bonnie Dale, said there are 40 volunteer groups this year.
“Before they begin packing, the groups are given a 10-minute talk on poverty. We also tell them that the boxes are a gift to the recipients and ask them to include a signed card in the box.”
Landy said the drive desperately needs money.
“We usually put away a little money from the previous year’s drive to help start up the current year, but the drive had financial problems last year, so we weren’t able to put aside much money.”
The committee has made cutbacks and has saved money in a number of areas, Fenwick said, but neither the client list nor the contents of the boxes has been affected.
Drive organizers have set up bins in supermarkets and other places across the city for people to donate non-perishable food items marked “Kosher for Passover 2013,” she said, but “we really need money. We are able to buy food wholesale and can buy twice as much food. The money can go a long way.”
The committee is also in need of volunteers to deliver the boxes on March 17, Dale said. “We need drivers who have a car and a helper. Delivery day comes out on March Break this year, so we’re a little concerned about getting enough volunteers.”
She said that people who have delivered boxes have come back and told her what an eye-opener it was.
“They had never realized that there was so much poverty in the Jewish community. There are people who are unemployed and underemployed, and there are a disproportionate number of elderly women and those who are disabled or have a mental illness.”
Landy said she has never forgotten one nine-year-old boy who volunteered to pack the boxes. “He said that when his family arrived in Canada, they received a box, and they were very grateful. Now, he gets to pack the boxes, which go to others in need.”
Volunteers can show up on delivery day at 4700 Bathurst St. between 8:30 and 11:30 a.m.
“It is important to donate money, but volunteering time is also important. People need to be hands-on, and see what is happening out there,” Landy said.
Visit the Passover Food drive on Facebook, and to make a donation visit www.ncjwc-ts.org or call 416-633-5100.