TORONTO — As the only staff member of United Chesed of Toronto (UCT), executive administrator Ruth Rebeck fears that she’s not doing enough for those in need.
She needs help to keep up with the demand.
The not-for-profit charity, founded in 2001 by Toronto dentist Brian Price, assists members of the Jewish community who are experiencing financial hardship or living in poverty, but don’t meet the requirements of other social service agencies.
“They might own a heavily mortgaged home, work at a low salary, or not be landed immigrants. There are lots of reasons,” Rebeck said.
In 2007, she said, she circulated about $500,000 worth of food coupons, furniture, medical items such as wheelchairs, and appliances, with financial support of about $35,000.
But with UCT’s only funding coming from one private donor, some “dribs and drabs” from other donors, and with help from Mazon Canada, “we are living close to the wire,” Rebeck said.
The only way UCT can hope to keep up with the growing need, she said, is if it gets enough financial support to open a formal office and hire two support staff members.
“Then we would be able to give more time and energy to each person in need.”
In a typical day, she said, she receives at least 10 to 15 calls, and one call can result in her making a minimum of three other calls to deal with the issue.
“And that doesn’t count the e-mails that pour in from people asking for help or offering donations.”
By the time people approach UCT, Rebeck said, they are desperate. “They’ve tried all other options and they want to talk. Each call takes a long time.”
One such call came from a father with a handicapped son whose van had broken down. “E-mails were sent out to see if someone had an old van to donate. This situation has been going on for about six weeks and several negotiations have broken down for various reasons. We are trying to help this man who is desperate because he has no vehicle. So far, this has created about 20 phone calls and hundreds of e-mails to the network.”
Another call came in about a family of five who are dealing with the loss of their home and business. “We managed to get them monthly food coupons with the help of an organization on our network, we sent out resumes for the parents, and we organized free family therapy. We had to help them keep their bodies and souls together,” Rebeck said.
“I could work around the clock. I’m helping people find jobs, I’m advertising jobs, I’m dealing with furniture donations, and I’m helping them find doctors and obtaining medications. The list goes on.”
With the help of an assistant and a clerk, she could get a lot more done, she said. “We need to expand in order to cope with the ever-increasing needs of those living below the poverty line.”
For more information, call Rebeck at 905-707-0233 or visit the website at www.unitedchesed.com.