TORONTO — When Zev, 46, had no money to feed his five children, United Chesed stepped in to help.
Now he’s working for the organization, a not-for-profit charity that 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.
“My business had failed, and I lost my home. We had to live with relatives for two weeks until we found a house, and my bank account was zero. I couldn’t put food on the table.”
He wasn’t able to get any emergency help until he was referred to United Chesed, who gave him food coupons and a commitment to help out with $800 a month to help pay the bills.
“Once the pressure was off, I had the mindset to move forward. My life turned around,” said Zev, who preferred not to give his last name.
During his first day at work, he delivered $245 worth of groceries to a mother with four young daughters. “The little girls hadn’t eaten yet that day. We should never have to see these things.”
Brian Price, a Thornhill dentist who founded United Chesed seven years ago, said these two cases aren’t unusual. “When we say people need money, they really need money. They need food and clothing for their children, and they need beds.”
When he placed a recent ad in The CJN saying the organization urgently required help, “I was practically crying. We said that our ‘Jewish brothers, sisters, children, parents and grandparents are bleeding’, and we meant every word.”
In these tough times, he said, the organization is being forced to grow bigger, “and we don’t want to grow. We need $40,000 to $50,000 a month to survive, and we’re not coming close to that. We have very little overhead, and the money we receive goes right back to the people, but we’re able to help only a fraction of those living under the poverty line.”
Ruth Rebuck, United Chesed’s executive administrator, said that every charity is having a difficult time raising money.
“Poverty is not sexy. It is a reality, and people can’t cope with it. They look away. Poverty is shameful and people don’t want to face it,” she said.
“We’re talking about people’s lives, though. When they’re hungry, we have to help. I can’t rest if someone is desperate.”
Price said United Chesed helps in a number of ways. “When we heard about a pregnant woman who had no health insurance, we found an obstetrician and anesthetist willing to work for free. There are people out there who want to help.”
Last Pesach, a company distributed a roast and 10 pounds of ground beef to 10 families. “These people had no words to say thank you,” he said.
Rebuck said that although United Chesed doesn’t set out to find people jobs, she will send out resumes to contacts, and she has been successful matching employers and employees.
“We have hundreds of people who are out of work. It can happen to anyone. No one is safe.”
Price said that “there is only so much we can afford to do. We need the basic necessities to help people survive.”
He would like to help hundreds of more people, he said.
“I’d like to see a resource centre for jobs and housing, and I’d like to get our name out there. Too often, people don’t call until they’re desperate. They’ve fallen through the cracks.”
Call United Chesed at 905-707-0233.