Ever wonder how our Mitzvah Day “Comfort Bags” impact the lives of the kids who receive them. The 325 “Comfort Bags” we create are handed to children as they are removed from their homes to protect them from abuse or neglect. They enter the foster care system with little to nothing, except the “Comfort Bag” we fill with clothes, books, journals, toiletries, toys, a hand-decorated pillowcase, and a personalized greeting card.
Recently, at a Campfire Shabbat service, we heard from a young mother named “America,” who spoke about her journey into foster care, and what receiving a “Comfort Bag” would have meant to her. America was so touched by her experience of sharing her story with our congregation, that she sent this letter to the congregation:
A Letter from America
First of all I want to thank every single one of you for sharing with me that beautiful night full of joy. I also want to tell you a little bit more about myself, and a little about what I had in my heart to say but couldn’t because I was so nervous.
Congregation Or Ami’s Campfire service was my first time speaking before a group. For a few minutes I was only able to hear my heart beating in my chest, but I knew in my heart that I was in front of a group of great people. People who are willing to help innocent, helpless kids who are going through what could be the worst experience in their lives.
The kids don’t see it as the system is helping them. They see it as the system is taking them away from their families, and as everybody would agree FAMILY is by far the most important and real thing a human being can have. Family is what helps us survive in this world. If you lose that, you are left with nothing to live for. We feel unprotected, defenseless, and, to some degree, naked. That is why I believe in my heart that what you are doing for these kids is huge.
As for me, like I mentioned at the campfire service, the foster care system was the best thing that could have ever happened to me at that moment in my life. By then, I had already lost my family, meaning my mom. The aunt I was living with would abuse me all the time. So when I was taken to my new (foster) home, it was just perfect. I know that not all the kids end up in a good (foster) home but I was lucky enough to have taken to a beautiful family – a mom and her son. It was perfect for me.
After that, all the things that kept coming to my life were just blessing. Amazing people – just like you – that I encountered, changed my life forever. I was also blessed with Jessica Ambroz, who was my social worker at that time, and who is now my best friend, my mentor, my savior at times, and who I love deeply. It is because of people like you and her that my life changed to something good. To something closer to being a normal kid. It built my character; it healed my heart. Therefore, I want you to know that it is making a big difference in the lives of these kids because you are proving to them, letting them know, that out in the world there is someone who DOES care for their well being, who is not taking away something, but is providing for them. And if its something so personalized like the Mitzvah Day Comfort Bags, it’s even more powerful and more meaningful. It’s a positive seed of love and kindness that you are planting in their souls.
For sure it’s going to take their innocent minds off of that bitter moment they went through when they were taken away. And if it doesn’t at that moment, one day in their lives they’ll recognize and realize what a great gesture it was and maybe, just maybe, they will also want to support a good cause just like you are doing now.
I was a victim once but because of people like you, my life changed. Now, because of that, every time that I have the opportunity, I help others. I hope one day to be able to provide a loving family to one of those kids that need it. As for now, I’m looking for the opportunity to move forward everyday to provide for the beautiful family of my own. But I know that one day, God will provide for me and my family to help a few kids in this life.
Thank you again. Don’t forget that you are changing a life!
Come Volunteer at Mitzvah Day
On Sunday, November 4th, we gather at Congregation Or Ami to fill Comfort Bags for young people. We remind ourselves of the Jewish imperative to “care for the stranger, the orphan and the poor.” We remember that each child, created b’tzelem Elohim – in the image of God, is valued and worthy. We move from the desire to help, to the act of helping. Join us on November 4th from 11:00 am-1:00 pm.
View pictures from previous Mitzvah Days.