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Chabad Fox Chapel food drive collecting items to feed hungry

| Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 4:36 p.m.
Jan Pakler | for The Herald
Rabbi Ely Rosenfeld with Chabad center of Fox Chapel shows boxes filled with essentials for those in need.

No matter how much money Rabbi Ely Rosenfeld raises to help the needy, he said the smiles he delivers are more valuable.

Rosenfeld, leader of Chabad Fox Chapel, has started a food relief drive to dovetail with his annual holiday fundraiser to help ensure no one in the Lower Valley goes hungry, particularly this time of year.

“There are so many people in our community that have less than us and we are blessed to be able to be in the position of giving,” said Rosenfeld, whose Chabad center opened in O'Hara 12 years ago. “The sense of satisfaction that a family gets from seeing a smile from the receiver is priceless.”

A partnership with the Jewish Relief Agency, a Philadelphia-based food bank, took effect this summer.

The effort provides families in need with a 12-by-12-inch box of food once a month, funded by donors to the Chabad center along Old Freeport Road.

With his holiday fundraiser bringing in more than $10,000 a year, Rosenfeld said he realized how strongly residents felt about helping their neighbors.

“There are people who wanted to contribute more than writing a check,” he said.

Deliveries have tripled, from 25 to 75, in just three months, and more requests have been put on hold until Rosenfeld can recruit more help.

“We have requests from 180 families,” he said.

Volunteers meet once a month to package and deliver food. The work takes about 90 minutes.

Jeff Lemberg of Indiana Township signed up after working with a similar program during a trip to Israel.

“There was a Chabad center there that we helped to pack up candy for families who had loved ones killed in terrorist acts,” Lemberg said. “I felt good about getting involved in helping a community.”

Lemberg has become a designated driver for the food relief program, making deliveries across Pittsburgh's East End. He said the program has reached more than its target crowd of the less fortunate.

“It's been helping not only people who need it because of finances, but people who have problems getting out of the house,” he said.

Nikki O'Gorman, Chabad spokeswoman, said volunteers enjoy the hands-on task and can make new friends while helping the community.

“With holidays coming up, people look forward to a table filled with delicious honey cakes, Challah and sweet potato soup,” O'Gorman said. “But what if your holiday table wasn't full of food to enjoy, let alone full of the celebratory spirit?”

She said the program is unique not because of its mission, but the process.

“There's a new approach where all a person has to do is call and ask, and they'll be put on the list,” she said. “There's no questions asked, no hoops to jump through.”

O'Gorman said there is a certain level of anonymity for recipients, because volunteers are matched with deliveries in different areas.

“We are thrilled that the Pittsburgh JRA is already making a difference in the lives of families struggling with food insecurity in their community,” said Amy Krulik, executive director of the JRA Philadelphia branch.

“For too many families, the food delivered each month by the Pittsburgh JRA means the difference between having enough to eat and going without. The community is truly benefiting from the support of the dozens of volunteers who pack and deliver each month.”

For information on how to volunteer for or receive help from the food relief program, call 412-212-6644.

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at tpanizzi@tribweb.com.

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