01/18/2017

Watch Now: Winter Lunch Program

Tags: Volunteer, Federation

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Eating three meals a day is something many of us take for granted. Unfortunately, some of our Cleveland community is not so lucky. That’s especially hard for the children of those families during the two-week school break during winter. Thanks to the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, the Cleveland Food Bank and the Garden Valley Neighborhood House, a group of children receive more than just the basic necessities with the Winter Lunch Program.

“Our community primarily lives at 200% below poverty, so all of our children qualify for free hot lunch and hot breakfast,” said Jan Ridgeway, director of Garden Valley Neighborhood House. “During the two weeks of the holiday break, they don’t eat a healthy meal. We’re able to give them breakfast, lunch, as well as send food home with them for dinner.”

For the past three years, the Federation has assisted in organizing food and activities for nearly 700 children throughout the two weeks. “It’s very rewarding knowing we’re providing them with something they don’t get on a day-to-day basis,” said Marci Moses, co-chair of the program. “They have a nice environment to go to with food, entertainment, books and crafts.”

The partnership between the Federation and the Garden Valley Neighborhood House is also about emotional engagement. “While the financial support is important, more so than that is the individual volunteer efforts the Federation gives,” said Ridgeway. “Just sitting down and talking to the kids about their day, playing games with them; they get to know who these kids are, and the kids get to know who the volunteers are.”

There are more than 60 volunteers who give of their time for the Winter Lunch Program. “It brings so much joy to know we’re doing this,” said co-chair Liz Rumizen. “We’re bonding with these kids; whether it’s a hug, high five or just seeing them smile, it makes it all worthwhile.”

“The children are so happy and so accepting and embracing of the different experiences that the Jewish Federation has brought,” Ridgeway said. “There are people here who are willing to share of themselves and change our neighborhoods in some ways by participating in it.”

“It’s all because of the Federation that Liz and I have been able to do this program,” said Moses. “It’s their ability to let us know some of the great needs in the Cleveland community - not just with the Jewish population, but for everyone.”

To find out about the Winter Lunch Program or other volunteer opportunities, contact Susan Hyman at 216-593-2887 or shyman@jcfcleve.org.

Read the cleveland.com article now.

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