SOMERSET, NJ - When students at nearly 20 Ethiopian schools throughout Israel sharpen their educational skills this year, they will be using the school supplies assembled by older adults participating in the Philanthropy Club at the Stein Assisted Living in Somerset, NJ. The Assisted Living is part of the Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living.

The project, Backpacks to Israel, was organized by the Association of Jewish Aging Services (AJAS), a national organization of Jewish aging organizations based in Washington, D.C.

Half of the school supplies, which included pencil sharpeners, notebooks pencils and other materials, were donated by Village Office Supply in Somerset, while the other half were purchased through monies raised by residents and donations from Wilf Campus Agencies. The AJAS organization donated the backpacks.

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Beit Avraham Community, the Sephardic Home for the Aged located in Haifa, Israel will be distributing these backpacks to Ethiopian Schools all over Israel.

 “It is rewarding for the residents to participate in such a project because they can give back to those less fortunate through their donations,” added Kott. “They say, ‘This is so nice! What a wonderful idea!”

By raising money through special fundraisers like “Jeans Friday” during which staff members paid to wear denim instead of dressing up for work, the residents raised funds to help pay for these supplies. They also donated their bingo quarters when they win while playing at the Assisted Living.

In addition to Stein Assisted Living, other branches of the Wilf Campus donated funds, including The Wilentz Senior Residence, Stein Hospice, and Wilf Foundation.

Kott reported that AJAS was hoping to send 300 backpacks to the Ethiopian schools from groups throughout the United States like Stein’s Philanthropy Club. The club assembled 25 backpacks for the following schools: Ein Hayam, Shalva, Ramot, Nirim, Leo Beack, Reali, Hofit, Dror, Carme, Izraelia, Tel Hai, Rambam, Gavrieli, Meginim, Gordon, Arlozerov, Aharon Haroeh and Degania all in Israel.   Residents going on the Wilf Campus fulfilling the promise trip to Israel this fall hope to visit one of the schools and meet a few of the students.

The Philanthropy Club’s generosity has extended to other projects, said Kott, including donations to the Alzheimer’s Association. The group also assembled and purchased items for Elijah’s Promise in New Brunswick. 

“The residents are always eager to help out when we are doing a philanthropy project,” said Kott. “We discuss these types of programs in our Resident Council meeting once a month to vote on or suggest future programs.”

Stein resident Sylvia Shuzman, who has been a member of the Philanthropy Club for about one year, said that she just imagines what the donations mean to the recipients when she is placing the scissors into each backpack.

“I want them to feel that someone actually cares about them,” said Sylvia. “There is so little that I can do in my older age, and yet this is something that I can do.”

Nettie Fine, a member of the club for about three months who added crayons to the backpacks, said, “Thank G-d my families are all good, and I feel bad for those who aren’t. Everyone should try to help others. It’s a gratifying feeling.”

Lillian Worst echoed her fellow residents’ sentiments as she placed pencil cases into the backpacks: “It makes me feel good to help.”

Anne Brown, a club member for one year, said, “It is special to be able to contribute to children along with equipping them to have a successful education.”

As she stuffed envelopes and placed them in the backpacks, Lillian Bank, reflected, “No one else is helping them (the students), so why not us? I am a Jewish mother and I want to help children.”

Miriam (Mimi) Kunkes, a club member for about two years, helped place markers and crayons in the backpacks added, “It’s good to know I am helping somebody because they can’t do it on their own.”

Robert Harkavy, who added the glue to the backpacks, concluded, “I like that I can help people and make a difference.”

The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living is comprised of Stein Assisted Living, Jaffa Gate Memory Care Neighborhood, Stein Hospice, Wilentz Senior Residence, Wilf Transport, Wilf At Home, and The Foundation at the Wilf Campus. For more information, contact us at (732) 568-1155, info@wilfcampus.org or visit us at www.wilfcampus.org.