WESTFIELD, NJ — When Mandy Reichman passed away from cancer at the age of 22, her dying wish was to establish a program to feed people in need. In the 13 years since, the Mandy Reichman Feeding Program has become a mainstay in the lives of the hungry and homeless people in Union County and one of the most adored social action initiatives in the Temple Emanu-El of Westfield community. 

“It started from a tragedy, but has helped a lot of people who can’t afford food,” said Mandy’s mother, Meryl Reichman, who directs the program with Mandy’s father, Barry Reichman, and brother, Jeffrey Reichman.

Weekly, the program provides sandwiches, fruit and sweets to the StreetLight Mission in Elizabeth, and each year it provides everything needed for Thanksgiving meals, as well. Over the years, the program’s volunteers have made more than half a million sandwiches and collected and delivered more than 2,500 Thanksgiving turkeys, according to the directors.

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Volunteers meet each Tuesday afternoon to make sandwiches. Supplies are made possible by donors. Among others, Bagel Chateau in Westfield donates hundreds of bagels each month, the Swiss Pastry Shop in Scotch Plains donates sweet treats and Tribecca Ovens donates the bread used to make the sandwiches, Meryl Reichman said.

The JCC of Central New Jersey has joined in the program’s Thanksgiving efforts this year, encouraging members of its early childhood education program to donate non-perishable food and turkeys.

“Several of the Early Childhood parents indicated an interest in the program,” Robin Brous, associate executive director and director of early childhood services at the JCC, said. “The 13th year celebration and the energy of our families brought up the possibility of collaboration and partnership. Our school typically does a ‘Thanks for Giving’ holiday community service program. This is a wonderful way for us to give back in our own community and teach children about the mitzvah of helping others.”

This Sunday, Nov. 15, the program will hold a family-friendly fundraiser celebrating the bat mitzvah year of the program at Temple Emanu-El. For tickets and information on how to donate, call the temple’s office at 908-232-6770.  

People of all ages are welcome to help makes sandwiches every Tuesday at 5:10 p.m. in the temple’s kitchen at 756 East Broad Street. No RSVP is required. To stay up to date, click here to follow the Mandy Reichman Feeding Program on Facebook.