Friday, February 20, 2015

Planting Seeds of Grassroots Support for Green Causes

By Edith Carpio
Last Thursday two women came into our Environmental Writing class to talk to us about something called a “Mitzvah Mall.” The Mitzvah Mall is hosted by the Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes. I had no idea what a Mitzvah Mall even was, and I didn’t know what to expect from their presentation. It turned out that the next Mitzvah Mall was going to be that Sunday, Feb. 8th and it was their 15th one. Clearly, they knew what they were talking about. I found everything about their presentation really intriguing, especially because they spoke about it with great passion.
They started their presentation answering my very first question, what is a Mitzvah? A Mitzvah is “a commandment to do moral deeds and pursue social justice through acts of human kindness.” The Mitzvah Mall is set up for people to donate to different kinds of charities.

I was surprised at the variety of the charities they support. They represent charities that honor the elderly, feed the hungry, preserve the earth, remembers the Holocaust, love Israel, support children’s health, redeem the captive, support animal’s rights, and bring light to women’s issues. Breaking the Chain Through Education is an example of a charity the Barnert Temple chose to fundraise for at the Mitzvah Mall. It is a charity which is dedicated to ending child slavery in Ghana, Africa. Other charities chosen include Lifeforce in Later Years, Meals with a Mission, and Bergen SWAN, which each support different things that I mentioned before.
The ladies, Sue Klein and  Felicia Halpert, went on to explain the process they go through when choosing what charity to fund raise for at their annual Mitzvah Mall. They made us pick one of three charities by doing the same process they do when choosing a charity.

The first of three charities we had to choose from was called Ample Harvest, a charity that gets excess crops to local food pantries instead of throwing the food out. The second charity was Veterans Farm, which is dedicated to helping veterans get back into society by preparing them for a career in agriculture. And the last charity was Bergen SWAN, a charity that protects the few open spaces in Bergen County, New Jersey that have not been taken to undergo developments. It also preserves watershed buffer forests in order to protect our drinking water reservoirs.

We had to work with a group to choose which charity to fund raise for based on things like impact, local presence, short-term and long-term goals of the charity, trustworthiness, financial health/transparency, etc. Keeping these things in mind, we chose Bergen SWAN, because it had a local presence, and it impacted us directly.

Although my group chose Bergen SWAN, I really liked the Ample Harvest charity because it helps hungry people who are often overlooked. So many people rely on the food being donated to their local food pantry but not many people actually donate to their local pantry. With Ample Harvest, there will be no shortage of food in food pantries. Food Pantries will not have to turn their backs on the hungry. So much food was being wasted and now it is going to a great cause.

I especially liked that Gary Oppenheimer, master gardener and creator of Ample Harvest, is trying to get gardeners in all 50 states to donate their excess crops to food pantries. This would lead to the decrease of people in our country dying because they cannot simply afford food.

This charity reminded me of a scene of a movie I saw recently. The movie was "A Good Lie," where a new employee, who was an orphan and a refugee of war from Sudan trying to start a life in America, was working at a local grocery store and was instructed to throw out a shopping cart full of vegetables and fruit which were still eatable but over its shelf life. The new employee realized how huge of a waste this was. And one time he saw a homeless person digging in the trash of the grocery store and didn’t rat her out because he knew that the food should not even be there in the first place.

From then on he left a bag of the "expired" food and fruit especially for the homeless women. This made me think that the idea of charity like Ample Harvest should expand to places like grocery stores. Also, other countries should have a charity like this set up as well.

I was unable to attend the Mitzvah Mall last Sunday, but the two ladies really reminded me of the importance of Mitzvah. Listening to them made me want to donate to a charity, and join one to spread awareness of so many necessary issues.

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