Thanks to a very determined and dedicated 13 year-old girl, what had started with Jewish Family Service recognizing a need in the community is ending with the opportunity for the social service agency to do even more.
Eliana Goldner spent countless hours decorating hand-made cards in hopes of raising funds for Jewish Family Service, an agency she learned of after a terrible tragedy at an overnight camp she was attending this past summer.
Eliana and her 10 cabin-mates were asleep at Camp Livingston during a severe thunderstorm when a healthy tree was struck by lightning, landing on their cabin and taking the life of a fellow camper and new-found friend.
Through the challenging next few weeks, Eliana found comfort in the support that she received from Jewish Family Service, a social service agency that takes pride in “always being there” for the community.
Jewish Family Service immediately mobilized an emotional response team of 16 staff, and continued through the end of the first camp session to send teams of its experienced professionals who regularly help JFS clients manage grief and life crises. To help the campers’ parents, the agency also coordinated resources about trauma and how to talk to their kids about what happened.
“After the accident Jewish Family Service came to help. They brought stuffed animals and notepads so that we could write down our feelings, which really helped. They sat with our cabin, ate with us, drew with us, and talked to us. JFS made it easier for us to deal with what happened and they made us all comfortable enough to finish out the rest of the camp session,” said Eliana.
Months after the accident Eliana found the perfect opportunity to give back to the agency that helped bring her comfort in her time of need. For her Bat Mitzvah project she decided to raise funds for Jewish Family Service (JFS) so that they could “help more people like her.”
“Ellie made it a point to tell us how much she appreciated Jewish Family Service’s help and ability to bring back some normalcy after such a tragic event,” says Louis Goldner, Eliana’s father.
Rather than ask for donations, Eliana wanted to put effort in to something bigger. She handmade cards with her own personal designs and then emailed family and friends asking if they would like to buy a set for $5. The response she received was overwhelming.
“Everyone knew what happened at Camp Livingston, but when Ellie told the story and how JFS helped, they were so happy to support her and her JFS project,” said Louis.
Eliana received so many orders that she spent most of her nights leading up to her Bat Mitzvah creating nearly 500 cards. People were so compelled to give that they also included donations in their gifts.
On December 22, 2016, Eliana presented Jewish Family Service with a $1,000 donation.
“I was deeply touched by Eliana’s story,” said Beth Schwartz, CEO Jewish Family Service. “It is a sacred and honored privilege to have been there to help these girls and all the campers. I also want to highlight the strength of Camp Livingston who welcomed us with open arms so we could support them and ensure that the campers had a positive summer experience for the rest of their session.”
Said Eliana’s father, “What happened at Camp Livingston was a terrible, terrible tragedy. But to see how everyone came together was amazing to witness. This tragedy could have ended a different way for these children, but they ended up feeling closer after it happened.”
Eliana’s Bat Mitzvah is proof of the close friendship that these girls now share, as all of her nine cabinmates traveled from many states to stand by her side and recite the Kiddush.