13 year-old Bryce Green carefully sorted the kid-friendly food that filled two large barrels into kosher and non-kosher piles.
"Mom, I got this," he said looking at the food donations he collected as his Bar Mitzvah project to support Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry. His mother, Jennifer Green, watched as Bryce taught her how to properly separate the items, just the way he did many times before.
He knew what he was doing, as he has been volunteering once a year at the pantry for the past six years.
Bryce was first introduced to the pantry at 7 years-old during summer camp at the Mayerson JCC's Camp at the J. As part of Jewish Family Service’s CHAI (Cincinnati Hunger Awareness Initiative) education program, campers spend a day volunteering at the Heldman Family Food Pantry sorting kosher and non-kosher foods, stocking the shelves, and learning how the pantry helps people in our community.
Over the years Bryce had become very familiar with the pantry, so when his Torah portion described the importance of helping others in poverty, he decided to collect food donations for Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry as part of his Bar Mitzvah project.
“I wanted to donate foods that kids would like, so I asked guest to bring boxes of granola bars and graham crackers to my Bar Mitzvah,” said Bryce.
“He was really set on helping feed kids in the community,” said Jennifer. “He made a point to choose foods that he felt kids could identify with.”
In addition to collecting food, Bryce also donated 10% of the monetary gifts that he received from his Bar Mitzvah guests.
“He didn’t stop there,” said Jennifer. “It would have been easy to mail a check to the food pantry and drop off the collected food, but Bryce insisted he do more.”
To complete his project and get the full hands-on experience, Bryce and Jennifer went to the food pantry together and stocked the shelves with their newly donated food.
“It was such an enlightening and wonderful experience to watch Bryce in action. He is really proud of what he did, and it showed,” said Jennifer.
Jennifer also shared how Bryce's project touched them on a personal level.
“During Bryce’s Bar Mitzvah reception we had a family friend share with us that when they came to Cincinnati, the JFS food pantry was the reason they were able to survive,” says Jennifer. This now-successful family was one of many who donated food to those currently experiencing financial difficulties.
Bryce's involvement with the pantry did not end with his Bar Mitzvah. Jennifer and Bryce are now advocates for the food pantry and plan to suggest ideas on how others can get involved in the future.
And Bryce plans to continue helping in the food pantry. He even asked about becoming a permanent volunteer.
“My favorite part is stocking the shelves and donating. We are lucky to be able to provide for others,” Bryce shared.
Sandee Golden, Jewish Family Service Volunteer and Food Pantry Manager, shared, “It is very rewarding to know that Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry made a lasting impression on Bryce and now his family and friends.”
Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry is located in Clifton at Jewish Family Service Barbash Family Vital Support Center. It is the source for free kosher and non-kosher food, fresh produce, personal care, and household care items for individuals in the Greater Cincinnati Jewish community experiencing financial difficulties as well as anyone in need living in the Clifton neighborhood. It receives support in part from Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, and United Way of Greater Cincinnati.
Anyone interested in the many volunteer opportunities should contact Sandee at 513-766-3352 or firstname.lastname@example.org.