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Gural JCC in Cedarhurst battles and increases awareness of food insecurity

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Despite the wealth and prosperity that a majority of Five Towns residents enjoy, there are people who because of health issues, loss of a job or another such problem have trouble feeding or buying supplies for their families.

There are roughly 20,000 Jewish people in southwestern Nassau County and eastern Queens who live in poverty, according to statistics compiled by the United Jewish Federation-New York, a sponsoring organization of the Marion & Aaron Gural JCC that will hold a community-wide food drive on Sept. 22 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at its S.H.O.P. (Sustenance Hope Opportunities Place) in the Maple Plaza in Cedarhurst to support the Rina Shkolnik Kosher Food Pantry.

“We decided to do a community-wide to bring attention to the growing issue of food insecurity in the greater Five Towns,” Gural JCC Associate Executive Director Stacey Feldman said. “Every month the Rina Shkolnik Kosher Food Pantry, located at the S.H.O.P., is helping over 400 families by providing both perishable and non-perishable food to the community members who struggle to meet their basic needs.”

The JCC is asking for community involvement from businesses, schools, synagogues or any organization and institution to collect those perishable and non-perishable food items, along with cleaning supplies and toiletries, and drop them off that Sunday. Scheduled pickups can also be arranged.

“Volunteers will be collecting kosher food all around the Five Towns during this first-ever community-wide drive for the S.H.O.P.,” said Laurie Stone-Brofsky, the volunteer services manager. “Anyone who wishes to donate individually or with their group can simply call us and our volunteers will come pick it up.”

Expanding the kosher food pantry, which was on Central Avenue in Woodmere, to the S.H.O.P., began in 2017. The S.H.O.P. opened in early 2018. The 3,000-square-foot space, formerly the home to the Owl 57 Gallery, is more than four times larger than the 700-square-foot kosher food pantry and built to be much more inviting as well.

“Our clients include large families, older adults including many Holocaust survivors, adults with disabilities, and many single-parent families who are part of our Kadima program,” Feldman said. “The need keeps increasing for critical services, including not only food and clothing, but also for counseling, entitlement assistance and community referrals.” Kadima serves women and men who are separated from their spouse, going through divorce proceedings or newly divorced.

Clients are welcomed into a reception and can shop for food and clothes, can receive counseling from on-staff social workers. There are computers for client job searches and to connect with other agencies. “What better way to begin the Jewish New Year than to join together as a community to support our neighbors in need,” said Susan Sachs, the volunteer project coordinator said. “There is nothing more important.”

To get involved and for more information, contact Feldman at (516) 569-6733 ext. 201 or stacey.feldman@guraljcc.org. To volunteer contact Stone-Brofsky at (516) 569-6733 ext. 205 or laurie.broksky@guraljcc.org. To volunteer with your group, contact Sachs at 516-569-6733 ext. 230 or susan.sachs@guraljcc.org.