Mar. 29, 2013
Thoughtful Thursdays is a collaborative project among the members of the Fort Wayne Jewish Community to assist families of children attending a Head Start program.
Community Contact Information:
Fort Wayne, Indiana
- Bring together the Jewish community with a common goal of helping 85 low-income preschool students.
- Provide Head Start families with groceries, household paper products, recipe cards, and educational activities.
- Provide parents with guidance and tools to reinforce their children's learning at home.
- Educate our volunteers of all ages about the needs of low-income families.
Thoughtful Thursdays is a collaborative project among the members of the Fort Wayne Jewish Community to assist families of children attending a Head Start program. This project allows members of the Jewish community to build a partnership with the Head Start community. As a result of members' advocacy, the greater Fort Wayne community has been inspired to get involved.
We wanted to start with something manageable, so we proposed a plan to supply twice-monthly bags of groceries and educational activities to support the mission of Head Start. Thoughtful Thursdays (named because Head Start students come four days a week and take home a bag every other Thursday) was presented to the board of Achduth Vesholom in May 2010. The project soon expanded to include the broader Jewish community. We started with eight volunteers who met twice a month to help fill the recyclable bags and fondly dubbed themselves the "Bag Ladies." During the first few months, we received generous donations after publishing a wish list of needed items in the organizations' newsletters.
In addition, we've raised awareness in the Jewish community that low-income families sometimes cannot afford fresh produce. During the High Holy Days we've held "Apple Project" fundraisers to help us raise money to provide a bag of fresh apples for each family. We market the program by placing a cardboard tree at both congregations and seek spins. For $10, a sponsor's name is written on a paper apple hung from the tree.
During the school year, volunteers from the Jewish community meet to assemble bags of food, household products and educational materials that are sent home on Thursdays bimonthly with the 85 students that attend Head Start in the Temple. The students return the bag on the following Monday. Thoughtful Thursdays is kept afloat by donations of items and money. Our volunteers check sales at local grocery stores to increase the value of our donations. We regularly ask the Head Start parents what items are most needed so that we can fulfill their needs.
Last year, Thoughtful Thursdays was made aware that during the winter several children were coming to school without underwear or socks. A notice went out in our Temple Bulletin and the donations of new underwear and socks swelled. We ended up donating two dressers and filling them completely with socks, underwear, and clothes. Each year we provide all 85 students with hats and gloves to fight the harsh Indiana Winters.
The number of volunteers keeps growing, including Religious School and b'nei mitzvah students, Jewish youth groups, Girl Scouts, women's groups and a local Curves gym. The volunteers do a variety of tasks including collecting items, writing thank you notes, and assembling educational activities. A bar mitzvah student made recipe cards to provide ideas with the weeks items. We have over 125 active volunteers and have found a way that all our congregants can participate, whether donating canned items or money, doing inventory, checking expiration dates, counting and sorting, or assembling bags.
Not only has Thoughtful Thursdays united the Jewish community in a joint effort to help repair the world, but the program has provided critical support to low-income families with food and educational resources that likely will have far-reaching impact for success in school. The program also has strengthened the Temple's long-term association with Head Start. The program continues to inspire us beyond our original idea.