Sunday mornings are busy times for the Cleveland Kosher Food Pantry.
Volunteers ranging in age from 6 to over 70 pack produce from cases to bags, setting up their stations indoors and outdoors, moving loaded bags from tables to trucks and then hopping in to deliver groceries to people in need of food spread over 10 communities in Northeast Ohio.
Last year, the pantry distributed close to 1 million pounds of food to a total of 49,000 people.
It is the second largest of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank’s partner agencies, serving 4,540 families, many of whom visit weekly, according to Rivka Goldstein, program manager at the pantry.
With a staff of one full-time employee and four part-time employees, the pantry’s budget is $300,000.
“In honor of the Jewish holidays, we offer larger amounts of everything we have so the families can celebrate,” said Devorah Alevsky, director of the pantry. “Two-days of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and nine days of Sukkot may put additional strain on families who are struggling. We can only serve these families with the support of kindhearted people who donate to us. “
Alevsky said the pantry is accepting cases of tuna and other fish with a hekscher.
“We also help our clients create a holiday spirit,” said Alevsky, adding that the pantry arranges for shofar blowing to take place in some of the complexes where they deliver.
Some 80% of the pantry’s client base is Jewish.
“A common misconception is we only serve Orthodox, which is not the case,” Rivka Goldstein, wrote in an email. “We serve all kinds of Jews, young and old, as well as non-Jews. We do not discriminate.”
Renee Silverberg, a member of B’nai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike, said she has volunteered Sunday mornings for the past few years.
“They love getting kosher food and the challah.,” she said. “I’ve gotten to know them. They get excited to see me and they hug me and they have conversations with me.”
The driver of the truck is Emmanuel Yakubov, who said he volunteers for a simple reason.
“You get a hundred thank-you’s a day,” he said.
Some of the people that Silverberg and Yakubov deliver to line up in the early morning to await the mid-day delivery.
Volunteers deliver to eight senior housing complexes and the pantry just received requests to deliver at two more.
Silverberg said some of the bags are delivered directly to people’s homes.
In addition, the pantry holds a monthly outdoor market from spring to fall, where 25,000 pounds of food is delivered on pallets. Some 400 people typically come to these ‘markets.’
Thais Rivitz of Solon, who attends Solon Chabad in Solon, was helping out with her son, Aaron, 13. The two began volunteering in the summer.
Aaron was contributing to the effort by breaking down cardboard after cases were emptied.
He said he liked to come, “to help.”
“He gets a lot of help, so I think it’s nice that he also gives help,” Thais Rivitz said.