JF&CS News December 2015

Ed and Barbara Shapiro are hands-on philanthropists who launched a foundation fifteen years ago to make a difference in the community. They wanted to pass these values on to their two children, Samantha (13) and Joshua (15), but when they looked for a volunteer opportunity they could all do together, there were few options. Then, at a family event at the Rashi School, the Needham couple learned about JF&CS Family Table, New England’s largest kosher food pantry.

As they learned more about Family Table and JF&CS, Ed and Barbara found out that the food pantry was seeking to expand to the South Area in order to serve more families and volunteers. They decided that supporting that expansion was a wonderful opportunity. The Shapiro’s generous donation enabled a new site to be opened in Temple Beth Abraham in Canton. Family Table will now serve families and volunteers in 45 cities and towns in addition to its locations in Waltham and on the North Shore.

How did you get involved with JF&CS Family Table?
Ed: “I have known Bernice Behar, Family Table Director, for twenty years but had lost touch. At an event at our children’s school, we heard her present about Family Table. She told us about her journey and how she was inspired. The idea of finding an opportunity to involve our kids and do something jointly was really exciting. When we heard about the plans for the South Area, we decided to get involved.”

What do you find most meaningful about volunteering?
Barbara: “What is really meaningful for me in instilling values in our kids is hands-on philanthropy. To take our children to where they’re actively packing groceries and then delivering to people who otherwise wouldn’t have food on their table.”

How do you teach your children about philanthropy?
Barbara: “We talk about philanthropy a lot. Our kids are getting more involved and engaged in causes we support. From a very young age we encouraged them to find ways to give and make an impact in the community. When they were younger in lieu of birthday gifts they would ask for donations for a cause. But donating a check is not tangible and they don’t see where it’s going.”

Ed: “Now we watch their reaction when we walk into people’s homes. We take it for granted that we can go to the grocery store whenever we want. It’s abstract when you’re loading up groceries. It’s concrete when you walk into someone’s home and see how valuable it is to them. Family Table is unique.”

What has been the most memorable experience at Family Table?
Barbara: “The most memorable time was the first delivery. It was new to all of us. Our children don’t always realize how good they have it. We packed our bags and took them to a woman’s small studio apartment. She asked us to put the groceries in her kitchen. When my children walked into her single room the light bulb went on.”

Why is expanding to the South Area so important?
Ed: “Our primary concern is serving the needs of the community but the opportunity to engage the volunteers is as important. Families in towns in that area that are beyond the realistic driving range to Waltham can now get involved. It’s opening up Family Table to a network of families and synagogues. They’re having an amazing impact on the community.”

What would you say to other donors?
Barbara: “I was blown away by the range of services JF&CS provides. There are so many people with so many different needs. It’s truly invaluable, how broadly and deeply they provide services to the community. I can’t imagine Greater Boston without JF&CS.”

JF&CS is grateful for the generosity of the Shapiro family to Family Table, one of the many ways the agency meets the needs of more than 17,000 people in 250 communities each year.

Originally published on the JF&CS blog.