By Hannah Lee
As Part 4 of a sporadic series on Creating Community, I write about an effort that spans the Atlantic Ocean and connects us with Eretz Yisrael.
In May, a friend, Ari, contacted me to find an organization that could use three dental chairs and two x-ray machines, donated by a dentist who was retiring from his practice in New York. (We’re foodie buddies and he knows about my networking instincts.) His father, Bob Schwell, coordinates donations for Yad Sarah in New York (while shuttling between Israel and the United States) and these items were deemed not suitable for shipping to Israel. By the end of the day, I was able to identify two organizations interested in the equipment: Columbia’s dental school which runs a clinic in New York and Partners in Health which would like to send them to Haiti.
However, neither one of them was able to mobilize in time for the date when the shipping container would be packed in the warehouse in Newark. Meanwhile, my inquiries led to a phone call from a young dentist who was starting up her own practice and wanted the equipment. Fine, but my stipulation was that she give a donation to Yad Sarah.
In early June, Bob went to Newark to supervise the packing of the shipping container and they set aside the dental equipment. I asked him what does it take to start a chapter in Philly? He said that the major issue is finding local storage. The heavy items — hospital beds, etc. — that require professionals are picked up by Moishe’s Movers (which volunteers the time of its employees who are all veterans of the Israeli Army) and brought to the shipper’s warehouse in Newark. The smaller, portable items are the things that need local storage until the next date for packing a shipping container.
So, I made contact with the coordinators of the local Bikur Cholim and they will accept the items Yad Sarah cannot send to Israel, such as manual wheelchairs. Mati Sved, whose family owns a warehouse in Philly, agreed to house items, as long as they fit on a 40″ x 48″ pallet for transport to the upstairs storage floor. I was making steady progress!
Early this month, Bob reported that he’d spoken with someone at Moishe’s Movers but that individual was not interested in picking up from Philly. However, this was not the boss! Undeterred, I asked if we could separate the project in two: portable items that can be transported by volunteers and heavy items like hospital beds that require professional movers. Then I got official permission from the American headquarters in New York and on July 11th, I announced the launching of a local chapter for Yad Sarah.
I posted a notice on the LowerMerionShuls community list-serve (subject of Part 1 in this Creating Community series and now with 1,414 members) and I’ve gotten offers already. Alas, they’re not items I can send overseas, so I’m busy finding other beneficiaries for them. Still, it’s a good way to build community networks. The next step is to line up volunteer drivers and additional storage space.
Founded in 1976 by Uri Lupolianski, now the mayor of Jerusalem, Yad Sarah offers a wide range of medical and legal services in Israel. A recent survey by the Dahaf Institute found that every second family in Israel has been helped by one of Yad Sarah’s services. In 2004, The United Nations granted Yad Sarah advisory status to its Economic and Social Council. In 2011, Yad Sarah served 420,000 people, lent out 270,000 pieces of medical equipment from its 104 sites, staffed by over 6,000 volunteers. For more information about Yad Sarah Philly, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.