Tikkun Olam tour

Teens prepare food bags at St. Vincent de Paul during the Jewish Community Foundation’s B’nai Tzedek Youth Philanthropy Tikkun Olam Tour on Feb. 5.

Prior to kickoff on Super Bowl Sunday, 45 teens spent the day with the Jewish Community Foundation’s B’nai Tzedek Youth Philanthropy Program. The Tikkun Olam Tour gives teens the opportunity to not only learn about organizations meeting vital needs in the community, but spend time engaged in service to support their work.

This year, the JCF Youth Philanthropy Board decided to focus on addressing the root causes of poverty, so the Feb. 5 tour focused on agencies addressing poverty in Phoenix.

The teens started their day at St. Vincent de Paul, where they learned about their mission and work from Chief Service Officer Jessica Berg. They heard from the man who drives the water truck delivering emergency food bags and bottles of water to those living on the street and under bridges. Then they had the opportunity to go into the kitchen and prepare these vital food bags.

One of the teens questioned why chips and cookies made their way into these bags instead of something more nutritious like granola bars. They were informed that the bags are put together with the donations they receive. Although they would prefer to fill them all with nutritious food, they have to make use of what is donated. So sometimes the bags are more nutritionally balanced than other times.

After their work in the St. Vincent de Paul kitchen, they heard from SVDP Executive Director Stephen Zabilski, who told them that he was so impressed that so many teens would choose to come out on a Sunday to engage in service and learning.

Then the teens traveled to the Watkins Basic Needs Shelter, a unique, year-round emergency program designed specifically to serve up to 120 homeless single women, as well as up to 20 families every night. The teens visited the very large room where all the women sleep and live and the room where the families stay until space is available in more permanent shelter programs. The young children were curious about our teens and had an opportunity to speak with them.

Finally, the teens went to Child Crisis AZ and spent time learning about their work from Development Director Jodi Stoken. They learned about the critical need of Arizona’s most vulnerable residents, infants through age 8. After a presentation and time for questions, they toured the facility.

After five hours on the road, the teens returned to the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center so they could then go spend the rest of their Super Bowl Sunday celebrating with loving friends and family. After an intense day, I’m guessing there was a bit more appreciation for the wonderful lives they are blessed to live.

Andrea Cohen is the director of the Jewish Community Foundation’s B’nai Tzedek Youth Philanthropy Program. Contact her at acohen@jcfphoenix.org.

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