Thanksgiving is a time for families and friends to gather and celebrate the bounty of the season. But for many in Connecticut, the holiday is a stark reminder of their struggle with hunger. Wanting to make a difference in the lives of others, more than 80 local teens and volunteers came together to try and sweeten the holiday for families in need by baking pumpkin pies. The volunteering was organized by JTConnect.
For Alyssa Temkin’s (KO ‘23) it was “so much fun! Not only did I get to make pumpkin pies with friends, but most importantly I was able to help my community and make food for those who are less fortunate than us which is a very important mitzvah (good deed).”
Armed with mixing bowls, measuring cups and what felt like infinite condensed milk, the teens spent the afternoon baking pumpkin pies that were donated to the Thanksgiving meals at Hands on Hartford, the Open Hearth, the MxCC Magic Food Bus, Mercy Housing & Shelter Corporation, St. Vincent de Paul and South Park Inn. In total 162 pumpkin pies were made and delivered.
JTConnect has been partnering with some of these organizations for years – for others this was the first year. One such organization was the Open Hearth, an organization that helps men regain lives lost to homelessness and addiction by offering food, shelter and opportunity. Open Hearth posted on social media three weeks before Thanksgiving that they needed help. “We do a big meal on Thanksgiving for the men. In the past we have had commitments of donations of a variety of pies, cakes etc. by now. This year it has not happened. Before we purchase we thought we would put the request out to the universe.” JTConnect quickly was in communication with Open Hearth and adding pies to their que.
To put their work in context, teens met with Katherine Hannah, Director of Development at Open Hearth, and Trent Wright, coordinator for Magic Food Bus at Middlesex County College. They shared with the teens the important work that their organizations are doing to combat hunger and homeslessness.
Brandon Wolmer (Hall’ 2020) has been volunteering at JTConnect’s Thanksgiving pie bake for the past four year. “It is important for me to come back time and time again because the holidays are tough for a lot of people. A lot of people don’t have a place to go or don’t have food” Wolmer says. “ If’ I don’t try to help my community, who will? I know that if the roles were reversed, I would hope there is someone trying to help me get through the hard times.”
The volunteering was organized by JTConnect with support from the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford and Congregation Beth Israel. JTConnect engages teens from across the Greater Hartford community in fun, interactive and thought-provoking educational and social experiences grounded in Jewish learning and values. JTConnect gives teens the opportunity to continue their Jewish education in compelling and meaningful ways. Together, teens examine religion, history and traditions through innovative, hands-on programming that includes classroom study, volunteer projects and special events.
JTConnect’s next day of service is scheduled for Sunday, January 19.