Sunday, July 18, 2010

Closing the volunteer apartment

At the end of this month, July, 2010, TIPS will give up the apartment, the last of at least 2 apartments in Kiryat Malachi that it has rented for more than 8 years. My husband and I were the first in the previous apartment on Jabotinsky Street, and we are the last in this apartment near the end of Rashi Street, a two story, 3+ bedroom walk-up on the 3rd and 4th floors. In addition to volunteers from Tucson, Phoenix and Seattle who stayed from one to 4+ weeks, it also "hosted" young adults, mostly from our communities, in the OTZMA program, that stayed for 3 months, helping English teachers in the schools and also helping in after-school programs.   This happened for at least 5 years since 2003.  This year, for the first time 3 young men (from Washington State, Arizona, and New York) were in town for 8+ months through OTZMA  providing much needed English support in the high schools and in after-school programs. (They were also joined by three from the regular 3 month program, including one from Arizona, came also.)

The entrance to the volunteer apartment stairwell is just to the right of the blue pole.  Our green rental car is seen peeking out between 2 other cars on the right.

The people from the 3 US communities, Palm Springs, and also several of the communities of the Western Region Network, especially Orange County, greatly benefitted from their experiences in town and staying at the apartment. It gave all of us the opportunity to see Israel from a very different perspective. Once one has the opportunity to see below the surface, one can see how warm and personable the people in this town are. The Kocens from Palm Springs made lifelong friends here and are supporting a young Ethiopian-Israeli woman as she has succeeded in raising her skills and studying to be a physician. Adam Schwartz was here with his family in June for almost 2 weeks and said that his experience here gave all of them a totally different view of Israel, one he never got on previous visits, while staying in hotels. One Otzmanik from Seattle  (Mindy Goldberg) came back to Israel a while after her program, studied here, and is now working for Yedid in its Jerusalem office.  Ira knows of at least 3 others from OTZMA who have made aliya.   My husband and I too have been changed by our opportunities to stay in the apartments and volunteer in town. It has not necessarily been an easy place to volunteer but it has always been a heartwarming experience.

In both apartments, the next door neighbors were delightful. Aliza and Haim Elimelech plied the volunteers with food and especially with home-made challot on Fridays. Tami, the current neighbor across the hall who is a widow with grown children and young grandchildren, is very friendly and helpful. For example, she showed me where the fuse box was when our power went off (I had the dryer, hot pot and air conditioner going at once, and it was too much for the circuitry) and I lent her a lighter when her matches were wet and she couldn't start her gas burner.
Most of the furniture (beds, sofa, chairs, eating table, kitchen utensils) came from a donation warehouse and individuals like Dvora who donated a TV, but others were purchased, including a double-bed and chest of drawers, a refrigerator (after 2+ years of using very used ones), a washer and dryer, and an air conditioner. Many volunteers donated items, including a toaster, hot pot, microwave, pots, books, a DVD player, a wall clock, a CD/radio/casette player, and framed pictures to decorate the walls.
We are beginning to distribute the items. The newer air conditioner will go to the office in Kiryat Malachi of the director of the Young Adult program.

The office is on the second floor of the Naamat/Yedid building where volunteer programs in the city now are coordinated. This part of the building opened in the fall after Portland donated the funds to fix the outside stairs and to help renovate the 2nd floor, together with the city and the Tucson Federation.

The refrigerator will go to an apartment in the Weitzman neighborhood where soldiers live who work in the "Better Together" program.  Their fridge has just died.  (Big appliances here are much more expensive relatively here than in the US.)
The youth club in the small Matnas on Sun Diego Street (where the Ethiopian Israeli WEAP group used to meet) has gotten the DVD player, the CD/radio player, and some games,  the TV antenna, and will also get the clock and a very cute foot stool with red velvet on the top, donated by Ann Barnake of Portland. (She also donated the framed watercolors that adorn the walls.)

The microwave, which was donated by the Ellenhorn family of Seattle, is going to the volunteer center, and the refrigerator to the Beit HaRishonim where the Youth Council meets.

 The dryer and the washer (if the latter can still be fixed without extra cost) will go immediately to a family in need as will, most likely, the stove. And on the last working day of the month, movers will take the rest of the furniture, etc. to a storage area for the social services department to distribute.

Although we will no longer have a volunteer program in town,  whenever people from our US partnership region want to comefor half day  to see our projects and meet some local people, our representative Ira Keren would be happy to show them around.

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