In Jacob's Shoes - Helps Children
By David Volz / November, December 2012
Harlene Zweig is on a mission. She and her husband Murray, who live in Parkland, are helping needy children in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. They created In Jacob's Shoes in 2009 in memory of their late son Jacob, who died in 2008.
"Jacob was the kind of kid who would give the shirt off his back to a person in need," said Harlene Zweig.
In Jacob's Shoes is a charity that takes donations of new and gently used shoes and distributes them to organizations that serve children in need. It is an entirely volunteer organization. In Jacob's Shoes also has provided 1,800 backpacks with school supplies for children. It raises funds each year to provide grants to support summer camps and after-school programs.
"There is a tremendous need for shoes among children," said Harlene Zweig. "We collect mostly previously worn shoes. There are various shoe drives held by students in schools and donations from individuals and corporations. We bring them to a warehouse in Pompano Beach, where the shoes are cleaned, disinfected and restored."
Then, the shoes are distributed to local organizations in the tri-county area. One of the largest recipients of the shoes is the Broward County School District. Since In Jacob's Shoes began, it has distributed more than 10,000 shoes. It is part of back-to-school events, including the Broward County Back to School Extravaganza and the Spirit of Giving Back to School Bash in Palm Beach County. The charity also participated in smaller events in the tri-county area.
"It is rewarding to get thank you letters from children who have never owned a new backpack," said Zweig. "It is rewarding to clean a pair of shoes that will be worn by a child in coming weeks. It is good to see the incredible amount of support we get from the public, especially the student volunteers."
The student volunteers have especially impressed Zweig. "They are providing a much needed resource to children in need and, at the same time, they feel good about helping others," she said. "The projects they do for us are hands-on. We hope to continue to be able to provide for anyone who needs our help."
Patty Kopelman, who leads Girl Scout Troop 10442 Great Earth Service unit in Plantation, loves working with In Jacob's Shoes. The troop includes seventeen girls, age seven to ten. They recently stuffed 1,000 backpacks with back-to-school supplies.
"This was good for our girls," said Kopelman. "I think it is important for the girls to provide a community service and understand what it means to help people."
One of the things Kopelman wants the girls to understand is that, while they are shopping for new backpacks every year, many of the children they have been helping have never had a new backpack. "The girls felt a sense of accomplishment after stuffing the backpacks and want to do this again next year," said Kopelman.
Niki Wasserman, 16, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, is close to the Zweig family. Over the summer, she participated in many shoe cleanings. She handed out fliers at her school to try and develop the program there and get more donations.
"This is a way for me to get involved in the community," said Wasserman. "I love being a part of In Jacob's Shoes. It is really fun. This is an interesting and unique way to give back to the community."
Jodi Samson, a Broward County School social worker, appreciates In Jacob's Shoes. She worked at twenty-five schools to collect the shoes. "They go above and beyond and do everything they say they are going to do," Samson said.
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