Gemilut Hasadim volunteers resume cooking for Ronald McDonald House


By Ellen Braunstein

As volunteer organizations move forward and get out from under the pandemic, they are restoring longstanding relationships with the people they serve.

Gemilut Hasadim volunteers
Gemilut Hasadim volunteers prepare food for Ronald McDonald House. (Courtesy of Chizuk Amuno Congregation)

Chizuk Amuno Congregation has revived its in-person community service program with Ronald McDonald House, a relationship begun 18 years ago. The program provides free meals and free lodging for people with sick children.

“About two months ago, they began reopening their doors to volunteers,” said Cheryl Snyderman, Chizuk Amuno’s Gemilut Hasadim (Acts of Loving Kindness) director. “We have a crew of people who are anxious to be involved in that program. There are people that have cooked for them for years.”

Ronald McDonald House has more stringent rules on food preparation because sick kids may be immunocompromised. Instead of cooking at home, volunteers prepare food in the synagogue’s commercial kitchen under the staff direction of Chef Annie Hood. Then volunteers pack up the food and send it out for delivery.

“We worked with a staff member and a volunteer at Ronald McDonald House to make sure everything got served,” Snyderman said. “I thought it was an incredible experience for everybody.

“These families are going through really, really difficult times, emotional, medical needs for months and months at a time, and they are just so appreciative that people come in and take care of them,” she added.

Volunteerism doesn’t stop at Ronald McDonald House. Chizuk Amuno has 1,100 families, and among them are some busy knitters. They meet once a month to crochet or knit scarves or hats for chemo patients. The synagogue makes blankets for all types of agencies, including NICU units in Jerusalem. Chizuk Amuno is also coordinating the collection of medical supplies for Ukraine.

The synagogue’s volunteer program is made possible through a grant from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.

“It’s very far reaching and just extremely good and fulfilling work,” Snyderman said.

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