Lottie’s Kitchen: A Circle of Giving

pr lk 2013 Laboz homeOnce upon a time there was a family. It consisted of thousands of people. At times they received. At times they gave. And always did they feel connected.
A fairy tale? No, we are referring to Ezer Mizion’s Lottie’s Kitchen family. It is made up of thousands of people who, at times, devote hours to helping others and, unfortunately, at times, find themselves in need of help . And when the need exists no longer, they join the warmth and camaraderie of the Kitchen to pay back and, for those that had been previous volunteers, once again to be on the giving side.
Like Shira*. Shira was an ordinary mother who did ordinary things during her ordinary day to day routine. You know, laundry, cooking, homework, bedtime and all the rest. Until one day when life was no longer ordinary. Uninvited, a monster named Cancer entered her home. Suddenly there was no routine. Every moment centered around eight-year-old Mimi*. Even when there was time, there was no emotional energy to plan. Her family needed food. She and her husband needed meals when they would spend days (and nights) at the hospital with Mimi. And she, the mainstay of the home, was crippled with terror.
A neighbor contacted Ezer Mizion and the next day, a warm, friendly volunteer rang her bell, her arms bearing an attractively arranged hot meal for the family. Speechless, Shira motioned for her to come in. The arms, now empty of the trays, enveloped Shira in a wordless hug. Someone cared. Someone understood. Meanwhile, the phone rang. It was Shira’s husband. His voice choked up, he told his wife, “The nicest lady was just here with a hot meal and she said she’ll be coming every day as long as we need her. She told me that other Ezer Mizion departments will help us out with doing homework with the kids and, and…I can’t even remember all the things they would take care of.” And so day after day, the meals arrived at the home and hospital, always spiced with some good advice, a sympathetic ear and a hand to hold.
Then it happened.
Shira’s life no longer centered around Mimi because Mimi was no longer in this world. The Lottie’s Kitchen volunteers rallied around the family, offering their support in this last stop of the family’s journey toward grief. Slowly, every so slowly, Shira recuperated. Then it was her turn. She had seen firsthand what a ‘hand in the dark’ can mean to someone undergoing a nightmare. And, in the merit of her daughter, she joined Lottie’s Kitchen. Now it was she who stood and peeled and sliced, who lovingly wrapped and who appeared at the doorstep of another bearing nutrition for the body and food for the soul.
Lottie’s Kitchen is a busy, happy place. Each volunteer knows her job and 4000 hot meals and snacks are prepared every week. The phone never stops. A new family. A hospital room number changed. A special request. And sometimes it’s a volunteer like Mrs. Katz*.
“It’s been two weeks since I was here last. How come you haven’t called me?”
“But Mrs. Katz, we only call our volunteers once a month.”
“Do you mean I have to wait a whole month to come back?! I miss Lottie’s Kitchen.”
There are many like Mrs. Katz, lonely widows, singles, whose giving, in turn, give them a sense of gratification, creating an endless of circle of Jew helping Jew.
Like Mrs. Eckstein* whose world toppled when her husband suddenly passed away. At home she sat, day after day. Unable to function. Alone. Disconnected. Until a friend suggested joining Lottie’s Kitchen. Now she wakes up each morning with an agenda. It may be preparing 100 blintzes to be included in the hot meals or joining others to pack or deliver meals to families undergoing their own crises. Her empathy helps others and, in turn, gives her a reason to live.
And who are those others? They vary widely. It may be a family like Shira’s or Mr. Berger,*a middle-aged son spending the last weeks with his dying mother. His only desire is to make every one of her last moments sweet but between family responsibilities and work and running to care for his ailing father then dashing back to the hospital to be with his mother, a full, hot meal for himself is only a distant memory. Sometimes it is a mother who has just been diagnosed with cancer. She is traumatized. Her family is traumatized. Even the neighbors who normally help each other out are too traumatized to rally.
And sometimes it is even a happy occasion. Like late Thursday night. A message arrived from the maternity wards: The Kramers* get a mazel tov. They just had a new baby. And before the happy congratulations were over, another call came in: Mrs. Levy* just had her baby. “Babies are born every day,’ you ask. ‘Why did Lottie’s Kitchen have to get involved?’ Here’s why. It was early Friday morning. Shabbos needed to be prepared. Lets peek inside and see what is happening in these homes. Abba has just called with the news. Fourteen-year- old Yehudis is in charge but, even with her experience gained in such a household for the past 6 years, it is hard. Ever so hard. She wants to sing and dance with her younger siblings as they form a circle and dance around the kitchen table. But she can’t because six year old Avi*, who has caught the excitement even though he has no idea what it is all about, has already overturned the garbage pail and is hurling glasses against the splashboard, enjoying the big noise they make as they shatter into the sink. With no one to keep in him in check in the past few minutes, his behavior is even worse than normal. . Abba will be coming home soon, thoroughly exhausted from the past hours. He’ll need to sleep for a short time before he has to be at work. Yehudis grabs Avi and asks two of her siblings to take him out for a walk, holding tight to his hands, while she and the others clean up. The dance is cut short. Yehudis never had that chance to join. They’ll have to work fast. Avi will not stay out long. They’ll set up ‘Avi-watching’ shifts until it is time to leave for school. Ten minutes for each guard is enough. It’s a very hard job. Preparing Shabbos? Yehudis didn’t have time to even think about Shabbos. But fortunately, she didn’t have to. A Lottie’s Kitchen volunteer rang her bell, even before Abba arrived home, with a box of delicious-smelling Shabbos food for the family together with joyful mazel tov wishes. She pitched in to help Yehudis and then made her way to the Levy’s, knowing she would find a similar situation there. She would be visiting both special families regularly until their mothers would be back on their feet. Yehudis , energized by the support, dreams of joining the Lottie’s Kitchen circle when she is grown.

And the circle expands to include all of you, whose financial support, year after year, has enabled Lottie’s Kitchen to provide for so many. Founded by their four daughters in memory of Lottie and Haim Chalom, Lottie’s Kitchen provides
81,600 Hot Meals
83,200 Sandwiches
13,000 Cookies / Cakes
Please join us once again in Deal for the event of the summer on July 10 at the magnificent home of Betty and Joseph Sitt.
Lottie’s Kitchen Event… the Highlight of the Summer! A Dream Day Not to be Missed!
Wednesday, July 10th …See you there!
For further info call 718 853 8400 or email office@ezermizionusa.org

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