Palm Beach County students bring hope to struggling families in NOLA

Joshua Berkowitz, Spencer Linkhorst and Andrew Taylor collect and sort canned goods at Second Harvest Food Bank in New Orleans. The second annual community service opportunity for Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County’s Project Tikvah (Hebrew for “hope”), is aimed at making a lasting impact by serving those in need. Submitted photo

Twenty-one Jewish teens from Palm Beach County rolled up their sleeves to serve as they were immersed in the culture of New Orleans this week.

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Beignets were on the menu, but so too was packing food for the 1 in 6 hungry families in the area served by the Second Harvest Food Bank. The teens sorted donated Mardi Gras beads that will be sold by the Arc of Greater New Orleans to benefit its programs for people with intellectual disabilities. They worked on a building a house.

Palm Beach County high school students volunteer at the Second Harvest Food Bank in New Orleans as part of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County. Submitted photo

Hope Lerman, a 16-year-old junior at Dwyer High School, was inspired by meeting a woman who was helped by the home-building organization and told the group about the suffering caused by Hurricane Katrina, even 12 years later.

“It made our work very meaningful,” Lerman said.

The experience taught her to be content with what she has and make the most of it, she said.

It’s the second year for Project Tikvah, a hands-on service program named after the Hebrew word for “hope.” The teens’ trip was organized by the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County’s Jewish Teen Initiative and new Jewish Volunteer Center, according to a news release.

Evan Josza, a 16-year-old junior at The Benjamin School, said he enjoyed sorting the thousands of pounds of donated Mardi Gras beads. The Arc also pay people with disabilities minimum wage or more for their work sorting and reselling the beads.

“I thought that was really impactful, because not only did it give those people jobs, it benefited their organization. All the money just keeps coming right back,” Josza said. “It helps them grow.”

The group ate at Cafe Reconcile, which helps young adults ages 16 to 24 learn hospitality skills. The fried oyster po’boy with spinach artichoke aioli, fries and bread pudding were a hit with Zachary Jacobson, a 16-year-old junior at Wellington High School.

Sorting the food at the food bank was Jacobson’s favorite service project. He proudly sported a sticker with the words, “I fed someone today.”

“I’ve learned not to take things for granted,” he said. “It really puts things into perspective.”

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