By Jeannette Brodeur
Shalom New Haven Editor
On March 23, trucks will travel from New York to New Haven filled with Passover foods including matzo, gefilte fish, matzo ball soup mix, borscht with beets, canned vegetables, horseradish, applesauce, macaroons, grape juice and chocolate-covered marshmallows for this year’s Project H.O.P.E. (Help Our People Everywhere) program on Sunday, March 25, at Tower One/Tower East.
The event involves volunteers of all ages who assemble and package bags of kosher for Passover food for needy families.
Project H.O.P.E, is a B’nai B’rith community action project that started in New York back in the 1960s to help community members who couldn’t afford the special foods needed for Passover. Since then, the program has spread to Boston, Philadelphia, Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C. and Connecticut.
Local B’nai B’rith leader Harold Miller has been coordinating Project H.O.P.E. in this region for more than 40 years. With generous donations from the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, the Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven, the Jewish community in Waterbury and the masons from Cosmopolitan Lodge No. 125 A.F. & A.M., Miller said B’nai B’rith is able to purchase the huge quantities of food needed each year for the program.
“We go to companies that manufacture kosher items for Passover, like Manischewitz, and we’re able to get great prices,” he said. Miller added that many companies also donate items for the program. This year, the Joyva Corporation donated all of the candies and treats, including marshmallow twists and halva, for the packages. IKEA of New Haven donates all of the sturdy cloth bags used for the packages.
Before the event, Miller contacts Jewish family service organizations all across the state to see how many Passover packages they will need for their community. “They tell me a number and we try damn hard to fill it,” he said. “They know they can count on us to help.” Last year, Miller said Project H.O.P.E provided food to more than 320 families.
On the Friday morning before the event, Miller said volunteers begin unloading the items from huge pallets in the trucks, but the real work begins early that Sunday morning when volunteers form assembly lines to begin packing the bags with food and grouping the bags needed for each organization. “It’s fantastic,” Miller said. “We have tons of volunteers helping pack close to 20 items in each bag. It’s a great activity for the kids. My granddaughter loves to help. We have BBYO kids come as well as families. People really look forward to doing it each year. The Masons put it on their schedule every year.” Last year, children from Yeladim helped too, he said. Once the bags are packed, volunteers load the bags into vehicles for distribution across the state.
Miller invited anyone from the community to come and help at this year’s Project H.O.P.E. “It’s a fun event,” he said. “Come down and help us. Everyone has a really good time.”