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Karmey Chesed was initially established in 2004 by Aryeh Weingarten to assist unemployed and downtrodden families in his community of Beitar Illit with food supplies and other simple household articles. Since then, the scope of programs has expanded, and currently, our services include furniture allocation, clothing distribution, utility needs and emergency prescriptions as well as monetary and emotional support to needy people of all ages and all backgrounds. With three service centers that serve towns throughout Israel, Karmey Chesed is helping hundreds of families to re-establish themselves on a solid foundation while restoring their dignity and sense of pride.
Although economic conditions have improved somewhat over the years, poverty is still rampant in Israel, in all sectors of the population. According to statistics released in 2011, there are over 240,000 families living below the poverty line, about one-quarter of the total number of families with children in Israel. This translates to more than 790,000 children, or one-third of the children in Israel, living in a state of deficiency and deprivation. Although Bituach Leumi (National Insurance Institute) extends assistance, it is not enough to cover the basic needs required by these families, and many continue to live primarily with the help of welfare organizations and charity funds.
In response to these increased demands, Karmey Chesed has been focusing on its Food Distribution Program. Working in conjunction with Rami Levi, one of Israel’s largest food distributors, Karmei Chesed dispenses coupons to disadvantaged families who can then shop at any of the many Rami Levi supermarkets throughout the country. Those who do not live in the Jerusalem/Beitar area, receive checks directly to their homes via the mail. On a monthly basis, approximately NIS 30,000 worth of coupons is allocated, with additional coupons given out before the Rosh Hashana and Pesach holidays.
In addition, Karmey Chesed receives notification of disadvantaged families from concerned friends, neighbors and other family members and offers them the opportunity to come to the Karmey Chesed warehouse where they can discreetly take food staples such as rice, lentils, packaged foods and canned goods. Most of these items are donated by charitable food suppliers or are purchased at discounts from local merchants. The warehouse is open most hours of the day and can be reached by bus, car or by foot. We also provide over 50 local families with challot before Shabbat.
Karmey Chesed’s poverty-relief services include an Emergency Loan Fund which helps ease the monetary burden of a family in need with small sums of money presented as cash gifts or interest-free loans. Emotional support is provided in the form of free counseling and advice, and professional psychiatric help is offered at affordable rates when required. With the understanding that proper clothing for children and adults is not only a form of dress but also provides its wearers with a sense of pride and dignity, Karmey Chesed holds several Clothing Drives throughout the year, offering used items in good condition contributed by more affluent families and name brand apparel manufacturers. In addition, free Pharmaceuticals are dispensed when needed.
Our recently initiated Green Charity Program maintains the delicate balance of supporting mankind while promoting environmental awareness through its “free cycling system.” Volunteers throughout Israel collect second-hand furniture including couches, beds, tables, closets and electrical appliances such as ovens, washing machines and refrigerators, and personally deliver them to families who could greatly benefit from them and cannot afford the purchase of even used ones.
We are eager to expand our programs to many more poor families. In 2011, Karmey Chesed helped approximately 1500 individuals and families with food baskets and food vouchers. This is not nearly enough. We would like to double our budget for the Food Distribution Program for the coming year, reaching over 3,000 poverty-stricken individuals and children. A new truck is also required in order for us to further develop our Green Charity Program.
Karmey Chesed has only one goal—to reach out to those in need and provide families in Israel with the basic foods and services necessary to maintain a decent, respectful existence in Eretz Yisrael.