The UPS driver stops regularly at the Weiss’ house in Oak Park. Inside, boxes of donated household items are piled up—filling their living room and spilling out into hallways. The family is constantly stepping around stacks of small appliances and linens, but no one really seems to mind.
This is the work of Abby Weiss, who will be turning 13 in just a few days. Abby has been involved with Housing Forward in several ways. She has packing lunches through her mom Leslie’s leadership role on the John Greenleaf Whittier School Student Council, and through the PADS shelter site at Oak Park Temple which is led by her dad, Rabbi Max Weiss. Her parents may have recruited her originally, but these days no one needs to convince Abby of the importance of our cause. She is committed to helping those who experiencing homelessness.
When Abby first heard about our efforts this summer to move clients from temporary hotels into permanent apartments of their own, she immediately decided to get involved. From her experiences in our PADS shelter she already felt drawn in. All the usual rotating locations had been consolidated to 24/7 operations at her synagogue early in the crisis. She knew clients moved from there to temporary individual accommodations at hotels back in March, so when we announced the need for 110 “Hotel to Home Kits” to help make empty apartments into homes, her Bat Mitzvah project was born.
Many synagogues encourage students preparing for their bar/bat mitzvah ceremony at age 13, to choose social action projects. “Usually it’s something you feel passionate about,” says Abbya “a good deed that you do to help other people.”
After Abby and her mom created a gift registry based on our House to Home Kit flyer (https://bit.ly/House2Home_forgroup) and publicized it to family and friends on social media and email, the delivery trucks started arriving almost immediately—sometimes multiple times once a day. “I’ve been surprised by how many people want to help. It makes me feel good.”
When she first started volunteering with Housing Forward Abby was surprised at how many people—especially young people—are in need of basics like food and a place to stay. “I realized how fortunate I am, stopped taking what I have for granted, and became more grateful,” Abby shared. “I like doing this project because it gives people who have enough, a chance to help people with less live a healthier, better life.”
After they started receiving duplicate items, Abby decided to start on a second kit. After just a few weeks, Abby is now close to completing her third kit!
As planned, Housing Forward began moving clients from hotels into apartments on July 1 and the “Hotel to Home” kits are a big part of that effort. Enid Johnson, our Volunteer and Community Outreach Manager is busy matching clients with kits. “We are amazed and grateful for Abby and all the people who have been inspired to help. What they have been able to accomplish for others is inspiring.”
Very soon, all the boxes at the Weiss home will be packed up and taken to apartments in the area where new life chapters are beginning. Thanks to community members like Abby, those homes will be especially warm and welcoming.