SPRINGFIELD – Myra Gold was one of the original founders of Rachel’s Table in Springfield in 1992.
“We were five women who made a trip to Worcester, Mass. to view the ongoing project there that was Rachel’s Table,” she recalled. “We wanted to bring a project to Springfield and the Federation to help alleviate hunger. We heard about this project, so we made the trip to Worcester and that was how we got started. That was 25 years ago.”
Ever since then, Myra has been actively involved in Rachel’s Table, as a board member and volunteer.
“The community was in need. When you have so much and you can give back, it is only natural that this is what you want to do,” she explained.
Not long after it was formed, Rachel’s Table became a family affair for Myra – her husband Jerry became involved and for years his law firm, Gold and Vanaria, sponsored a golf tournament to benefit Rachel’s Table.
Today, Myra dispatches and drives for Rachel’s Table as much as she can, and Jerry is still a volunteer driver as well.
“They both volunteer in any programs we have,” said Debbie Rubenstein, executive director of Rachel’s Table. “When the teens have programs, the Golds help out with them. They are just really always there and are always so committed. Feeding the hungry is very important to them. They are both passionate about the issue. They are amazing volunteers and truly dedicated to the work of Rachel’s Table.”
On May 27, Myra and Jerry Gold will be honored for this dedication at “Bountiful Bowls,” Rachel’s Table’s bienniel fundraiser, to be held at 6 p.m. at Chez Josef in Agawam. Also honored will be New England Orthopedic Surgeons for their investment in and commitment to Rachel’s Table.
Rachel’s Table is a project of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts and 22 News WWLP.com. Six days a week, more than 200 volunteers collect food from local supermarkets, restaurants, caterers and bakeries, and deliver it to more than 40 agencies, including soup kitchens, food pantries, and shelters. Food donors call the food donation hotline when they have a donation to make. Then volunteer dispatchers will match volunteer drivers with the donors. The drivers pick up the donations and drop the food off at agencies that feed the hungry.
Other Rachel’s Table programs include a Birthday Cake Fund for children in shelters; The Gleaning Project, in which youth groups rescue produce from local farms and deliver them to Rachel’s Table’s agencies; The Bernice & Joseph Kalicka Milk Project; ESSEN-TIALS, a partnership with Jewish Family Services to supply kosher food to families who observe the dietary laws of Kashrut; and snack, produce and protein projects that provide the hungry with nutritious food.
Rachel’s Table’s other big fundraiser is the Big Y Foodraiser, a shopping contest where teens and others in the community attempt to purchase the most food for the least amount of money. All of the food purchased goes to feed the hungry. New England Orthopedic Surgeons (NEOS) and Dr. Lou Adler of NEOS are big supporters of the program.
“For the past several years, NEOS has been the sponsor for our Big Y Foodraiser,” Rubenstein said. “Their significant donation has made it possible for many kids and teens to shop at the Foodraiser as the NEOS money is used to purchase the groceries that the kids’ teams buy. The kids only have to pay the $5 registration fee. This donation inspired us to get other sponsors and now we can have about 200 kids participate in this educational experience and give them the opportunity to actively be involved in helping the hungry. Additionally, Dr. Lou Adler serves as a very involved and helpful member of the Rachel’s Table Business and Professional Advisory Board as a representative of NEOS and assists with and supports many of the Rachel’s Table projects.”
Students from Suffield Academy make the pottery bowls that are such an important part of Bountiful Bowls. All attendees receive bowls, which are symbolic, Rubenstein explained.
“The bowls remind us that there are many people who don’t have food to fill their bowls,” she said. “They also represent Rachel’s Table’s mission to provide those who are hungry with bountiful bowls of food.”
Bountiful Bowls will feature a live auction with offerings including a trip to the Super Bowl, Red Sox tickets, travel packages, and a special party planned by Nancy Goldstein of Amazing Celebrations. “She is auctioning off an entire celebration – like a bar mitzvah or wedding. So that is amazing,” Rubenstein said.
Silent auction items include “A Night Out” gift certificates, pampering specials, entertainment items, jewelry and gifts for the home.
The funds raised will help the entire Rachel’s Table program, Rubenstein said.
“It is not specific to one program; it will enable us to do our work, and every year the need grows. It has gotten to the point with the economy now that some people who are employed don’t have enough money to make ends meet. We see people who are embarrassed to go to pantries because they have never had to do that. A great program that our teen board has been involved in this year is the backpack program in Holyoke, which is so poignant. There are kids who go home and if we don’t give them food, they don’t have food over the weekend. So that says a lot. Right now we are serving 158 kids through the backpack program, but there are up to 500 kids who they think should be served.”
Holding Bountiful Bowls every other year helps to make programs like the Backpack Initiative possible.
“Bountiful Bowls has been very successful,” Myra Gold said. “It brings a tremendous awareness to people who normally wouldn’t know Rachel’s Table or support Rachel’s Table. You get a good cross-section of community people.”
Bountiful Bowls will be held on Wednesday, May 27 at 6 p.m. at Chez Josef in Agawam. To reserve a spot, send a check for $56, payable to Rachel’s Table, to Rachel’s Table, 1160 Dickinson St. Springfield, MA 01108, or call the office at (413) 733-0084.