Kids Just Like Me

Dylan Novacek June 12, 2020

Written by Dylan Novacek, Content Specialist

“When I started meeting kids my own age who didn’t have a home of their own, I thought it was so unfair. I wanted to start giving back. Not just with toys, but with my time and kindness.”

At Temple Israel in Minneapolis, there is a shared belief that a place of worship is there to open its doors to their neighbors in need. When Ye’ela and her family began volunteering with Beacon’s shelter program, Families Moving Forward, Ye’ela learned she had a lot more in common with her neighbors than she had originally thought.

“We arrived from Israel about six years ago, and Temple Israel welcomed us in,” Ye’ela’s mother Amit shared. “Working with Families Moving Forward has been a great opportunity to broaden my children’s world view. Seeing families helping other families is so important.”

“It’s fun to see what we have in common instead of what separates us,” Ye’ela added. “I feel proud of myself for giving my time and not just sitting in my room. I like to be with others who need help. I feel determined to make them happy!”

A bright kid with a lot of hobbies, Ye’ela (pictured left) loves to share her energy and spirit with our shelter families. Whether it’s cooking pancakes or playing Twister and board games with the kids, working with FMF has given her and her brother countless memories.

“I’ve had so much fun playing with the other kids. From making obstacle courses on the playground, playing ‘Hot Lava’, and even getting into a bit of trouble. Once we went through the wrong door and set off the alarms,” Ye’ela laughs. “It’s funny in hindsight.”

Among her many memories, Ye’ela says cooking for the families is one of her favorite things.

“I’ve always loved cooking! I think I make scrambled eggs the best,” she beams. “Since I was a baby I would be in the kitchen with my mom, and she would show me how to cook and bake. Something as simple as a homemade cake can brighten anyone’s day!”

It’s these gestures and moments of kindness that bring Ye’ela and her family back to volunteer every chance they get.

“It’s a good reminder of how complicated life can be,” Amit reflected. “It’s important for me to connect myself to a greater, more complex issue that will only improve if we all work together.”

As our shelter families have moved from staying at congregations to hotel rooms due to COVID-19, a change which along with cleaning costs at Beacon buildings takes an additional $15,000 per week, Ye’ela and her family are glad to see our families still getting the support they need.

“I’m so glad to see that they figured out a way to keep caring for the families. Being in a hotel room must be hard, and not having a stable home must be even harder.”

Considering what it must be like to live without the warmth of your own bedroom, Ye’ela thinks about what home means to her.

“It’s a place where I feel safe and comfortable. It’s where I am everyday now that school isn’t in person anymore,” she laughs, thinking about her distance learning. “It’s a place where I am with my family. It’s a place where I know who I am.”

The gift of home is so important, and there are children just like Ye’ela who deserve the same stability she has. It takes $12 million over three years in private contributions to power Beacon’s work to create and sustain homes, change housing policies so they’re more equitable, and shelter families like those Ye’ela has come to call her friends.

“Sitting with our shelter families at dinner, they show me photos of their kids,” Amit said. “These families are just like mine, and I hope they find the stability they need.”

Volunteers like Ye’ela and her family are able to connect to Beacon’s vision that all people have a home when they give their time volunteering. Thanks to our dedicated volunteers, our families feel cared for and supported. Whether it’s in person in our congregations, or through delivering meals to the hotel rooms, our volunteers are the feet on the ground of our shared Beacon mission.

“I love meeting new friends, playing with the babies, and making the families day a little brighter. It’s a very special thing,” Ye’ela said, thankful for her experiences with Beacon. “There are kids just like me without a stable home. I’m glad I can give them a helping hand.”

While our families can’t be hosted in congregations for now, collaborating congregations like Temple Israel look forward to sharing their time with families again soon. Click here to read more about hosting families at Temple Israel and click here to learn how you can get involved!