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Mitzvah Corps Spend Summer with Elijah's Promise

Urban Mitzvah Corps works with Elijah's Promise to provide a volunteer experience and socio-economic lesson for high school students.

Teens volunteering for Elijah's Promise through the Urban Mitzvah Corps program are pictured with Congressman Frank Pallone (far right) and Elijah's Promise Executive Director Lisanne Finston (far left) at the soup kitchen.
Teens volunteering for Elijah's Promise through the Urban Mitzvah Corps program are pictured with Congressman Frank Pallone (far right) and Elijah's Promise Executive Director Lisanne Finston (far left) at the soup kitchen.
According to Danny Bass, there's a rewarding feeling in harvesting tomatoes, processing them and freezing them to be later served in the Elijah's Promise soup kitchen.

"We're not just helping today, we're helping down the line," he said.

Bass, 17, of Marlboro, is volunteering for Elijah's Promise through the Urban Mitzvah Corps, a program that is described as a "Hands-on social justice program for teens," on the program's website

Coordinator Ilysa Cooperman said the purpose of the program, overseen by the Union for Reform Judaism, is to bring teens from all over the U.S. together to be able to witness social issues first hand.

By working in a place like Elijah's Promise for six weeks, they are better able to utilize what they've learned in taking an active role in solving problems in their own hometowns, she said. 

The Urban Mitzvah Corps team in New Brunswick is being housed at Rutgers University and volunteering daily for Elijah's Promise, harvesting crops at their farm, processing the food to be distributed to its different recipients, and serving food in the soup kitchen and the Better World Cafe in Highland Park.

The students chose to come to Elijah's Promise, after hearing from volunteer coordinator Tony Nunno, said Site Director Bryan Bierman. They'll be in New Brunswick for two three week sessions. 

The Elijah's Promise staff has treated them like members of the team, and seeing the different aspects of feeding the hungry, from picking the food to clearing dishes, "adds some flavor" to the lesson, Bierman said. 

On July 12, the students participated in a press conference at the soup kitchen, as Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) protested cuts to the federal food stamps program. 

Jess Strauss, 17, of Roxbury, said her favorite part of the program has been working in the Elijah's Promise processing facility, where they've been able to get to know the staff. 

The direct look the students have received into an anti-hunger organization has opened her eyes into the issues of food insecurity and the need for anti-hunger and food assistance programs, she said.

"People really need it," she said.

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