Jacob Tobias from Agoura Hills, California will become a Bar Mitzvah in May of 2010 but is already working on his Mitzvah Project. He’s hoping our Mitzvah Market readers can help him reach his goals.
We asked Jacob some questions about his Mitzvah Project involving book and dance shoe donations for kids:
MM: Please describe your Mitzvah Project.
JT: I’ve been donating both books and dance shoes to various dance studios in Southern Califronia that have low-income families. I currently have collected over 8,119 books and have donated them to 13 different locations, including 2 Churches, Sova food bank, a homeless shelter, children’s hospital and a laundry mat. I’m also donating to 6 Title 1 schools. They are schools that have over 40% of the students receiving free breakfasts and lunches and the rest are going to food banks or shelters.
MM: Why did you decide to take on this particular project/charity?
JT: My temple motivated me to do the volunteer work because for everyone’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah, they encourage us to help out the community. I have seen a variety of different projects; such as feeding the homeless, reading at retirement homes or to children, cleaning graffiti off of the walls, and cleaning up the creeks and the lakes. But I chose to donate dance shoes, which was something that I have never seen anybody do before. I’ve already donated 93 pairs of dance shoes. When I got home to tell the rest of my family that I had decided on my project my Mom suggested to me that I may also want to donate books too since I had just started loving them. I thought it was a good idea because who doesn’t love books.
MM: Why did you decide to donate the books to this particular organization?
JT: The idea came to me to donate books to Title 1 schools after donating my first 437 books to Ventura Unified School District. The district sent a representative who told me that in her district were 11 Title 1 schools, two of which were High Schools. I asked her what a Title 1 school was, and she explained that they were schools where more than 40% of their kids are from low-income families. That is when it occurred to me that I should focus on donating to Title 1 schools or to families who have less money to spend on extra stuff, like books or dance shoes.
I felt donating to low-income families and needy dance studios was important because I understand how lucky I am to have a lot of stuff that other people don’t. I understand that there are at least 8 million people in the United States that are homeless or have a low income, and whenever I see people who are like that, it makes me feel like I have too much stuff. I at least want to give them something to do while they are at a shelter or some other place. I am positive that this is the right thing to do and I hope that I do enough.
MM: Does your project have a start and end date, if so what are they?:
JT: My start date was August 2009, I’ve already beat my current goal of 7,500 books by May 2010, but I hope to continue to have 15,000 books by June 2015 when I graduate High School. I also have a goal of 200 dance shoes by May 2010, and 500 dance shoes by my High School graduation. My goals may be high, but it’s all to help the community.
MM: In your own words, what does it mean to you to do a Mitzvah Project for your Bar/Bat Mitzvah?
JT: Out of my project, I have gotten much more than the satisfaction of helping out my community. I have gotten the privilege to see the kids I donate to, and see how much the impact it can have on their lives. I know personally from not doing my homework that my grades dropped. So, if I can inspire kids who were not doing their homework by rewarding them with a book for “doing” their homework, than I can feel proud.
MM: Your project sounds great, can you give us details of how you are doing it?
JT: I am spending a lot time sorting and collecting books and dance shoes. I start off by counting the books donated from each person. Then I put them in a log so I can send Thank You notes. After that, I sort the books out by age groups; Preschool; Kindergarten – 2nd Grade; 3rd – 5th Grade; 6th-8th Grade and High School. When I sort the dance shoes, I first count the pairs and then write them in the log, next, I sort them by the type of dance shoe. Once I am finished counting and sorting the dance shoes and books, they sit in my garage until we make the next donation. We usually donate 200 or more books per trip. Our first donation of dance shoes to Lulu Washington Dance Theater was 89 pairs.
The hardest part for me has been not being able to donate as much as I want. I cannot donate as much as I want all the time, because I haven’t collected as many books or dance shoes that I want. That has limited me to how many books I can donate at a time. I donate to the schools as often as I can, but I am not collecting the books fast enough.
MM: What are you doing to spreading the word?
JT: I have gotten the word out by handing out fliers around my school and posting them at my parents’ office, and at my dance studio. I am also making business cards with my email, to pass out on Halloween to each of the houses I trick-or-treat at. In addition, I sent an email to family friends and family members. I have had an article written about my project in The Acorn, which is a local newspaper. From the newspaper article I received many emails from people who would like to make donations. I received many congratulatory emails and an interview from a USC broadcast reporter that will be on their Website. The reporter wants to help me with my project and thinks that it is wonderful that I am doing this. Another advocate is a family friend, Aileen Stein, who has helped me collect many of the books, by sending emails to her friends and is placing a collection box at her office. Aileen has found me a place for my next donation of books.
MM: Your project is very inspirational, how can our Mitzvah Market readers help.
JT: I need more people to donate books and dance shoes. They can email me and if they live near me my Mom and I can go get them. Or they can mail them to me. Here is our contact information: DonateBooksForKids@Pacbell.Net or 818-970-6773.
We would like to thank Jacob for sharing his Mitzvah Project with Mitzvah Market. This is another example of our kids doing amazing things. Great job Jacob!