Gabbie and Charlie Goldberg’s uncle Eric Turk is developmentally disabled. He lives in a group home in Brooklyn, New York. For the twins’ B’nai Mitzvah Project, they decided that a hands-on activity which involved their whole family would be one they’d always remember. The siblings raised funds that went towards building and upkeep of an amazing and spectacular fish tank for the group-home residents to enjoy in addition to a variety of other improvements.
Here is their story:
“Our grandfather was very active in advocating for those who cannot, and we wanted to do something to make him proud and do something that would last a lifetime,” Gabbie and Charlie tell Mitzvah Market. To that end, the twins each took different responsibilities to give back to the resident home where their uncle lives. The twins interviewed the residents, talked to the administrators, and decided on two main projects.
“I wanted to make the residents in the home feel joy and happiness and brighten their mood. Since I have three fish tanks that I enjoy, I thought it would be nice to give the same relaxing experience that I get when I look at my tank to the residents,” Charlie says.
Charlie and his sister Gabbie
He is the one who got to decide the location of the fish tank, the type of tank, the type of fish, and was responsible for setting it up.
His sister Gabbie was responsible for deciding what improvements to make to the school. “My uncle Eric spends a lot of time in the main living area, and I personally think that the creation of our mural will bring interest and lend to their imagination,“ says Gabbie.
She worked with acclaimed New York artist Bonnie Siracusa, who is known for her uplifting mural designs. “Painting a mural is a big project. I learned how to work with an accomplished artist and together we came up with the idea of a Coney Island Aquarium with the rides in a silhouette reflecting through the tank. Gabbie worked closely with the artist. She says, “Getting on the ladder and mapping out the mural with Bonnie and brushing the first strokes was amazing.” Together, they made something unique for all the residents to enjoy along with the fish tank. In order to fund the fish tank and mural, their family started working on the project a year before their B’nai Mitzvah. They began getting funds when the family celebrated their grandmother’s 80th birthday by putting a note in the invitations that read:
“In lieu of a gift, in honor of our grandmother’s 80th birthday, please consider donating to our Mitzvah Project involving improvements for our Uncle Eric’s group home. As we approach our B’nai Mitzvah, which is next October, we reflected on many ideas for a hands-on project that would be extra meaningful for our family. Thanks for your help in accomplishing this goal. These additions will bring joy and happiness for years to come.” —From Charlie and Gabbie Goldberg
In addition to the funds they received instead of gifts, the family set up a GoFundMe page as well. The twins did the projects in two phases. The fish tank, phase one, was completed in April. Phase two, the mural, was completed this past summer. They were also able to purchase a Roku, a streaming media player device for the home’s television. The projects proved to be very gratifying for the twins. Gabbie tells us, “Choosing a project that involved my family and grandparents was truly rewarding.” Charlie adds, “Sharing your special interests can lead to great accomplishments. I love taking care of my tanks and now I have an excuse to visit more often and be more active in the home. My sister and I both learned how an idea can become a reality.”
From this experience, Gabbie and Charlie have become friendly with the director, administration, and residents of the group home. In fact, they recently purchased a Karaoke machine, so maybe they can all have a party by the mural! No more funds for these projects are needed for residence at this time. Muralist Bonnie Siracusa can be reached through her Website.
This story is from our 2016 Mitzvah Market Magazine. If you would like to request a free copy, click here.