Sunday, March 12, 2006

MARCH Pesach Packages

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Front Page Magazine – May 30, 2005 – Cover Story



For the past few months, every time I drove down Doughty Boulevard, I couldn’t help but notice a storefront with a sign that says: MARCH—Mother Alone Raising Children. Knowing the difficulties that single mothers face from my experience as a social worker, I always wondered what exactly MARCH does. It may not be a high profile organization, but the name alone seems to indicate a very altruistic raison d’etre, so I decided to simply go up to the door and find out. What greeted me was more than I had expected. When I opened the door, I stepped into a world of care, concern understanding, and absolute goodness.

MARCH was founded in December of 2000 to help people in a unique and difficult situation. All of the women serviced by MARCH commenced their married life the same way we all do—with excitement, dreams, hope, and enthusiasm. They proceeded to grow thriving Jewish families, and then something stepped in and disrupted their lives. Whether it was a divorce or the passing of a spouse, the mothers’ lives took an immediate and dramatic turn. Overnight they were forced to assume new roles. In one moment the financial responsibilities of raising a family crashed down upon them, along with the difficulties of being the emotional anchor of a family in troubled waters.

These mothers are often overwhelmed with the suddenness of these new tasks, along with the feeling that they are all alone in a world of “normal families.” These emotions weigh heavily upon the household, and the entire family enters a downward spiral. The mother gets depressed, the children feel it, and the children often begin to display at-risk behaviors. This depresses the mother further and sustains the devastating cycle. The situation is truly out of control. This is when MARCH steps in.

MARCH has two primary goals. The first is to help the families they service cope with the financial difficulties they face. Yet, the key goal is to ensure that these families know that they are not alone—that there are people who genuinely care about them, and that there are others in the same situation as them. This is incredibly meaningful to people who feel isolated and uncared for.

Every month MARCH sends out the Chizzuk newsletter, which is an eight-page pamphlet filled with inspiration, advice, tips, and motivational slogans. As I read through one of the recent ones, I couldn’t help but feel uplifted myself. The newsletter is one big supportive hug on paper. It shows the mothers that they can lead normal and happy lives. MARCH tries to distribute the newsletter in time for Shabbos, so that on Friday night—which can normally be a very difficult and lonely time for these mothers—they have something with which to sit back, read, and feel loved.

But MARCH goes beyond a monthly newsletter. MARCH also runs social events several times a year. In December they threw a Chanukah party complete with a carnival, prizes, a Shloime Dachs concert, and an array of tasty treats. On June 5th they will host a gathering of 350 mothers for an afternoon of inspirational speakers, buffets, and socializing. The strength that mothers draw from meeting others, making new friendships, and forging new supportive relationships is immeasurable.

One mother took her eleven-year-old son out of Yeshiva early to come to the Chanukah party. She said that she wanted him to see that he was not alone. When the evening drew to a close, he exclaimed, "I never knew that there are so many other kids going through the exact same thing as me!" Social events are also a chance for these mothers to get out without having to spend money that they don’t have. They feel pampered and taken care of, which is a feeling they don’t get too often. They are welcomed by people with smiles on faces—smiling at them—and the feeling in the room is simply electric.

In addition to the emotional support provided by the programs mentioned above, MARCH has programs to help the financial needs of their families. Before Pesach, Shavous, Rosh Hashana, Succos, Chanukah, and Purim, MARCH sends out huge boxes to each of the families. In typical MARCH fashion, these boxes are not just filled with every food needed—or wanted—for the holiday, but also with gifts for all the members of the family. The volunteers spend time selecting gifts that are appropriate for each age group and gender, so that everyone in the family feels special and cared for. These packages come at a time when there is not only financial stress, but also the psychological stress that holidays bring to a family that feels isolated and alone.

MARCH also has a number of funds to deal with special needs as they arise. The Pesach Fund, the Emergency Fund, and the Summer Camp Fund are currently in effect. Before Pesach, MARCH determines the most needy of their serviced families based on letters, references, and the application information, and then sends them generous checks. The Emergency Fund is employed throughout the year for special causes. For example, a mother recently needed surgery. The insurance covered the surgery, but the deductible was $500—$500 more than she had. The Emergency Fund took care of that. The last fund is for summer camp. We all know what camps cost these days, and we can all imagine how important it is for these mothers to get a break from time to time. Here MARCH uses a very ingenious solution. They call the camps, explain to them the situation, and ask that the camps match the amount given to them by the fund. MARCH also speaks to school administrators on behalf of their families, and is able to secure for them full tuition scholarships or partial scholarships. These are the main functions of MARCH as of yet.

Right now, however, MARCH is on the verge of expanding their services with three major programs that will enhance the lives of their families even more. The first is the dental and optometry program. MARCH has been approaching dentists, orthodontists, optometrists, and opticians throughout the area and asking them to volunteer their services for the families in MARCH that cannot cover the costs. The response has been overwhelming. These professionals have volunteered thousands of man-hours and millions of dollars worth of services. This is so critical for the families of MARCH. So many of them are living paycheck to paycheck, and when a thousand-dollar dental job faces them, they simply cannot afford it and keep pushing it off.

Another project MARCH is working to get started is the financial guidance program. In many homes, the finances are taken care of by the husband. When mothers are suddenly faced with this new responsibility, they often don’t have the know-how and are lost. When this is coupled with an otherwise distressed financial situation, it can be a fiscal nightmare. Credit card debt starts soaring, bills are left unpaid, utilities are shut off, and sometimes evictions are threatened. To help mothers cope with this challenge, MARCH has contacted dozens of accountants and financial planners, and asked them to help by volunteering their time and services. Once again the response was excellent. These professionals have also offered thousands of man-hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars of services, and MARCH is geared to tap into this incredible generosity.

The last project that MARCH is working to begin is a new and used furniture and clothing program. As the director of MARCH told me, “A woman’s home is her sanctity, and it is of the utmost importance that a woman feel proud of her sanctity!” Most of the families in MARCH don’t have the money to purchase new furniture, and when the furniture they have falls apart, it often remains that way. It becomes embarrassing for them to invite others to their homes, and the family becomes even more isolated than they were before. Boruch Hashem, MARCH has been able to set up a program where people donate new or almost new furniture to these families. Some of the furniture is truly elegant and can really light up a home. There is also a program in the works for the families in MARCH to acquire new or like-new clothing.

However, these three programs that have so much potential and can do so much good have not really been running as they can. Everything is arranged, but the running of such programs requires an immense amount of work. MARCH needs money to be able to fund the running expenses of these programs. And that is where we need you. MARCH is reaching out to you, to ask for your help in the amazing work that they do. This is work in which we should all be involved, and if we can’t do it physically, we should at least try to help support it. Something that makes assistance to this program so exceptional is that every dollar donated goes so far. This is because MARCH has access to close to two million dollars in services, yet it only needs a tenth of that to be able to utilize it. So every time you donate $180, a family out there will be able to receive $1,800 in services! That alone makes this tzedakka so unique. But when you combine that with the kind of incredible work MARCH does, it is clear that this is a cause in which we should all take part—and want to take part. May Hashem bless you for your kindness and generosity!

MARCH is a 501c3 non-profit organization. Checks can be made payable to:
MARCH
1214 Broadway, Suite 406
New York, NY 10001

If you would like to contact MARCH or volunteer your services, please call or e-mail them at:
Tel - 212-696-5978;
E-mail - MothersAlone@aol.com.