When Great Neck North Middle School student Rebecca Apfelbaum turned 11 this past September, she asked for a day off from school; but not for the sake of playing hooky, nor to be showered with gifts and treats. Instead, Rebecca used the day to fulfill her sole birthday wish of creating baskets of necessities to hand out to the homeless in New York City.
Together with the help of her sister and mother, she shopped around for items to go into her 12 planned baskets, 11 to mark her birthday and one more for good luck. The initial flight of “Basic Necessities” baskets contained items such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, wet wipes, a two-pack of socks, deodorant, a water bottle and a snack. They also took extra pains to tailor separate baskets for male and female recipients. The trio then took the 30-minute train ride to Penn Station, approaching homeless individuals around the city directly with their offerings. Admittedly a little nervous at first, Rebecca was immediately struck by the level of graciousness they encountered.
“Everyone we went up to was really sweet and so polite,” she said. “We’d hand them a basket and they’d hesitate and assume they should only take one thing out of it. When we told them they could take the whole thing, they couldn’t believe it.”
Their first trip proved so gratifying that her older sister Danielle, 12, decided to make it a regular thing by setting up a non-profit called “Givers of the World,” where individuals can donate a basket or get involved with distribution jaunts on Sundays.
“Since we’re so close in age, we always shared everything,” Danielle said. “But I think the one thing we share the most and which actually brings us even closer together is the happiness we get from helping others.”
As their nonprofit gained attention and began attracting individual donations ranging from $20 to $2000, the sisters came up with the idea to have fun, colorful bracelets made to send to anyone who donates a basket. This spurred an Instagram page where donors are tagged on photos of their basket being given to a person in need. Friends and relatives began signing up to join in on the frolicsome, feel-good spirit of the Sunday distribution runs, motivating local enterprises to contribute more items to the baskets, such as fleece hats. As the winter weather approaches, the girls are looking into adding fleece and waterproof blankets to place over those camping out in the cold.
The girls operate from core beliefs: “Love is the only thing that heals. If each person commits to acts of kindness, no matter how small, we can truly heal the planet.” To that end, they have plans in the works to spawn a movement called “Sundays are for Givers,” where families can get together to do something to benefit those in need.
For inquiries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.giversoftheworld.org.
—Submitted by Daniela Amini