COVID care bar mitzvah project: ‘It makes me feel good to help others’

South Florida Sun Sentinel
·3 min read

For his bar mitzvah project, Zach Mandel of Boca Raton, Florida, wanted to collect food and toiletries for less fortunate people struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result, Zach, 13, came up with what is called a COVID Care project that has benefited Boca Helping Hands, a community-based nonprofit that provides food, medical and financial assistance to people in need in South Florida.

For the project, Zach asked his friends and family to contribute food and other necessities in lieu of traditional gifts for his bar mitzvah. He has donated more than 470 items to BHH. The donations he picked up from friends and family that he delivered to the organization include canned fruits and vegetables, cereal, cereal bars, crackers, jelly, pasta, peanut butter, soup, tomato sauce and rice. He also collected toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, razors, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner and soap.

“It makes me feel really good to help others,” Zach said. “Since donations to Boca Helping Hands have been lower during COVID, it’s a good way to give back by donating food and toiletries.”

Zach is a seventh grade student at Pine Crest School’s Boca Raton campus. He explained his inspiration for helping the organization with his project.

“At my school, I was on the student council, so we would take a field trip every year to Boca Helping Hands, and something about it really caught my eye, so I decided that for my mitzvah project, I wanted to donate there and help out others,” he said.

Zach’s bar mitzvah ceremony took place at Congregation B’nai Israel in Boca Raton. The week before his bar mitzvah, his friends took part in a drive-by to celebrate him.

“That was really fun and relieving for me, since I hadn’t seen a bunch of my friends in a long time,” Zach said about the drive-by. “It was fun to relax and see everyone before my bar mitzvah.”

Zach is also grateful for his friends and family for helping him on the project with donations.

“The response of the community was really overwhelming to me, and I think it was great that everyone wanted to pitch in and help our community that we live in,” he said.

Zach feels the project will help him in the future, as he said, “I’m learning about kindness and compassion for people overall in the world.”

Zach said his mother has been a big supporter in the project.

“She has helped along the way helping collect the items,” he said. “She’s been a very big help.”

His mother, Allison Mandel, said, “I’m really proud of Zach, for his bar mitzvah project and for every day.”

“He came up with the COVID Care project on his own, because he knows that during the pandemic a lot of people are going through a challenging time,” she continued. “I think it’s important to give back to the community in which we live. Zach cares deeply for others and he cares about others. He’s a selfless, compassionate caring young man.”

Greg Hazle, executive director of Boca Helping Hands, said in a news release, “Zach really set an example for kids his age.”

“We’re delighted to have received this generous donation of much needed items,” Hazle continued.

Visit BocaHelpingHands.org for more information on the organization.