Shuli Zilberfarb Sela is closing the door on a meeting room so full of school supplies, you can’t sit down. It all came out of the power of weaving an idea across multiple groups who were primed to help.
Two weeks ago, in a Hebrew-speaking Facebook group where people can give things away, an Israeli posted that her friend had started to work as a teacher in a school in East Palo Alto. The teacher, Heidi, realized she was missing class supplies and had a very small budget. She asked if anyone had notebooks or supplies to help her out.
Shuli Zilberfarb Sela, the head of Beged Kefet Hebrew language afterschool program, saw the post and said to herself, What if we can do more than that? What if when we buy new school supplies for our kids, we buy double and we give that to kids in East Palo Alto to start the year on the best terms?
Shuli contacted Heidi for a complete list of the supplies that were needed. She also reposted the request to the Gvanim group, an Israeli leadership program at the Israeli Cultural Connection of the OFJCC. “I saw this and it really moved me. I think every student should go back to school with what they need to make it a successful year.”
Shuli and a group of Gvanim alumni started a WhatsApp group of who would set up collection stations in front of their houses. Within a few days, collection stations were set up in Menlo Park, Foster City, San Jose, San Mateo, Cupertino, Los Altos, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale and Mountain View. People brought supplies to the Ten-Year Festival at the OFJCC. The Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School became involved at the school-wide PTA level to promote the drive because one Gvanim graduate advocated for it. Says Shuli, the school drive even went into small gatherings like an Israeli back-to-school picnic.
Together, the group amassed supplies for 500 students in 18 classrooms: notebooks, pens, markers, vacuum cleaners, scissors, cleaning supplies and more. At the end there was even one Israeli who donated a $180 gift card for any last minute purchases that might be still missing. All of the supplies were delivered to Runnymede Charter School on Wednesday, August 28. The Runnymede staff were excited to see Shuli and a team of people bringing brand new supplies. Many hugs were exchanged as the two groups got to know each other and thought about how to do more for their students and work together in the future.
“To me, what’s important is that you don’t have to wait for a big thing to happen or for an organization to come to you,” says Shuli. “It takes two weeks to do something as important and meaningful that will have an impact on kids’ lives for a whole year. You don’t have to invent everything. People see who best to weave you with. I’m weaving my idea with someone from Wornick and the group of Gvanim alumni, with the ICC, with the JCC and suddenly we have something.
“One person is interested, and they get their friends to do it. So we had this room full of supplies.”