Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Good Deed "Spotlight Story"

Our Thanks to Debra from Yedei Chesed for her inspiring response (below) to one of our previous posts

I am Debra (Wallin) Kapnick- former New England NER NCSY'er and Regional President (1971-1976) and later, NER Regional Director(1977-1979) I have been in the field of Jewish Special Education for the past 32 years, and have been blessed to see these kind of good deeds each and every day with my special needs students and clients. 

Thirty two years ago, when I began to work in the field we had a difficult task ahead of us, as acceptance of these individuals within the community was not on the level we have achieved today. As a counselor for a number of years, and eventually, as the head counselor at Camp HASC, I was privileged to see campers with special needs reach out to fellow campers who were unable to complete a task. 

These moments always brought a lump to my throat- a camper holding up a lower functioning camper during roller skating or showing another the correct place in the Siddur during davening. The counselors I worked with over the years were heroes of kind deeds, as they gently coaxed and encouraged each camper to achieve their fullest potential. Whether participating in a bunk night, Color War cheering competition, or just comforting those who had no guests on Visiting Day, these teenagers and young adult counselors were heroes of a multitude of good deeds. 

I am fortunate to still be close with many of these counselors who have turned into the leaders and role models within the greater Jewish community today- and many are still actively working in the field of Jewish special education.

As the curriculum Director at Chush/The Jewish Center for Special Education in Brooklyn, I watched the coming together of staff members from very diverse segments of the Jewish community- Chassidish, Litvish, and modern, all pooling their talents and efforts on behalf of the special students within our school. 

One recalls Rebbes who took students to visit bedridden classmates, teachers who took their classes to participate in Tzedakah projects for other worthy causes, and staff taking students into their homes for Shabbos and Yom Tov. They too, are examples of what the Jewish community, and the world, could accomplish if people truly put aside their philosophical differences and worked to make a difference for others.

Today, I am honored to serve as the Director of WorkPoint/Day Habilitation at Yedei Chesed, an agency in the Monsey, New York area that provides advocacy on behalf of the developmentally disabled- serving a diverse range of disabilities and a population including infants through adults. Again, I am lucky enough to witness each and every day a multitude of kind acts being performed. 

My staff members reflect a cross-section of the Jewish community and their backgrounds widely differ. Yet watching them mentor our special needs adults is an honor. They gently coax the best behavior and some verbal response from a client who was previously perceived as unmanageable. They encourage kindness by taking these adults to prepare and deliver meals for hospitalized patients in conjunction with Bikur Cholim of Rockland County. They take these young people out into the community- and give them a chance to socialize, work, and enjoy educational and recreational activities. Isn't this perhaps, the greatest kindness of all- allowing someone to simply feel that they are "just like" everyone else in their own community? 

I truly feel blessed that G-d has allowed me to work with these Heroes of Kindness... and I pray that He will give all of us the strength to continue to perform these daily acts of kindness for many years to come.

Do you have an inspiring good Deed story to share about yourself, a friend an organization? Email it to us at just1gooddeed@gmail.com and you may be the next Just1gooddeed "Spotlight Story"

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