Some of the 70 volunteers who helped out at Rose’s Angels Feb. 17. Event founder Courtney Cohen is holding the bags and Kehila Society executive director Lynne Fader is standing in the front, with the long sweater. (photo by Lianne Cohen Photography)
For most people, getting out of the house and being somewhere by 9 a.m. might be no big deal. For me, especially on a weekend morning, it’s a challenge. But, at least once a year, it’s a challenge I enjoy.
As the owner and editor of the Jewish Independent, I’ve known of Rose’s Angels since it launched six years ago, but only first participated last year in the packing of the more than 1,000 care packages for Metro Vancouverites in need. Courtney Cohen, who created the annual event in honour of her grandmothers, Rose Lewin and Babs Cohen, with longtime friend Lynne Fader, was among the 18 Jewish community members under the age of 36 who were honoured by the Jewish Independent with a JI Chai Award in December 2017 for doing good. Having made the personal connection, I headed out to Richmond Jewish Day School a couple of months after the JI Chai Celebration to help out. It was such a fun experience that I went again this year.
The atmosphere at RJDS is like “Old Home Week.” This time around, I drove there with a friend – she brought the muffins and I made the coffee. As before, I ran into several people that I don’t see often. A well-organized venture, Rose’s Angels, which is run under the auspices of the Kehila Society of Richmond, provides coffee and pastry for those who can wait till they get to the school for their fix. Lists taped onto the wall tell volunteers at which station they’ll be working.
I must have done an OK job last year because I was once again assigned to putting together glove and sock bundles, wrapped in ribbon, colour-coded to indicate whether the bundle was for men, women or children. So absorbed was I in the work and conversation that I can’t say what others were doing, but there was much bustling about and, by noon, a big truck and several cars were stuffed with boxes to be delivered.
This year, said Cohen, 70 volunteers put together 1,200 packages, filled with necessities from toiletries to books to food to warm clothing, thanks to donations of items and money. The packages were distributed by a couple dozen organizations, including Turning Point Recovery Society, Heart of Richmond AIDS Society, Light of Shabbat program, Jewish Food Bank, Richmond Food Bank, United Way, Tikva Housing, Richmond Centre for Disability, Touchstone Family Services, St. Alban’s Drop-In Centre, Richmond Mental Health Society and Richmond Food Aid.
Scheduled to happen around Valentine’s Day, this year’s Rose’s Angels took place Feb. 17.
“Watching firsthand our community come together to give back on a long weekend, with family and friends is quite amazing,” Cohen told me when I asked her what was the most fun aspect of the day for her. “Seeing people of all ages working together to help package the care packages in such an organized manner is really something to behold.”
Fader, who is co-executive director of the Kehila Society, also enjoys the communal feel, as well as the diversity of the group that gathers to help. “It is always a fun, well-spirited, well-oiled machine that puts months of hard work gathering all the items together to produce a beautiful bundle of items,” she said.
In looking to the future, Fader would like to see the annual event become “bigger, better,” serving “more recipients in our community,” referring to Richmond as a whole, not only its Jewish community. “Although Rose’s Angels is an annual project,” she added, “the Kehila Society is daily working with our community agencies and partners to assist on a daily basis.”
“I see the success of Rose’s Angels growing from year to year with the involvement of the community partners and individuals,” said Cohen. “Personally, I already see the success and fulfilment that Rose’s Angels has given our community at large. Receiving thank you phone calls, emails and messages from the recipient agencies reminds me of the impact that Rose’s Angels is making to so many individuals.”