Encino resident Sara Tepper is doing something unusual for her Bat Mitzvah project: She's launched 'Jackets for Jersey,' and is collecting and sending gently-used winter jackets over to New Jersey, to help residents in need of warm clothing in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
With the help of her mother, Michelle Tepper, she has already been gathering garments from friends, relatives and their colleagues. Her friend Skylar Steinman, and her mother Sheryl Steinman, are also helping with the project, as they have relatives who live in Jersey who can coordinate the deliveries once they arrive out east.
If you would like to donate, there will be a drive-thru collection point for items at Encino Charter Elementary on Saturday, Nov. 17 from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. As well as jackets, you can also drop off boots and backpacks. Millikan, Portola and Lanai schools are also setting up drop boxes in their hallways. For details, click here.
Sara Tepper said she got the idea after seeing images of the disaster on the television and from discussions with Skylar and Sheryl Steinman.
"I'm super excited to see the turnout," said Sara of the Saturday drop-off event. "We've gotten 100 jackets already from my school, Millikan."
It ties in well with one of the requirements of her Bat Mitzvah.
"It's about giving to people who are in need," said Sara. "I always feel really sympathetic for a lot of people. I cry when I see people getting hurt, and I thought instead of sitting I could get up and help."
Sara created a website for the project at www.jacketsforjersey.com, and her father, a graphic designer, helped with the logo. Sara's mother, Michelle Tepper, is helping organize some of the logistics and the transportation from California to the east coast.
Sara's sister, Phoebe, who is 4 years old, told her mother that she wants to give her Tzedakah money to New Jersey.
Wish Sotheby's International Realty in Sherman Oaks has donated several bags of jackets and boots, and Russell's Moving and Storage and Gary The Box Pro have donated boxes for the shipment.
Sara has been laundering and sorting the donated clothing by size and gender.
Meanwhile, Sheryl Steinman and her daughter Skylar, are also pitching in. They're no strangers to helping others; Skylar's Bat Mitzvah project was a show where the proceeds went to benefit breast cancer charities.
"My family lives back east and my sister lives in Marlboro, New Jersey," said Sheryl Steinman, who is also involved in the project. "Her nephew helped with Soles4Souls on Facebook and she wanted to do something similar. She found 80 sweatshirts in her closets that her kids were not wearing, and so she started collecting for people who needed it who had no help from FEMA yet."
Steinman is going back to Jersey to visit her sister, Susie Howard, this Sunday, and will help with the distribution of the items collected here in the Valley.
"People are just gathering together and organizing through social media to find out where people need things," said Steinman. "Some towns the National Guard doesn't let you in unless you live there, so designated people came to the border and picked stuff up from [my sister]. It's kind of crazy."
Encino Charter Elementary, 16941 Addison Street, Encino, Tel: 818-784-1762.