LUMBERTON — A lesson on the value of giving that was provided to 12 children in kindergarten 2,500 miles away resulted in a modest shopping spree for a Lumberton family who lost their home and much of what they owned to Hurricane Matthew.
It all came together because David Weinstein, former mayor of Lumberton and a state senator for 12 years, shared the story of how his hometown was ravaged with his sister-in-law, Rocki De Grott, who teaches at Temple Isaiah of Los Angeles, a private Jewish school in that city of 4 million.
The children did most of the rest.
De Groot taught her students about the Jewish value of Tzedakah, which is the act of charitable giving.
“In Judaism, giving to those in need is not viewed as a generous act; it is simply an act of justice,” said De Groot. “The right thing to do.”
So a class project was born.
“We decided to raise money and send as much as we could to those in need,” she said. “We did it knowing it would help people no matter what their religion or their race.”
She sent a letter to the children’s parents that told them of her lesson plan, and read in part: “The Weinstein family was one of about 30 Jewish families in the area then. The rest of the town was made up of Lumbee Native Americans, African Americans and other Caucasians. Each group belonging to their own church. From what David has told me of his growing up experiences, the townspeople respected and helped one another. Jewish families donated funds to help build several churches. When the Beth El Synagogue was built in 1954, many from the Christian community helped.
” … David still maintains very close ties with his many friends of all races in Lumberton. … As a Jewish girl growing up in West Los Angeles, I have been fascinated listening to the stories David has told me about the goodwill in this small Southern town.”
De Groot’s kindergartners went about the task of collecting pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters by doing little deeds around the house, and it added up to $75, which was mailed to Weinstein, who sent it to The Robesonian, entrusting the newspaper to get it to a needy family.
The Robesonian did that through BreAnna Branch, a local woman who has been working to help people affected by Hurricane Matthew.
Branch reached out to Shelia Rose and Glenn Dortch, and their daughter Yazzmin, who have been homeless for the four months since the hurricane. They stayed for awhile at emergency shelters before moving into hotels with an assist from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s temporary housing program.
“This experience has been very difficult for Sheila, who deals with medical issues and has had to be hospitalized several times since the disaster,” Branch said. “This experience has been even more difficult for her daughter Yazzmin, who is a freshman at Lumberton High School. Teenage years are not easy for anyone, but keeping up with homework and exams while staying in a hotel room has been hard on Yazzmin.”
The money provided an opportunity for Yazzmin to go on shopping trip, during which she picked up some needed cold-weather clothing and toiletry items for her and her family while spending $74.65.
Branch said the Dortch-Rose family was appreciative, and wanted to extend their gratitude to their Jewish friends at the far end of this country.
This article will be shared with DeGroot’s class, so consider that done.
Editor Donnie Douglas can be reached at 910-416-5649.