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By Yael Shapira, Federation Representative in Yokneam-Megiddo

I am such a “match maker” at heart, that I just love it when two federation- funded programs come together. The result is always greater than the sum of each part alone.

The Hila program is a national program run by the Ministry of education for teens who have dropped out of high school. The program keep these teens in a framework within their communities, rather than sending them off to boarding schools and other “last resort” options outside of the community. At Hila they receive complementing education geared towards matriculation, tailor made to each ones skills and abilities. Hila works under the unit for youth advancement and in addition to helping the kids complete their high school studies, the staff also assists the teens with emotional, personal and family issues.

Atlanta and St. Louis have been supporting some very unique programs for at risk teens in Megiddo for the past several years, and have grown quite close to the boys group and the girls group in this program. Together we have witnessed these kids mature into young adults with hopes and aspirations, teens taking responsibility for their lives and taking action to move forward with their dreams.

As part of their annual program, all teens at the HILA (CED) program are expected to volunteer and give back to the community.  So, when the Jewish Federation of Atlanta decided to join in with the Jewish federation of St. Louis in supporting Leket Israel, Israel’s national food bank, it was only natural that this contribution would help cover transportation for the teen’s monthly volunteer picking and gleaning at Leket’s fields in Nahalal.

“This is a true win-win opportunity” says Efrat Agra, program director for at risk teens in Megiddo. “Our teens are obligated for an on-going volunteer activity throughout the year and Leket is a wonderful way for them to give back to the community, while working physically and  letting out all the excess energy they have…”

Efrat and her staff were so impressed with Leket’s work that they decided to hold the opening event for this year’s volunteer program in the fields of Nahalal, inviting all the HILA  teens and staff. 24 kids and 8 staff people attended the opening event, rolled up their sleeves and picked together 5,292 lb of turnip cabbage, which made their way to over 600 under privileged families!

“This first gleaning activity has been very meaningful and fun for both our teens and their staff and we plan to do it on a monthly basis throughout the year.”  Efrat says and continues “ Please convey our appreciation to the federations for introducing us to Leket as well as for their significant support in transportation, thus enabling our teens to take part in this endeavor. I am sure we will all benefit from this.”