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Tom Finneran: Just in Time for Christmas, Part One

Friday, December 06, 2013

 

Immigrants arriving at New York's Ellis Island in search of the American dream.

Her name was Fay. Fay was a Jew, born in 1919. Fay passed away earlier this year but she lives on in my mind. She will be there forever.

Fay was born in Eastern Europe, specifically Poland. She spoke six languages—German, Polish, Russian, Yiddish, Lithuanian, and English. That first language I mentioned was very important for you see, Fay not only had a name and a family, but she had a number too. If that doesn’t sound ominous to you, you need a history lesson, for to live in Eastern Europe as a Jew during the 1930s and 1940s was not a happy thing. There were no childhood idylls for Fay. Rather, there were the numbers given out, not only Fay’s number, but the numbers given to her fellow residents at Treblinka, one of many German concentration camps. Speaking and understanding German helped her survive the terror. Barely. Millions did not.

It is almost incomprehensible that such a savage hate as Hitler’s can dwell in the human heart—a hatred so utterly irrational, so rancid, and so despotically cruel that most of us would shrink away at the sight and sound of wild animals being so viciously treated. Such was the hatred of Hitler and his criminal gang for the Jews of Europe during the unforgivable nine years of the Thousand Year Reich. Also incomprehensible is the fact that the German people--- a gifted, learned, literate, tremendously talented race--- allowed the lunacy of Hitler’s regime to occur, a lunacy which destroyed the lives and souls of millions of German families as well.

The audacity of hope

Most incomprehensible of all was Fay’s spry step onto the shores of America. She arrived here on July 7, 1949 with her husband, and her son. She and her husband each had a small battered suitcase and their son, all of four years old, carried a little boy’s bag. There was no trust fund. There was no rich and generous uncle. After Treblinka and the harrowing years of her early life, spry should not have been part of Fay’s repertoire. But it was…………

Fay had an unshakeable belief that America would be a dream come true for her young family. Talk about the audacity of hope! Here she would find education for her children, opportunities for work for herself and her husband, and an acceptance of her faith and her God. Yes, her life had been hard, very hard. Cruelty had been the common denominator. Virtually all of her family members had been killed---either worked or starved to death or simply rounded up and shot.

Up until then, perhaps the happiest day of her life had been the day she was liberated by young American soldiers. That happened in March or April of 1945, followed by the end of the war in May. Marriage to her beloved husband, whom she had met at Treblinka, followed soon as did life in a “displaced persons camp” in Germany.

Then came a son and then came salvation. A lone relative, long a resident of Canada, sponsored Fay and her family to come to North America, specifically to Canada, by way of Ellis Island. Fate intervened at the foot of the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor when an outbreak of German measles raced through the ship, putting it into medical quarantine for almost two weeks and disrupting the continuing voyage to Canada. The boat was cleared of all passengers and Fay and her family entered America.

They had no money, spoke no English, had no job, had no roof over their heads, and Fay was once again pregnant with another son whom she would lose at childbirth. Welcome to America Fay. You’ll love it here. And she did……………………………….. 

The American dream 

A social service agency found them a fifth-floor walkup with one small room and a shared toilet at the end of a long common hallway. Her husband found work as a butcher at a meat-packing plant and within months a relative of her husband brought them up to Brighton. Their American dream had begun.

Success to Fay took many forms---her husband’s hard and honorable work as a meat-cutter, the pride she took in her modest home, the success of her children and her children’s children, her celebration of her faith, her appreciation of America’s freedoms, all of these were special to Fay. I have to think that the unspeakable sadness and cruelty of her early life made her American experiences more joyous with each year.

I know Fay’s son, that little four year old boy who walked wide-eyed off a boat in New York City in July of 1949. He’s a mensch, kind, generous, loving, and gifted, truly of Fay Lewin’s flesh and blood. He gave a eulogy in honor of his Mom earlier this year that was a eulogy for the ages. How appropriate that such a eulogy was given for such a woman—Fay Lewin, a woman of America, a woman of the world, a woman for the ages.

 

Related Slideshow: 30 Ways To Give In Central Mass This Holiday Season

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Salvation Army

The Salvation Army’s traditional red kettle is an integral part of the Christmas scene, with millions of dollars donated each year to aid needy families, seniors, and the homeless. Donations provide and financial assistance provides Christmas dinners, clothing, and toys for families in need including families of prisoners. Simply make a donation wherever you see their trademark red kettle or do so online by clicking here.

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Goodwill

Goodwill Mass accepts donations of men's, women's or children's clothing and other textiles. Some of the clothing donations are provided to our clients who may need an outfit for an interview or a one week supply of clothing for a new job. Most is sold to neighboring Goodwills, or as salvage with all revenues raised going back into programs and services for Rhode islanders.

You may drop off your old clothing at one of the many clothing donation bins throughout the state or at the drop-box located in 25 Park Avenue, Worcester.

Click here for more information.

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Operation Homefront

Formed in 2002, Operation Homefront is a nonprofit organization developed to support military families. On December 14, Operation Homefront will host a “Holiday Toys for Military Kids” event in Wellesly Hills, Taunton, and Springfield from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Toys are limited and are on a first come, first serve registration process. Once your registration is complete you will receive a confirmation email. Please note that this program is for military dependent children only.

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African Community Education Program

Donate non-perishable food items such as rice, beans, and canned vegetables for Thanksgiving distribution by November 21. Donate new or gently used winter clothing such as boots, hats, scarves, and coats to be distributed to ACE families during the holiday season. Donations accepted November – January.

Contact: Amy Connery (508) 799-3653

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AIDS Project Worcester

Donate gift cards, new toys, and new clothes; personal care items such as soap, shampoo, washcloths, toothpaste, toothbrushes, feminine products, and disposable diapers; and canned goods for December holiday food baskets.

Contact: Patricia Price (508) 755-3773

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Alternatives Unlimited

Donate tickets to sporting events, theatres, and movies; specialty food items, health and beauty items; kitchen essentials; gift baskets; and gift certificates to grocery stores, pharmacies, and department stores.

Contact: Sandra Marquis (508) 266-6517

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Auburn Youth and Family Services

Donate new toys, games, and books for children of all ages; grocery store gift cards for holiday food baskets; gifts for teens such as movie passes, music, gaming gift cards, and personal care items; and gift cards to clothing and shoe stores to purchase gifts for children and teens. Adopt a family and provide gifts for Christmas. Call for details.

Contact: Sheryl Spafford (508) 832-5707 ext. 10

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Big Brother Big Sisters Central MA

Donate gift cards to local grocery and discount stores; board games; craft supplies; sports equipment and balls; and other small gift items suitable for children.

Contact: Melanie Perreault (508) 752-7868 ext. 14

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Boys and Girls Club of Worcester

Donate holiday gifts for children ages 5 – 18 including gift cards for teens to purchase items such as movies, music, and clothing; grocery store gift cards to purchase holiday meals for families in need; and wrapping paper and supplies such as bows and cards. Adopt a family for the holidays and provide gifts. Call for details.

Contact: Liz Hamilton (508) 754-2686

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Burncoat Family Center

Donate new toys, books, clothes, outerwear, boots, and gift cards for boys and girls ages 4 – 18; gift certificates for movies, bowling, and other activities; non-religious holiday decorations and gift-wrap; and food for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.

Contact: Anna Berin (508) 853-6988

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Catholic Charities

Donate new winter coats, gloves, mittens, and hats for adults and children; gift cards to pharmacies, grocery stores, and discount retail stores; and non-perishable food donations.

Contact: Cynthia Taberner (508) 860-2206

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Central MA Housing Alliance

Donate gifts for homeless children of all ages and new household items for more than 80 homeless families including sheet sets, blankets, pots and pans, dishes, silverware, and gift cards to discount and grocery stores. Gifts for teens especially needed.

Contact: Katherine Kerr (508) 791-7265

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Children's Friend Inc

Donate gift cards for discount and grocery stores that will be distributed to needy families during the holiday season to be used for food, clothes, and gifts.

Contact: Karen Ludington (508) 459-6424

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Community Healthlink - Homeless Outreach and Advocacy Program

Donate winter hats and gloves and gift cards to discount stores, grocery stores, and fast food restaurants.

Contact: Brian Bickford (508) 860-1139

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Community Healthlink - Victim Services

Donate new coats, hats, gloves, and mittens for children, adolescents, and adults of all sizes. Donate new board games and gift cards in denominations of $10 – $25.

Contact: Amanda Atchue (508) 421-4501

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Dare Family Services

Donate toys and other items for children ages 10 – 18. Items for teens especially needed.

Contact: Armida Martinez

(508) 755-7100

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Dismas House

Donate gift cards for male residents: sheets and blankets, toiletries, hats, gloves, and pajamas.

Contact: David McMahon

(508) 799-9389

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Family Health Center of Worcester

Donate new items for newborns and mothers in need: baby blankets, toiletries, newborn undergarments, socks, bibs, infant equipment such as car seats, new maternity clothes, and gift cards for discount and grocery stores. Donate new items for immigrants/refugees such as gloves and mittens, hats, scarves, and home first aid kits. Donate new household items for homeless families including sheet sets, blankets, cooking utensils, pots and pans, and dishes.

Contact: Georgianna Sgariglia

(508) 860-7951

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Elder Services of Worcester

Donate small toiletries such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, and shampoo to be used as gifts for Meals on Wheels recipients.

Contact: Julia Martiros

(508) 852-3205

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Family Success Partnership

Donate gift cards to grocery stores to purchase items for a holiday meal; gift cards to discount stores; and children’s winter clothing including gloves, socks, and small-sized winter coats.

Contact: Courtney Hale

(774) 245-5416

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Frances Perkins and Foundations

Donate educational toys for children ages 1 – 12; gift cards and gift certificates; and household items such as bedding, pots and pans; personal hygiene products, and diapers.

Contact: Ivonne Suarez

(508) 757-7506

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YWCA of Central MA

Donate coats for women, children, and teens; hats and gloves; books for all ages, journals, and gift cards to discount and grocery stores.

Contact: Amarely Gutierrez

(508) 755-5371 ext. 3014

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Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital

Donate men’s and women’s clothing in all sizes (especially XL and plus sizes) such as sweaters, sweatshirts, sweatpants, jeans, underwear, and t-shirts; toiletries such as hairbrushes, makeup, shampoo, body wash, and lotion; inexpensive male and female jewelry items such as crosses, watches, and rings; games, cards, word search books, and other small gift items.

Contact: Sandy Epstein

(508) 368-3524

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Worcester Housing Authority

Donate Christmas trees and decorations for use in resident community rooms; pie filling or grocery store gift cards for holiday food; and hats and gloves for children in all sizes.

Contact: Lynn O’Toole

(508) 635-3306

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Worcester County Food Bank

Donate non-perishable food for distribution to area emergency feeding programs. Drop off items Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at 474 Boston Turnpike, Shrewsbury. Please call the office before dropping off. Please visit www.foodbank.org for more information.

Contact:

(508) 842-3663

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Horace Mann Educational Associates

Donate linens and blankets, craft supplies, gloves, hats, scarves, and gift cards to pharmacy and grocery stores. Items donated to individuals with developmental disabilities.

Contact: Tracy Andryc

(508) 298-1129

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Key Program

Donate small gifts for teenage girls in residential shelter such as warm socks, gloves, scarves, hats, journals, and hygiene products.

Contact: Stephanie Towne

(508) 852-6277

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LUK

Donate toys for children ages 2 and up including Disney toys, Dora, pretend food items, art supplies, model cars, blocks, and books; gift cards to toy and discount stores. Gift items for teenage boys especially needed.

Contact: Melissa Murphy

(508) 762-3205

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Nativity School of Worcester

Donate navy blue blazers, white button down shirts, khaki pants, belts, and dress shoes for boys in sizes from boys’ small to men’s medium; sports equipment such as baseballs, soccer balls, and related items; art supplies and music equipment such as instruments, scores, and songbooks.

Contact: Patrick Maloney

(508) 799-0100

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American Red Cross of Central MA

Join us for our annual “Holiday for Heroes” campaign. Assist by reviewing, categorizing, and bundling holiday cards that will be delivered to veterans in Central MA. You would need to dedicate about three hours for this one-time seasonal event in early December. Call to schedule date.

Contact: Ray Duffy (508) 595-3762

Ray.duffy@redcross.org

 
 

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