Hartford Area Teens Spread Holiday Joy

JTConnect, one of Federation’s local partners, engages teens from across Greater Hartford in fun and interactive educational, social, and volunteer experiences that are grounded in Jewish values. One of JTConnect’s most popular annual activities is the Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie Bake, which took place virtually on November 22. Each year, it draws a diverse range of teens from across our community. We’re delighted to share the summary below from JTConnect Executive Director Eric Maurer. 

Thanksgiving is a time for families and friends to gather and celebrate the bounty of the season. But for many in Connecticut, the holiday is a stark reminder of their struggle with food insecurity. Especially this year – a time when so many families face unemployment and furlough – more people need a helping hand. 

“For years, our teens have been coming together the Sunday before Thanksgiving for a mega–pie baking event,” says Cara Levine, JTConnect’s program director. “It’s really special to see so many teens committed to giving back.” 

This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic, it wasn’t safe to bring so many teens together in one space to bake. The event would have been cancelled had it not been for a group of determined JTConnect teens who believe that now more than ever, we need to work to make a difference in our community.

On Sunday, November 22, more than 80 local teens and volunteers logged on to Zoom from the safety of their own homes and spent the afternoon baking pies with their friends. They made over 170 pies, which were donated to nine local nonprofit organizations. The pies were dropped off at points in West Hartford, Simsbury, and South Windsor; a team of volunteers then delivered them to the charities.

“It feels amazing to help others while also having fun and spending virtual time with my friends,” said Sophie Kudler (Hall ’22). “My favorite part of the event is making the pies, even though we sometimes make a mess! It’s incredibly meaningful to bake something that you know will brighten someone’s Thanksgiving.”

During the pie bake, a speaker from Hands on Hartford’s Faces of Homelessness program shared his personal account of homelessness and food insecurity over Zoom. “It is really important to remember that most homeless people didn’t start that way. No matter the situation, they’re human beings, and we must validate their humanity. I know this firsthand, because I experienced homelessness myself.”

JTConnect’s Pumpkin Pie Bake proves that it truly takes a village. It is incredible to see organizations coming together in the spirit of giving. During my time as Executive Director, I have been continually inspired to see so many local teens putting their Jewish values into action. COVID-19 has been especially hard on teenagers, because they’re working to manage hybrid schedules at school, cancellation of events and sports, and the loss of social interaction. It is so inspiring to see that – despite these challenges – they remain committed to giving back in a big way.

Click here to learn more about JTConnect. 

Image courtesy of JTConnect