Fran Held, Founder and Executive Director of Mitzvah Circle Foundation
Mitzvah Circle Foundation
Meeting Needs of People in Crisis
In this week’s Torah portion, Behukotai, God outlines the numerous rewards the people of Israel will receive by following the commandments (mitzvot). Today, we are featuring a Pennsylvania-based organization that performs many mitzvot by meeting the needs of people struggling with crisis, poverty, serious illness and homelessness. We are inspired by the work of Mitzvah Circle Foundation and all the mitzvot that Mitzvah Circle has fulfilled in helping others.
Interested in becoming a member of an online giving community that supports organizations like Mitzvah Circle Foundation each week? Join the crowd!
Read our interview below with Founder and Executive Director Fran Held (pictured above).
Why did you decide to start Mitzvah Circle Foundation?
I created Mitzvah Circle ten years ago after witnessing the unmet material needs of people struggling with homelessness, poverty, crisis and serious illness. Mitzvah Circle started in my garage. I started with nothing. No money. No warehouse. No staff. There is this notion that if you do something--you must do something big. The truth is that big things are really the sum of small things, and the small things really matter.
Could you share a story about Mitzvah Circle Foundation that is meaningful to you?
Brittany, a single mom, works as a waitress at a local restaurant trying to make ends meet. Brittany needs her job just to scrape by. When Brittany’s two-year-old son, Joey, flushed a Matchbox car down the toilet her life changed. The toilet overflowed and caused water damage in her apartment, and the apartment below. The landlord told Brittany that the repairs would be $5,000 and when she couldn’t pay--he evicted her. Unable to retrieve any of her possessions--Brittany found herself beginning again with the clothes on her back and with almost nothing for her two year old son, Joey. When she called Mitzvah Circle they were living in her car.
We helped Brittany get back on her feet--and continue to work--as we provided diapers for Joey, clean clothes and warm blankets. Thankfully, Brittany’s boss felt bad after hearing that she and Joey were living in her car. He allowed them to sleep in the back of the restaurant at night and to wash up in the bathroom every morning. All of this from an innocent two year old with a Matchbox car.
How would you connect Mitzvah Circle Foundation to a Jewish value?
We believe that no one should die in a hospital gown because they don't own pajamas. No baby should sit in a dirty diaper all day because their parents can't afford the cost of baby diapers. No woman should miss school or work because they have no way to purchase period supplies. Mitzvah Circle alleviates suffering for people in horrendous situations.
What has inspired you in the work that you are doing?
I saw a need and wanted to meet that need. I know that all things are possible when you gather people for good. I am inspired by the people we serve, as we work tirelessly to provide material support to alleviate their suffering.
What are some non-monetary ways for others to get involved in your organization or cause?
People can come and volunteer at our facility, collect our most needed items, ask me--Fran to speak at an event or spread the word about our work. (And if you don’t live in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area - find an organization helping those in need in your community).