One Sunday afternoon, daughter, who lives in Queens, came to visit me in Monsey. In the back seat of her van was a large beautifully wrapped gift basket with a number of personalized items: backpacks, gym bags, acrylic boxes, and a clipboard. Curious, I asked my daughter whom it was for.
She told me that she was volunteering for an organization called Fountain of Kindness. She said their mission was “Bringing the Jewish community together to spread kindness to families going through any type of hardship.” The package, she went on to explain was for the children of an Israeli woman who is in the States for treatment for cancer. She and her family were staying in Monsey and my daughter offered to deliver the package.
Off she went – and came back on a high. She said the children were ecstatic and posed for pictures with huge smiles on their faces.
I knew I wanted to hear more and was quickly in touch with Melody Aziz, the founder.
Turns out she is a mother of two who lives in Great Neck. She says she was raised to be kind to everyone. About a year and half ago, she was approached by an acquaintance who asked if she could speak with a young female cancer patient who was refusing treatment for a brain tumor. The patient had been in seminary when her symptoms appeared; she was alone and sad in the hospital. Melody went to visit and brought along some gifts. She was there for seven hours.
Subsequently, she arranged for others to visit. Then began arranging meals and gifts for the patient’s mom and her siblings. Melody was thrilled when the patient finally agreed to treatment. Baruch Hashem, the young women is in remission and studying to become a nurse.
This act of kindness was the humble beginning of Melody’s organization.
Melody and her friends wanted to continue helping other. “What can we do now?” her friends asked. Melody realized that she was being presented with a major opportunity. Since the birth of her second child she had been looking for something meaningful to do and here it was!
She started with a WhatsApp group. As they came in, the various chesed opportunities were posted and whoever, wherever, and whenever someone could pick it up and do it, they got the “job”. As this group grew in size, and people began asking for tax receipts, Melody had Fountain of Kindness registered as a non-profit. Today she has over 250 volunteers and describes it as a 24-hour a day job. Her phone is constantly ringing and beeping.
“Hardship,” she says, “is not limited to sickness.” Fountain of Kindness will buy groceries and/or send meals to needy families. They have given plane tickets to Israel to a brain cancer patient. They’ve arranged a “spa day” for someone and then, of course, there are the gift baskets for kids.
The people on the receiving end are generally referred to Melody by a friend or neighbor. But there are those who hear about Fountain of Kindness and will call for themselves.
I ask Melody about funding for this rapidly growing tzedakah enterprise. She tells me that funding comes from donations (which can be made online) and fundraising events. Fountain of Kindness also has tzedakah boxes. Anyone can sign up to volunteer, but “jobs” are given out on a first-come-first-serve basis.
If they are preparing a gift packages for children, Melody (or someone else) will order the items and have them personalized. Someone else will then buy the basket and prepare the package. A third volunteer picks it up and delivers it (just as my daughter did while here in Monsey).
If someone can prepare meals, then that mitzvah is theirs while someone else picks it up and delivers the food. Melody has people bringing food to shiva houses and hospitals as well as to needy families in their homes.
Fountain of Kindness is based in Great Neck, but their spread of kindness is far-reaching. Last year Melody brought three suitcases full of toys to a family going through a medical crisis in Los Angeles. At the time of her visit, she found out about a campaign to find a bone marrow match for a young father of three little children battling a rare form of blood cancer. Taking the initiative, she visited the family to deliver her gifts to the children. Melody says that she can’t even describe the joy and the ray of sunshine that those suitcases brought to the gloom and doom of the family’s existence. (Unfortunately, she reports, the dad passed away after his body rejected a bone marrow transplant.)
As we end our conversation, Melody adds “There is too much nastiness in the world. Let’s spread some kindness.”
Visit www.fountainofkindness.org. To become a volunteer, leave a message on their Facebook page or call Melody directly at 516 410 6869.