Being Able to Give is a Gift
In honor of his birthday, Phil chose to energize his community to get involved and support hunger relief
Phil Clapick of Woodland Hills, CA celebrated his 80th birthday on April 1st. Instead of getting gifts, he asked his Facebook friends and relatives to contribute to commemorate his birthday to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. We recently talked to Phil about the importance of giving back to the community in a virtual interview.
“A Facebook reminder popped up and suggested that I host a fundraising event for my birthday with a long list of charities you can give to and have people donate to honor your birthday,” Phil recalls. “I thought it was a great idea, so I chose the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank because I like the work the Food Bank does, with the pandemic going on and because I have seen with my own eyes a line of people waiting for food down the street from me at a church.”
“On the news, I see people lined up, not just in Southern California, but also all across the country getting bags of groceries put in their cars and I signed up for a birthday fundraiser on Facebook. I set my goal for $200, thinking people would give maybe 5 or 10 bucks but I was surprised to have the figure go as high as it did. I am very gratified and I am confident that it will be put to good use by the Food Bank.”
Down the street from where Phil lives is a church where they have a food pantry set up. When his friend, a high school teacher from Germany, periodically visits him, he donates his time to the church’s food pantry. He gets up at 6 in the morning when he’s on vacation to help sort the food for the food pantry and Phil will go to drop him off and pick him up after his volunteer shift.
“I was stunned to see the people waiting in line and they were not my stereotypical version of what a person hungry is. There were families there pretty well dressed – lots of them. Children, men and women lined up waiting for food. I said, ‘Wow how incredible this is and it’s right here in Woodland Hills, a fairly affluent neighborhood of Los Angeles.’ I subsequently talked to the people at the food pantry and they said they have a line like that every day with average people, who for one reason or another, be it the pandemic or a family emergency, do not have enough cash to buy food and they’re waiting in line. [Witnessing that] and my late parents were the inspiration for collecting money for the LA Regional Food Bank.”
Growing up with his sister, their parents instilled in them that charity for those that were less fortunate is a mitzvah or a blessing. “They pointed things out to my sister and I such as the Talmud and one of the things in the Torah that my parents spoke of was how providing charity for the poor and hungry people weighs as heavily as all the other commandments of the Torah combined. That is number one in Judaism – to help the disadvantaged and the hungry. One of my mother’s favorite sayings is from Leviticus 19:10: “You shall not strip your vineyard nor shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger.”
“These morals my parents instilled in me and witnessing the food insecurity with my own eyes what is going on here in Los Angeles, and Southern California and across the country, I thought I would invoke something in the Jewish religion, Tzedek, which is a moral obligation to give to the poor. The fact is that anybody that has the means should be contributing, at least a little bit, to help people out who are hurting and that’s the motivation behind my launching this thing on Facebook.”