IN EVERY COMMUNITY there are people in great need. In Pasadena, Friends In Deed seeks to assist those in their community with resources and aid to alleviate some of their suffering. This past January, Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater became the executive director of this 120-year-old interfaith organization. “I am motivated by the great need to help our most vulnerable neighbors. My religious tradition and faith, as well as the moral imperative to fight injustice, call me to do this work.”
As their website states “at Friends In Deed we are dedicated not to simply alleviating the effects of homelessness, but to transforming lives and providing avenues for clients to move forward with dignity.”
“Our programs all seek to provide dignity, respect, love and compassion for all of our clients,” says Grater. “While the services we provide are critical and life-saving, it is how we provide them, through loving volunteers and dedicated staff that makes Friends In Deed a special place.”
Every day Grater sees the kindness and gentleness that volunteers and staff show to the clients. “The effects of that are enormous, probably not measureable. But we know that people are feeling the dignity and respect, and we are told that in some cases, our services saved their lives.”
Through their programs; The Food Pantry, The Women’s Room, The Bad Weather Shelter, Norma’s Nook and The Homeless Prevention Program, Friends In Deed is able to support the community in a myriad of important, life-changing ways.
“We serve thousands of people each year,” adds Grater. The pantry feeds 2400 a month, the Women’s Room serves 25-35 women daily, the Bad Weather Shelter served over 2000 people this past winter, and we see about seven clients a week for clothing.
The Women’s Room, founded in 2007, serves women who are alone and homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. In addition to the women they serve daily, they also find housing for five to eight each year. Women come to do their laundry, shower, have a healthy lunch, relax and socialize in a place where they can feel accepted and safe.
“Our programs have been steadily growing,” commented Grater, “and our name is now known and respected in the community as part of the great network of agencies doing work in Pasadena and the greater San Gabriel Valley.”
“We have big hopes and a wide vision for the coming years” said Grater. “We are seeking to expand upon our current programs significantly, and take on a new arm of our agency, be it an overnight shelter, storefront, mobile units, or another way to serve our clients.”
Grater invites the whole community to visit and see if there is a way they would like to become involved.
“There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer, to collect and donate food and other needed items, contribute financially and we are always open to new ideas,” said Grater.
Perhaps most important about the organization is that Friends In Deed meets people where they are, without judgment or restrictions that deny people the help they need.
“As an interfaith collaborative,” said Grater, “we call upon the Divine’s love to help us realize the vision of a society with less poverty, homeless and discarded individuals. We see the humanity and holy worth in each and every person.”
For more information visit their website: www.friendsindeedpas.org.
Florence L. Dann, a fifth year rabbinical student at the Academy for Jewish Religion in LA is a contributing writer to Jlife magazine.