Mitzvot from the heart: Adam Poger

Adam Poger decided to do a full year of charitable work for his mitzvah project. He worked with several local organizations, including Ready Readers, where he donated children’s books and read some of his favorites from childhood to preschoolers (left).

Adam Poger, Congregation Shaare Emeth

 Adam Poger, son of Anna and David Poger of Olivette, wanted to help others in so many ways that he decided to do a year of mitzvot. His mother’s passion is community service, so she planted this seed in her kids to be creative and think about others. She wanted Adam to see for himself that life is not easy for everyone. She was doing a project each month to set an example for her kids, and Adam ended up taking it over.

Beginning in December 2014, Adam and his family visited the homeless living in a vacant downtown building. They were part of a group through Winter Patrol, a project of the New Life Evangelistic Center. Using his Hanukkah money, Adam purchased a heater, propane tank, and a cordless boom box and batteries to donate to the people he saw. 

“At first, I didn’t want to go,” he said. “I wanted to stay home and do my homework. I was afraid they would have a gun. After we went, it was really touching and amazing to see how the homeless live.” 

Meeting them was a big eye opener for Adam, and the  experience showed him how lucky he is.

In January, Adam used the money earned from lemonade stands to purchase enough ingredients for 20 families from the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry to make his favorite tortilla soup. He bagged the ingredients separately and included the recipe.

Adam wanted to thank those at Congregation Shaare Emeth who helped guide him through his bar mitzvah process. In February, he helped make 10 Purim baskets that were given to the clergy and staff. 

Sack Lunch Sunday is a monthly program through Shaare Emeth’s religious school in which each student brings one sack lunch to donate to the Family Haven shelter, a Community in Partnership serving the homeless through the Salvation Army. In March, Adam made 19 lunches, each with a sandwich, chips, apple and a piece of candy.

April included a Passover seder at Parc Provence, a residential community for those with dementia. Adam and his family attended the seder, where he asked the Four Questions. After the seder, Adam visited with some of the residents and helped them draw pictures and make haggadahs. He said it was hard to teach them because many had forgotten how to use a pencil or place stickers on a piece of paper.  

Adam’s second-favorite month was May, when he spent time with the children of newly homeless families sheltering with Room at the Inn. Housed at Shaare Emeth on the first Monday of the month, the inn is a temporary, emergency shelter for homeless women and families regardless of age or gender. After Hebrew school one day, Adam hung out with a 2-year old girl, reading and playing games with her. He also brought books and games for the kids.

In June, Adam helped with his family garage sale, raising money for Gentry, a homeless teenager who would like to attend college. He met Gentry in December through Winter Patrol. During the sale, Adam sold grilled quesadillas for $1 each, which were a big hit. At the end of the day, his family raised $754. 

July was Adam’s favorite month. He donated preschool books to Ready Readers and read his favorite childhood book to three preschool classes at a Lot-A-Luv Child Development day-care center in north St. Louis County. 

“I really, really like little kids, and it was cool to interact with them,” Adam said. “It was warming and very special as they all wanted to hang out with me. Everyone should do Ready Readers because it’s cool and it gives you a chance to see how lucky you are.”

The Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry was the recipient of 250 cans of dog food during August. Adam said he was really happy with this donation because most people don’t usually think about pets. 

 Pantry director Judy Berkowitz said, “It breaks my heart when food pantry guests ask if we have dog food for their four-pawed family members and we have to say no. Animals help families cope during hard times. Not having food for them adds to their stress. I was amazed and grateful when Adam donated dog food. It made life that much easier and happier for our families.”

In September, Adam and his seventh-grade classmates from Ladue Middle School went on a daylong bonding field trip to the YMCA’s Trout Lodge and to the City Museum. Adam donated a portion of his bar mitzvah money so that three students could attend who otherwise would not have been able to do so.

October and November brought the Hanukkah Hugs Toy Drive, of which Adam’s mother was a co-chair. The drive was sponsored by Women’s Philanthropy of the Jewish Federation. The books, toys and gifts that were collected were given to children 1-18 years old served by Jewish Family & Children’s Service. On Nov. 30, Adam attended the gift-packaging event and helped assemble gift bags.

Adam chose to have a smaller bar mitzvah party and will continue doing mitzvah projects when his family travels to Italy at the end of the school year in May. While there, they will seek out Jewish organizations that will allow them to volunteer together.