by Jim Schmidt
My name is Jim Schmidt and I grew up in the New York City area and married Rachel Cohen in 1975. In the 1980’s we had two children, Michael and Molly, and in the 1990’s our family moved to Richmond, Virginia.
Growing up I always had a home, and as it happened to be––in two houses––living on two fringes of suburban Rye, New York, evenly dividing the first 20 years of my life. I went to Rye High School, studied at SUNY of New Paltz, NY and Hunter College in NYC. In NYC is where I met Rachel and started our life together.
I never remember living hungry and I always had shelter. But as I left the New York area in my early adult years, I could see that the rest of the world wasn’t exactly like where I grew up.
A decade or two later––as we landed in Richmond––I was able to devote my non-work time providing solutions in family court for children in families where neglect, abuse and custody were issues. Trained and acting as a court appointed special advocate for Henrico CASA until 2011, this highly gratifying contribution––for almost another decade––became the centerpiece of my voluntary community life.
Until now. In July 2016, Rabbi Jesse Gallop, before he migrated to New York, asked me to replace him on the board of HomeAgain, the leading agency in Richmond for eliminating homelessness in the Greater Richmond area. [Rabbi Gallop’s personal commitment to HomeAgain is too long for this article.]
I was inspired to invest my time and resources to a cause that I had mistaken for a city issue. Actually, it took moving into the City of Richmond to realize that homelessness here is a regional issue.
What distinguishes HomeAgain in the community is that we work with those who are truly in need, and our clients are the backbone of an ongoing, highly successful story.
Instead of misjudging panhandlers and drifters as the homeless majority, our agency lens is focused on the less fortunate men, women and children who are sheltered nightly just a few thousand feet from the shadows of our synagogue. Engaged in a forward thinking program of “rapid re-housing,” our clients are re-attached to life’s regular steps and stumbles, sensibly with care and purpose.
Since August 2016, I have been actively working with the highly motivated and inspired Tikkun Olam committee here at Congregation Beth Ahabah. During these past months of friendship, knowledge exchange and mindfulness, this committee has decided to make a partnership pledge to HomeAgain. There are many different types of volunteers needed to work with the people of HomeAgain. Look for more information on the CBA website, Enews, and Facebook page about HomeAgain and how you can become involved.
My personal plea to you is to join us and step into a world where we can make a substantial difference for our neighbors––just around the corner and down the street from our temple––and help them replace the privilege that belongs to each one of us…a home again.
“Voices” is a series written by and about the members of Beth Ahabah. If you would like to submit an article about a friend or family member at Beth Ahabah, or your own adventures, avocations or interesting career, please contact Lori Allen in the Temple office at email@example.com.