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Ordinary People doing Extraordinary Things

Beautiful stories written by YOU about a person or event that changed your life, gave you hope, made you dream...
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Fellow Traveler
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Post by nrivlin88 » March 16, 2013, 7:46 am

This story that I will share with you today is just one of the many featured in Secrets of Kindness: A Journey among Good People by Asnat Greenberg. Asnat has graciously agreed to allow me to share her story here for the benefit of everyone. Enjoy and be inspired!

Joe's Story

I met Joe Gitler about two years ago. He is one of the people featured in my book, Secrets of Kindness: A Journey among Good People. Today, I would like to share with you his story. A story about change. A story about self fulfillment.
Ten years ago, when Joe Gittler was 26 years old, he and his wife decided to leave New York and immigrate to Israel. They settled in Ra’anana, a northern suburb of Tel Aviv, and Joe worked in a company that belongs to his family.
“At the end of 2002,” Joe told me, “there was a deep recession in the country. Reports on poverty began to be published and people started to become aware of the problem. During that time, I was approached by charity organizations, like many other people, and was asked to contribute. All that brought about a change for me.”
“In the United States,” Joe explained, “the minimum wage is low, but you can still subsist on it. In Israel – it's impossible. That bothered me. It was hard for me to accept. I saw that poverty was spreading and was not limited only to certain weaker groups in the population. And I asked myself what could be done about it.”
Joe told his family he wanted to take three months off from work, to take a break. At the time, he didn't know yet what he was looking for, “But when you hear the expression ‘below the poverty line,’” he said, “you immediately think of food – most importantly, having something to eat.”
“During those three months,” he said, “I went around to charity organizations all over the country – soup kitchens, childcare facilities for children at risk, and other places. I heard a lot of things, but one thing really stood out – there was no organization to coordinate the issue of ‘saving food’.”
The Food Saving Project is based on collecting surplus food that would be thrown out if it wasn't collected. A lot of food can be saved from surplus fruits and vegetables in the fields and surplus cooked food from banquet halls, catering companies, hotels, institutional dining rooms, restaurants, bakeries, and the leading food companies.
Joe explained that in the United States, the issue of saving food is well established. “In every city," he said, "everyone knows there is a large organization for saving surplus food – a food bank.” He flew to Toronto and spent a week there at an organization that deals with saving food. Afterwards, he visited a similar organization in New York.
When he returned to Israel, he already knew what he wanted to do.
“I returned to Israel,” he said, “and I opened the Yellow Pages. I called 50 or 60 catering companies and banquet halls in my own area, and I asked if they had leftover food. They told me they did. ‘And what you do with it?’ I asked. ‘The waiters eat some of it, and the rest we throw out,’ they replied. And then I asked them if I come with my car late at night and bring the necessary equipment for gathering the food and don't disturb anyone, would they agree to let me take the leftover food at the end of the event and transfer it to charity organizations. The responses were always enthusiastic: ‘Yes! Of course! Why haven't you come before?’”
“That's how I started,” he said. “I started with an idea. I didn't think we would get so far. At first, I would go around late at night, alone, and transfer food from those places to the various charity organizations, keeping tabs on everything from the moment the food reached the organizations until it was given to the needy.”
“And then I began to recruit volunteers,” Joe continued. “Within a few months we got the first truck, which really symbolized the launch of the endeavor and the fact that we had become a charity organization. Next, we began to think about the mission statement of the organization we had established, ‘Leket Yisrael’ in Hebrew, meaning Gleanings of Israel, and how we wanted it to develop. At that stage, I had already written a business plan, and that's how, eight years later, one person's idea became an organization that employs 80 people and has tens of thousands of volunteers. We have large warehouses and nine refrigerated trucks, and each year we collect produce from 900 farmers, hundreds of tons of food and hundreds of thousands of hot meals, and we distribute them to 290 charity organizations throughout Israel.”
Joe views the organization he established as a business, for all intents and purposes. While it's a nonprofit organization, it’s managed as a business. “We don't deal directly with poor families,” he explained. “We consider ourselves an intermediate pipeline. We're a philanthropic organization that helps charity organizations doing the really hard work, the sacred work.”
Joe expanded on his organization's operations as a business company, which maintains a high standard of operational efficiency. “Why do the country's leading food companies work with us?” he asked. “They work with us because they see that we’re properly managed, that we have refrigerated trucks, refrigerated storerooms, and all the required tools. We provide food companies, catering companies and farmers with a service that saves them money because destroying food costs money. But the service I give them must be good; otherwise they won't work with me.”
“What do you sense about those entities – the companies, the farmers and the restaurants – when you recruit them to donate food?”
“While it's true that these are organizations that operate for profit,” Joe replied, “I can sense their joy of giving. And how do I know they feel that way? Because they never ask me what their liability will be if something happens to the food or what tax deduction they can get. They too see the poverty in Israel, and they're happy that they can help people.”
Joe emphasized that it's a situation in which everyone benefits: the food donors save the money they would have to pay to destroy the leftover food while experiencing the joy of giving, and the poor people receive tasty and nourishing food.
I asked Joe what motivates him these days. Is it the spirit of giving or the professional satisfaction of managing a large and significant organization?
“I view this organization as a successful business that exists to help people,” he replied frankly. “I don't think all day about the needy people who receive the food, but I know that's what happens. I'm not such a sensitive person and that’s obvious in the organization. It's a business organization that helps people, not an organization that takes care of people. To me, that's the right way. Many donors like the business side of our organization because they know the money they donate is wisely invested. There are volunteers, however, who don't like working with us because they need the human contact, and they’re not satisfied with putting food into an empty refrigerator in a soup kitchen at midnight. But it's important to emphasize that one of the reasons for our success is the structure of our operations. If we had chosen to bring the food to the homes of the needy, we could not be so large and significant.”
Joe continued, “Even though I work here without pay, I sometimes feel it's my job, and I ask myself where I can volunteer. That's the reason I'm also volunteering now to advise other nonprofit organizations. I counsel them on financial matters and advise them during the establishment phases.
Peter Drucker, the American philosopher and father of modern management theory, said, “Management is much more than exercising authority and status and much more than ‘closing deals.’ Management affects people and their lives.”
I think Joe’s activities influence the lives of a great number of people.

Beautiful Soul
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Joined: January 22, 2010, 4:41 pm
Location: Islandia, NY
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Post by Davidf » October 13, 2013, 2:35 pm

What an inspirational story.-- and what a great way to use unwanted food!! Joe will be blessed many times over for the work that he does when the time comes.
Have a blessed day!

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