“We can’t change the whole world, but one step at a time, we can change one person’s world,” Nochum Russell said, and that’s just what he and his brother, Shmulie, have set out to do.
These Bayswater brothers are bringing hope back to humanity by helping humans in need. As temperatures plummet below freezing, the Russells are warming the spirits of the homeless population across New York City by providing individuals with care packages. With a little help, they’re hoping to broaden their mission on a much larger scale.
On Saturday night, Nochum and Shmulie Russell spent their evening making their way around the city, delivering roughly 45 packages with warm blankets, scarves, earmuffs, gloves, socks, plus basic toiletries, snacks and water, to homeless individuals living on the streets. They also offer something that can’t be put in a bag—hugs. “Often we go up to people and offer them these items and then ask if they want a hug, and many will say yes. Multiple people have said, ‘I needed that.’ Some people just need that human contact,” Shmulie said. “I once started talking to a guy on a corner for two minutes and he said nobody had even said hello to him in months. There are little things that we can all do to raise people up and make them feel like a person again,” Nochum said.
Yet it’s not just the homeless they’re helping. “It was close to midnight and I had work on Sunday, but we had a couple more blankets to give out,” Nochum said. “We weren’t going home until we were done,” Shmulie chimed in. That night, the brothers say they encountered a car crash near the Holland Tunnel, and they gave the last of their blankets to the shocked and shivering victims. “While our main priority may be to help the homeless, we’re out here for anyone that needs help,” Nochum said.
Last Saturday’s trip wasn’t the first. While both work full-time jobs, the brothers find time after work to buy supplies, organize them into bags at their homes and deliver them each Saturday to those in need. But they’ve been doing so for at least five years, and that spirit of giving back is something they grew up around. “We were fortunate to grow up in a home with a lot of giving,” Nochum said. “Our mom used to tell us when she was young, her father would pick up one or two homeless people and have them join them for lunch, and this had a lasting impression on her. When we would go in to the city on the A train and a homeless person came on begging, my mother would pull out a yogurt or whatever we had from our lunch and would give it to the person. And that stuck with us. It’s almost in our genes. We knew that we had to continue this,” Nochum said.
While the brothers have been helping homeless individuals under the radar for more than five years, they’ve decided to take their movement public in the hopes of doing something even bigger, and the ball is already rolling. In the past few weeks, they started explaining their mission to local businesses, many of which have been more than happy to help by offering discounts or donating supplies, and the Russells have launched an online movement to collect money so that they can buy more.
“We’ve been getting discounts which is great because we’re doing this out of pocket, but our pockets can only go so deep before we’re the ones that will need a blanket,” Nochum said. Last week, the brothers set up a Paypal account to accept online donations and raised about $1,200, which helped them to buy supplies for last weekend’s giveaway, but the pressure is on to raise even more.
“I’m a chaplain for the New York State Chaplain Task Force (NYSCTF), and they’ve been very generous in helping us,” Shmulie said. “They gave us 100 blankets for free, and as a chaplain, I only have to pay to offset the shipping so the organization doesn’t pay for it. But we called and said we’re going to need a lot more, since we’re doing this every Saturday night.” The NYSCTF pulled through, offering the Russells 6,000 blankets. The only catch is that they’re being shipped in a shipping container, which comes at a high price. The brothers are hoping to raise $7,500 to offset the shipping costs and to buy more supplies for care packages in bulk. With New York frozen in the dead of winter and blanket supplies running low, they’re hoping to raise the money quickly. They have set up a GoFundMe account for their #humans4humans movement. Anyone can make a donation at www.gofundme.com/humans4humansnys. They are also still accepting donations through Paypal at paypal.me/give2homeless
For those not comfortable with donating online, Ellen Adler and Evelyn Franklin from Nochum’s workplace, Fido Fitness Club, have allowed him to set up donation drop-off boxes at the site. Donations, in the form of good condition blankets, jackets, gloves, hats, sweaters, and scarves, as well as brand new socks, and cash can be dropped off anytime from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 910 Railroad Avenue in Woodmere.
The brothers have been very transparent in their efforts by documenting almost every step of the process on their Facebook pages (Nochum Russell and Shmulie Russell), from photos of them preparing the care packages, to videos of them handing donations to those in need, with many individuals expressing their appreciation and offering words of hope.
“Never give up. The struggle is real, but things can always get better. As many negatives there are, there’s always that many positives. Keep your head up and never stop trying,” Brian, a homeless man in Jamaica, Queens said in one video.
The Russells also hope to never stop trying. “Our vision is huge,” Shmulie said. The brothers have an ultimate goal of having their own center where they can organize donations and a kitchen where warm meals can be made. As both men have experience working in special needs communities, they also hope to use this hub so those with special needs can help put together the care packages and cook meals. “They’re another part of society that’s overlooked and this would be a great way for them to feel like they’re part of this community that’s doing something good,” Nochum said. “With the public’s help, we know we can do this.”BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS