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Local Teen Creates Quarantine Essentials for the Homeless

The 17-year-old said that after seeing homeless people lacking the proper COVID-19 protection, she felt compelled to take action.
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August 7, 2020
Avital delivering the care packages she prepared to the homeless in Westwood Village.

Avital Graber, a rising senior at Shalhevet High School, has been assembling wellness gift bags and hand-delivering them to the homeless in Westwood, Brentwood and Venice.

To date, she has delivered more than 50 gift bags containing a hand-made face mask, travel-sized mouthwash, a water bottle, snacks, hand sanitizer and deodorant. Each bag includes a printed note that reads, “For your safety and wellness during this hard time. Stay healthy and happy!!! Enjoy!”

The 17-year-old said that after seeing homeless people lacking the proper COVID-19 protection solely because they couldn’t afford it, she felt compelled to take action. “It bothered me because I feel like they should be able to protect themselves,” Avital told the Journal. “[Providing masks for them] could also help slow the spread [of the coronavirus] and could be beneficial to everyone in the community.” 

She set up a GoFundMe to raise money for the sewing supplies and hygiene products. With the help of her parents, Karen and Moshe, the Graber family promoted the GoFundMe on social media and emailed friends and family to spread the word, raising almost $1,400 in the process.

The final product of the wellness care packages, ready for delivery.

“Avital is always trying to help those who are less fortunate,” Karen told the Journal. “[This act of community service] speaks to her talents — being artistic and being thoughtful of other people.”

To stay occupied during quarantine, Avital rediscovered her passion for sewing. She’s made her hand-sewn masks from a variety of fabric prints including cheetahs, polka dots, florals and solid red and blue tones. She also bought white masks and tie-dyed them. “I think the [colorful masks] will bring a little bit of happiness to everyone,” she said. 

Avital delivering the care packages she prepared to the homeless in tents on San Vicente in Brentwood.

Thinking back to her studies at Shalhevet, Avital said, “We learn a lot in Jewish classes about not only caring about ourselves and our community, but about everyone. I really have learned that we should be giving back as a people. We should always be trying to do better for the world.”

She added that her gift bag project has reminded her to remain humble and grateful for what she has. 

“I have my home and everything I need, but not everyone has that and not everyone has the ability to protect themselves because they’re just out in the open, so it makes me really thankful,” she said. “This project gets me on my feet and helps me to have something to do and keeps my head straight during this time.”

“I have my home and everything I need, but not everyone has that and not everyone has the ability to protect themselves because they’re just out in the open, so it makes me really thankful.” — Avital Graber

Avital also confessed to not being “the kind of person who would normally do things [out of my comfort zone] because I’m shy and get nervous easily, but I feel like anyone is able to help right now and do whatever they can. Even if you’re nervous or you think it’s not possible, you should still try. It’ll make you feel good to do good for other people.”

Avital plans to continue designing and delivering masks and gift bags until school resumes on Aug. 26. 

“[During] this time, it’s so easy to be self-involved,” Karen said, “and how all the things in your life [are] going to fall into place, but to take what you’re good at and then to think outside of yourself, it’s such a beautiful thing. I’m very happy and feel very blessed that I have a daughter that would take what [she’s] good at and be useful to other people.”


Melissa Simon is a writer in Los Angeles and a former Journal intern. 

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