katz rechnitzGuest of honor Harvey Katz joined Two River Theater founders Joan and Robert Rechnitz, Rabbi Laibel Schapiro, and Chani Schapiro during last week’s tribute dinner for the community nonprofit Hand in Hand.

Press release from Belfer Communications

On Thursday, June 10th, more than 400 people gathered to honor the teen volunteers of Hand in Hand, a community outreach organization that extends a helping hand to special needs children and their families.

The sold-out tribute event at Red Bank’s Two River Theater also honored Phyllis and Harvey Katz of Long Branch. and Louisa and Marc Liechtung of Wayside. New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno commended the volunteers for making the world a better place through selfless dedication to their community.

lt kimLieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno receives an appreciation award from Rabbi Laibel Schapiro, during the June 10 event at Two River Theater.

“The impact these teens are making on the lives of so many families is phenomenally heartwarming,” said Rabbi Laibel Schapiro, director of Chabad of the Shore.

Guest speaker Adria Glass of Ocean, mother of two autistic children, delivered an emotional speech about how Hand in Hand transformed her family life from one of lonely isolation to a life filled with companionship, friendship and joy. Before discovering the program in 2009, Adria and her husband Tom were exhausted and overwhelmed, she told the audience.

“When I met Rabbi Schapiro, I poured out my heart to him and cried about how we could fit into the community as a Jewish family. His exact response was, ‘You have a home with us.’ I had never felt such comfort and sense of belonging,” she said.

Besides the Sunday activities that provide social interaction to the kids, and a much-needed respite to their parents, the weekly home visits by Hand in Hand teens are an essential part of the Glass family’s life.

“It is simply priceless to see our children playing and laughing with their special friends in our house and experiencing what friendship is really like,” continued Adria Glass. “It makes my heart sing and touches my soul.”

For Lisa Karasic of Fair Haven, volunteering with Hand in Hand is a meaningful growth experience for her two daughters, Katie and Clara Eskwitt.

“When they are together with their special friend, Victoria, they are totally dedicated to ‘being there’. They put their phones away and give her their undivided attention,” she said. “There are so few times in a teenager’s life when being in the moment takes place. ┬áIt’s even more special they get to do it with someone they truly admire and care about.”

The benefits of Hand in Hand are “tangible for both the special needs kids and the volunteers,” said Mike Stamer of Rumson, father of two volunteers, Hannah and Samantha. “We are huge supporters of Hand in Hand simply because it truly makes the world a better place. The special needs kids are able to enjoy real friendship and camaraderie, and the volunteers get that incredible feeling of helping somebody.”