Jonah Stein, 13, of Leawood, Kansas, a seventh-grader at Leawood Middle School, has raised more than $18,000 to provide bags of food for people in need in his community by making and selling beaded necklaces for COVID-19 face masks. A few years ago, Jonah and his family attended his great-grandmother’s funeral in Minnesota. “When we were leaving the synagogue, there were bags with food and essentials for people to take and keep in their cars to give to needy people on the streets,” Jonah said. He thought this was an “incredible” idea and shared it with the local Jewish Family Services agency where he has volunteered. “They were excited by the idea,” Jonah said, and soon the organization was providing its own “care bags” containing food, other essential items and a list of helpful resources.
In order to raise money to support this program, Jonah came up with the idea of selling a face mask accessory. “I saw that people had no place to put their masks when they weren’t wearing them, especially while eating,” said Jonah. With help from his family, Jonah researched and developed a necklace that attaches to face masks so they can be pulled down conveniently when not in use. He got beads, equipment and advice from a local bead-seller, built up an inventory of different necklace styles, created a website to market his “MASKerAIDs,” and conducted media interviews. “I was amazed at how quickly things took off,” he said. He surpassed his initial fundraising goal in one weekend, and continues to donate 100 percent of his sales to the food pantry.