The Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County is doubling down on its annual Super Sunday fund-raiser.
When Superstorm Sandy hit last year just weeks before the annual phonathon, the federation was forced to scale back the event and postpone it until January.
What some feared would be a financial disaster had a silver lining, as the storm brought out an even greater sense of compassion among community members.
It also turned out that people were feeling especially generous after the start of the New Year, said federation Women’s Philanthropy director Audrey Napchen. Super Sunday donations increased by almost 13 percent over the previous year to $575,405.
Because of that, this year, the federation will for the first time hold two Super Sundays — on Nov. 24 and Jan. 12.
Additionally, federation received its first-ever challenge grant from the Marion and Norman Tanzman Foundation, giving new or former donors the opportunity to double the impact of their gifts. The grant will match first-time donations up to $1,000 and do the same for those who haven’t given for two years or longer.
“We learned what it felt like to be cold for days when our electricity was out and felt firsthand what people in our community and around the world live with all the time,” said Napchen. “Also, we saw we were very successful in reaching donors in January.”
The traditional November event, with its banks of callers soliciting contributions, will be expanded this year — as had been planned last year — and will be held at the Douglass College Center in New Brunswick. It will feature a holiday bazaar (noon-5 p.m.) with more than 70 vendors and a Hanukka celebration for kids with Matty Roxx, Jonah the Juggler, and arts and crafts projects (2:30-3:30).
People coming to Super Sunday are asked to bring in nonperishable food items to be packaged and donated to local food banks.
The January program at the federation’s South River offices will include a mitzva project, a theme that resonated last year when a corps of volunteers sorted through cleaning supplies, food items, clothing, and household items donated for Sandy victims.
“Last year we were reminded how quickly circumstances can change and the need to care for one another,” said federation associate executive director Susan Antman. “We have determined the greatest need in our community is in the winter months, and are providing an opportunity to make a difference.”
Super Sunday chair Marlene Herman of Edison said the federation is “the central location for seeing to the community’s needs.”
“We have an opportunity to come together…to address the needs of the community as well as having fun in the afternoon,” she said. “We are all in New Jersey still reeling from the Sandy-related devastation to our Jewish community and the need to still help our neighbors. We are looking to fund even more repair projects not only for the Jewish community, but for many others in the area of our federation building.”
“We have a chance to do good,” agreed Naomi Lasky of Somerset, the event’s corporate sponsor chair. Sponsoring a phone costs $180 for one event, $250 for both. Lasky called it “a good way to bump up your gift at the end of the year.”
Women’s Philanthropy is running the breakfast drive and is recruiting volunteers to decorate and pack bags. Its president, Ruth Bash of East Brunswick, said, “I always say when you bring together like-minded, community-oriented folks — that is when and where the magic happens.”