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A Mitzvah Project With the Help of Online Crowd-Sourcing

How does an 11-year-old girl raise nearly $9,000 for a worthy cause in just over two weeks? By tapping the power of online crowd-sourcing.

A couple of months ago, Abby Hofstetter began volunteering at the Masbia soup kitchen with her parents and younger brother at two of their four “restaurant without cash register” locations, which serve the hungry in Orthodox neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens. When it came time to decide on a chesed project for her upcoming bat mitzvah, Abby knew what she wanted to do.

At first she held a bake sale, which raised $211 for Masbia. When her mother, Sarah, a digital marketing executive, told her boss about it, he said, “If a girl can raise $200, she can raise $10,000,” Abby told The Sisterhood. “He actually just meant it as a joke, but I took it seriously. So I said ‘why not?’”

Since putting up her pitch on the fundraising website crowdrise, and posting a video about it on YouTube, $8,898 has been contributed by friends and family, and their friends and family, who keep passing it along by email and have donated amounts ranging from $10 to $1,000.

“It’s been going really great. It’s just fun to sit at the computer and see everybody who’s donated,” said the 6th grader, who attends yeshiva near her family’s Cedarhurst, N.Y. home. “There are a lot of people and that’s a lot of money. I think we might have to raise the goal.”

Since she’s come close to her original goal well in advance of her bat mitzvah, next June, she’s considering raising her goal to $50,000, or even $100,000.

Her father, Adam Hofstetter, initially took her to help make deliveries for a local Jewish food pantry, Tomche Shabbos, but they had more people regularly volunteering than they needed, so he looked for another way that his family could make a hands-on impact, he said.

“We were looking for an organization where we could make more of a difference and get our kids involved so they could do mitzvot and appreciate how lucky they are. Masbia just seemed like a good fit,” said Hofstetter, a former journalist who teaches high school English. “It was so upsetting to see that there are so many people who need a service like this but also uplifting to see that there is a service like this and that we could be a part of it.”

Abby enjoys serving food in Masbia’s restaurant-like locations, she said. The only downside to her fundraising endeavor? Being stopped by adults who want to tell her how impressed they are with what she’s doing, she said, in perfect 11-year-old fashion. “Someone stopped me in the grocery store and … said she saw my video online, and she loves what I’m doing. It felt really good and really weird because I didn’t know her,” Abby said. “My principal keeps stopping me in the hall and telling me that he’s seen it. It feels really awkward.”

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