|Max in New Orleans, 2009|
It all started in 2008, when Max was at the ripe old age of twelve. The Torah portion for his Bar Mitzvah centered on a theme of home. He wanted to have his guests help build a home with Habitat for Humanity after his service (and he would outfit the home with his gifts) but unfortunately was not allowed to because of his young age. Habitat's loss became New Orleans' gain, as his rabbi worked with Volunteer Expeditions. 30 congregants - including Max and his parents - joined us on a volunteer trip.
Max worked in a men's shelter and gutted homes during his trip with us. He returned to New Jersey inspired. To remind others of the importance of the rebuilding efforts, he wrote letters, articles, a play; he gave presentations; and he asked his Bar Mitzvah guests to donate while doing his own fundraising to send over $3,000 to the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association (now the Lower 9th Ward CSED).
But Max wasn't done. In 2010, he returned to the city and helped plant over 2,000 trees to revitalize the wetlands and worked in several other organizations. He was dismayed to discover that very few books had survived Hurricane Katrina and there was still no functional library. With the help of his 8th grade teacher, his friend Noah, and Noah's mother, Max started Books for the Bayou to replace the lost books and provide additional resources for schools, churches, and community centers.
In his first Books for the Bayou collection through his middle school, Max received over 1,000 books for children and adults in the Lower 9th Ward and a grant to cover the shipping costs. Since then, Max's efforts have collected almost 4,000 more books and the thousands of dollars necessary for shipping, which has led our friend and partner Warrenetta Banks at the CSED to declare, "He's my hero!"
Now 16, Max has received a Raoul Wallenberg honor for his efforts and donated the cash award to the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association. He has also been nominated for the Kohl's Kids Care Scholarship and the NJ Jefferson Awards for Public Service. There is a chair named after him in the Holy Cross Church in the Lower 9th Ward in appreciation for his dedication to the people of the community.
In his free time (he has free time?), Max plays the saxophone in his high school marching band, works at his temple as a classroom aid in the religious school and tutors Spanish. He hopes to study architecture and engineering - and he will be returning to New Orleans for the fourth time in January.
|Max and more books at the post office, July 2012|
To donate to Books for the Bayou, you can send checks to 203 Sailer Street Cranford, New Jersey 07016 or email maxxrea[at]gmail.com for more information. Please note that Books for the Bayou is not a 501(c)(3) nonprofit at this time, so donations are not tax-deductible.
Many thanks to Max and to Julie Glazer, his mother, for providing so much information!