Posted by Howard Meisner
It all started with a television set. Something simple, yet so necessary that it was obvious to all that it was missing from the common room.
The year was 1987 and I was facing that mixture of fear and apprehension that all Jewish 13-year-olds face: a Bar Mitzvah. In the midst of practicing my parsha, my family and I began to talk about what it means to reach this milestone and that, while it is a celebration, it's also a time to start to establish who you will be as you grow up. My mother suggested that I donate some of the financial gifts that I would receive for my Bar Mitzvah to a charity. We did some research and chose Community Housing for Adult Independence (CHAI), which was opening their first community home for adults with disabilities in Brighton.
I met with in the woman in charge of the program, and we talked about these amazing people who were starting their lives in this new communal home. In a way, they were doing what I was: taking a step into the broader world and figuring out who they would be.
My first gift was the donation of a television set for the common room. We all agreed that it should be something tangible that the residents could use. It was delivered to the house where it found a comfortable place in front of some couches.
I stayed connected to the program through high school as an occasional photographer for events. Chanukkah parties and donor evenings were captured on my old Pentax and developed in my school's darkroom. There were always events going on at the Brighton residence and I could see that it was a very comfortable place for the residents and their families.
When I went away to college, my physical connection with the program waned, but I stayed connected virtually through the newsletters and an annual contribution, which I have enjoyed doing now for more than two decades. It gave me a lot of satisfaction to see the program expand as quickly as it did to serve so many people. I wasn't actively connected for many years, but I've recently returned to Massachusetts and I look forward to seeing this program continue to thrive and serve a community that was so grateful all those years ago to start out with a television.