It is her energy that is so startling. Myrle Borine is clearly a vibrant, lively woman on the move. The fact that she is 81 years old seems almost incidental. Her zest for life -- and for doing good -- has nothing to do with a date on the calendar.
Back in 1973, that energy came to the fore when Borine and a few friends were brainstorming ideas about how they could support the Jewish community and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia without going to their husbands to write the checks.
"We were all very anxious to help with our own money, so one day we came up with the idea of working together on a gift package business," recalled the Cheltenham woman of that "Eureka!" moment. "Initially, we would bake cookies and prepare other goodies, package them beautifully, and deliver them to country clubs and individuals for special events, giving all the proceeds to Federation."
Those women -- Roz Littman, Rose Baseman, Miriam Zimmerman, Anita Chaiken and Myrle Borine -- could never have guessed where the concept would take them. Today, "Because We Care" has gone to another level, and is a major supporter of Federation based strictly on woman-power.
The concept is breathtakingly simple: decorative baskets lovingly prepared by a corps of volunteers are filled with nonperishable food items, then become the centerpieces at events like Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, weddings and other celebrations. Guests learn through a simple table card that these baskets provided by their hosts will then make their way to the Federation's food pantries throughout the region to help those in need.
The organization, which grew by word of mouth, now has nearly three dozen volunteers, all of whom also make a personal commitment to Federation. Those women do everything from baking batches of delectable cookies -- including their celebrated schnecken and mandelbrot -- to assembling and creating beautiful packages that will end up on synagogue bimahs and at the area's best parties as well as shivahs, hospital stays and anywhere else requested. Rabbis have let congregants know that the organization exists, and today, the orders come steadily.
Of course, the cookie-making continues as yet another element of Because We Care, with Borine still making her batches and working at the bustling headquarters of the organization on the Mandell Campus in Elkins Park that has become the busy nerve center of the organization.
"These women have provided such a remarkable service to the Jewish community," said Jessica Charmont, senior mitzvah-project planner for Federation. "Their ongoing support has provided endless food and nourishment for so many people who receive our services. And they do all this as loyal volunteers."
That sentiment is clearly echoed by Carol Parlin Prushan, Federation's assistant director of individual and corporate philanthropy.
"Federation is very grateful for Because We Care's support of our Jewish community. Their gift -- the time, talent and money that Myrle and these women provide -- is so valuable and important to us and the many Jews living at-risk in our community," said Prushan. "I hope that people and area businesses will consider using them this year when they choose to send gift baskets this holiday season. Their baskets are wonderful, and a gift that truly gives back to the community."
For Myrle Borine herself, the core notion remains unchanged: "I'm proud to be Jewish, a love and loyalty I share with my husband Bernie. I wanted to have a meaningful way to contribute to my religion and my community, and to help others, and I'm grateful that I've found it."
For more information, call 215-635-4774.