A day before she begins classes at Clark University, a school where students are encouraged to “Challenge Convention” and “Change our World,” 18-year-old Maxine J. Harvey, of Methuen, will be recognized and rewarded for co-founding a project which embodies the values of tikkun olam, a central Jewish precept meaning “to repair the world.” Harvey is one of 15 teens across the nation who will receive a Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award, a prestigious monetary award given annually by the Helen Diller Family Foundation.
The award of $36,000 can be used to further Harvey’s philanthropic work or her education. The Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award explains the reason each recipient receives $36,000: “36,000 is a multiple of chai, חַי which represents the number 18 in Hebrew. It is common and symbolic for Jewish donations to be multiples of 18, because chai is also the Hebrew word for ‘life.’”
Harvey is co-founder of Debbie’s Treasure Chest, “a non-profit corporation started by three children who were adopted into loving families and wanted to give back to their community.” The project collects and raises funds to purchase clothes, toys, books and toiletries for local families in need. Harvey has successfully grown Debbie’s Treasure Chest by closely collaborating with local social services offices to benefit even more children and their families. Debbie’s Treasure Chest now operates year-round in a 3,000-square-foot warehouse, which has provided 1,500 families with more than 75,000 necessities. The project is moving to a larger warehouse this summer, and Harvey’s sister and co-founder, 14-year-old Talia, plans to take on a larger role when her sister heads to Clark University this fall.
Harvey, who was adopted in China by Linda Harvey, a single mother in Massachusetts, said that “[her] own origin of adoption and her passion for helping others” is what inspire her to do community service.
The Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award is one of a number of projects funded by the Helen Diller Family Foundation to develop leadership in teens and enhance Jewish education. For 14 years, the Foundation has granted more than $220 million to support education, the arts, medical research and development, leadership training programs for teens and many other charitable endeavors.
Since 2007, Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards have honored 55 Jewish teens with grants totaling almost $2 million to further their philanthropic visions and education. This year, 344 teens applied for the awards.