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By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A local nonprofit group that feeds hungry families in Philadelphia lost more than $100,000 when its biggest fundraiser was canceled earlier this month due to an unexpected snowstorm.

But  the group is turning frozen lemons into sweet lemonade.

The  Jewish Relief Agency was scheduled to have its 13th anniversary (“Bar Mitzvah”) fundraiser at the Valley Forge Sheraton on December 8th.  But with food prepared and vendors in place, the snows came.

“We made the last-minute decision to cancel our big event,” says Daniel Erlbaum, JRA co-founder and chair of the board of directors.  “And, unfortunately, we did incur every expense, but we did not think it was safe to ask people to travel to the event.”

Erlbaum says the group took a moment to mourn the event and decided to act.

“We packed up all the food and reached out to shelters,” he says.

There was a “Code Blue” in Philadelphia that night, so many shelters were filled to capacity with people trying to get out of the cold.  Erlbaum says they donated the food to a hospice and shelter at 12th and Race Streets.

Fortunately, none of the 500-plus ticketholders asked for a refund, but JRA lost the money it would have  raised through sales of auction and raffle items, which included a fully loaded 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport.

“We were looking forward to raising $100,000 in the room that night,” says Erlbaum.

To try to salvage the raffle and auction, JRA created MakingLemonAID.org, taking its fundraising efforts online.  The auction items can be bid on through midday Friday, and the car raffle will be open for several weeks.

JRA also documented the circumstances of its December 8th cancellation in a video online.

“We’re hoping people are inspired by it to give by making a donation online to JRA or buying a raffle ticket or bidding on an auction item,” Erlbaum says.

The Jewish Relief Agency feeds more than 3,000 Philadelphia families each month.   For more information on JRA, go to jewishrelief.org/philadelphia/.

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