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william harris

Robert Neidig with William Harris at Hope House Ministries. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Port Jefferson Middle School student William Harris knew he wanted to help out his local community as part of his mitzvah project this month.

Harris — who turned 13 in September and was supposed to have his long-awaited bar mitzvah that month — had to postpone his ceremony and the festivities that come around it.

“Originally I was going to do a blood drive, because people needed donations for blood,” he said. “But I couldn’t do it with the pandemic.”

That’s when he decided to team up with his principal, Robert Neidig, to encourage his class-mates to donate food to the local nonprofit Hope House Ministries.  

“About a month ago, I made some flyers and I put them around the school,” William said. “We put it on the announcement every morning and people began bringing in food.”

Leza Di Bella, William’s mother, said he did this all by himself.

“He took the initiative,” she said. “Usually for these projects, parents are very involved. We were not at all.”

On Friday, June 11, he was joined at Hope House by his mother and father Richard, along with his school principal where he dropped off several dozen bags of food. Then after nearly nine months of waiting to celebrate this special day, his bar mitzvah was held at Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook on Saturday.

“I’m just so proud, not only of Will, but the respect that he has earned from his classmates. They would bring a can here and there and, as you can see, it all adds up,” Neidig said. “It’s all going to such a good cause I couldn’t be prouder. It’s a big time in his life and I’m happy that I could be a part of it.”

William said he’s not done with his donations yet. 

“I feel like I did a good thing now,” he said.