US Chesed News

Prime Minister recognition for inspirational north London woman
Date Uploaded: 
Monday 15th December 2014

We are really thrilled to announce that Shelley Schachter-Cahm, a US member of Muswell Hill Synagogue, has been honoured by the Prime Minister’s Office by winning a Point of Light Award. 

Our current collection, Donate a Toy – light up a child’s face this Chanukah – has already attracted contributions from several US communities. If you’ve not given already but would still like to do so, there’s plenty of time. Just take the toys to your local Shul office or e-mail either US Chesed at or Shelley at so we can make arrangements to pick up the toys. Below is the press release sent out by the Office of the Prime Minister.

A 47 year old mother from Haringey who will be collecting thousands of toys for children in developing countries as part of a large Chanukah collection this week in United Synagogue communities has been named a Point of Light by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Shelley Schachter-Cahm is running the drive to collect toys, books, baby equipment and optical glasses for the organisation she founded, the Toy Drop. She has run the organisation for 12 years in addition to working full time as a lawyer, and has delivered goods to thousands of children in developing countries. Shelley is the latest recipient of a Point of Light Award, which recognises outstanding individual volunteers, people who are making a change in their community and inspiring others. Each day, someone, somewhere in the country is selected to receive the award to celebrate their remarkable achievements.

Shelley with the Prime Minister

Shelley started The Toy Drop in 2002 after a six-week trip to Manila with her daughter. At the end of the trip, she realised that her young daughter had grown out of several toys and books, and decided to take them to an orphanage in Makati, central Manila which is home to 50 girls. Each girl was thrilled to receive a box with an assortment of items.

On her return, Shelley set up the not-for-profit organisation by starting to collect toys, games and baby equipment from her friends, neighbours and employers’ offices in the UK, Germany, the Czech Republic, Malaysia and Singapore, and shipping the items to disadvantaged children. She also formed a partnership between the Toy Drop and the United Synagogue, encouraging its thousands of members to donate to the Drop.

In 2012, Shelley expanded the charity by initiating a project to inspire children and adults to donate second-hand and unwanted books to form the basis of two libraries in the Philippines. Collections were still underway when Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in November 2013. In the aftermath Shelley made contact with the Red Cross to donate and distribute all items stored in the warehouse in Luzon through credible NGO distributers, leading to a personal thanks from the Philippine Ambassador to the UK.

Shelley runs the Toy Drop almost single-handedly, publicising the collections, answering messages and collecting, washing and packing items before taking them to the shippers. She has now sent tens of thousands of toys and books to children in developing countries.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“It is fantastic to see how Shelley is encouraging people in the UK to give to less fortunate children. She has invested so much of her valuable time into the Toy Drop while working full time, which is a remarkable feat. I’m very pleased to name her today’s Points of Light, and would encourage anyone to donate toys to this cause.”

Shelley said:

“It’s very humbling for me and I really hope it is inspiring to others to realise how easy it can be just to get up and do something to help others.  It doesn’t matter if you only start out helping a single person; you may end up reaching tens of thousands. You don’t have to be rich, you don’t have to dedicate your entire life to volunteering; but choosing to do something rather than doing nothing is how the Toy Drop happened and everyone is equipped to do something.”

Michelle Minsky, Head of United Synagogue Chesed said:

“Working together with Shelley has been a delight for Project Chesed, the social action arm of the United Synagogue. Since 2012 we have combined forces, promoting the Toy Drop campaigns to our members and helping Shelley collect vast quantities of teddies, toys and books to be distributed to children in need in the Philippines, the Ukraine and now the UK. What stands out with Shelley is her huge enthusiasm, her ability to spread her message, her willingness to travel miles and to fill her car to bursting point with goods that she collects –nothing is ever too much trouble for her. For our current campaign, we know that during the forthcoming Jewish festival of Chanukah many children here receive an abundance of toys and we are very keen that they learn to share their good fortune with children in need, whether at home or abroad.”

Shelley is the 178th winner of the new Points of Light award which has been developed in partnership with the hugely successful Points of Light programme in the USA and was first established by President George H. W. Bush. Over 5,000 US Points of Light have been awarded and both President George H. W. Bush and President Barack Obama have publicly supported the partnership with Points of Light UK which honours shining examples of volunteering across the country.

Regardless of whether it’s a doctor restoring local monuments in her free time, a father teaching young people life skills, or a local musician giving a voice to lonely people, the Point of Light award honours shining examples of volunteering across the UK.