Carmel Valley teen shares bar mitzvah gifts with San Diego Rescue Mission

Leo Fink gives his $1,800 donation to San Diego Rescue Mission CEO Donnie Dee.
(Courtesy of San Diego Rescue Mission)

Carmel Valley’s Leo Fink recently donated $1,800 of his bar mitzvah money to the San Diego Rescue Mission.

Leo, who is going into the seventh grade at San Diego Jewish Academy, had his bar mitzvah five days after turning 13 on May 16. As is Jewish tradition, he read from the Torah for the first time, was celebrated by family and friends, and was moved to do a mitzvah, which means a good deed.

As he received a lot of gifts for his bar mitzvah, Leo said his parents encouraged him to save some money for college, “invest a chunk”, donate some and spend a little bit of it.

“I thought I should probably donate to San Diego Rescue Mission because that was the best use of my money,” Leo said. “I was sure that the money would go to a good cause because I know that they are helping people that need the help right there.”

This spring, Leo volunteered with his mom Jessica at the San Diego Rescue Mission. The mission provides meals, shelter, clothing, education and job-skills training for those experiencing homelessness, abuse, poverty or addiction. Along with his mom, Leo helped serve food, asking people what they would like to eat and often asking how they were doing, looking them in the eyes and giving them a smile.

During an Easter event, Leo was also assigned to give out clothing for those who needed it.

“I knew I was helping people out that really needed that help,” said Leo, who also enjoyed spending time together with his mom.

Leo presented the check to Donnie Dee, the CEO of San Diego Rescue Mission, on July 13 and the family was unaware that there would be media present.

“I did not expect to get attention, it’s not about that,” Leo said. “I did not need that much attention, I felt just as good without any of that.”

Leo Fink with his parents, Jessica and Robert.
(Courtesy of San Diego Rescue Mission.)

This summer, Leo went to Utah for mountain biking camp, a new hobby. He also plays a lot of basketball and football with friends and is participating in this summer’s JCC Maccabi Games in basketball, being held in San Diego through Aug. 5. Leo said he hopes to continue giving back through community service opportunities.

“Leo’s contribution is an incredible blessing. We are so grateful for this amazing young man’s generosity which will make a difference in the lives of our neighbors experiencing homelessness in San Diego,” said Dee. “I am moved and encouraged that someone of his age is so conscious of what’s going on in our city. Everyone knows we have a homeless crisis, and here’s a 13-year-old kid giving his financial resources and his time to serve meals and hand out clothing to people in need. Leo truly embodies the Mission’s spirit of bringing compassion and care to our neighbors. We hope his story will inspire more of our community to help change the state of homelessness in San Diego County.”

To volunteer like Leo and his mom, contact the volunteer coordinator at Volunteers can help serve meals and distribute food, organize clothes and donations, help students prepare for job interviews and more. For more information, visit