By Rochelle Eisenberg
Public Relations Manager
Giving back to the community has always been important to Pikesville’s Jennifer Grossman. A strong believer in helping others, this young woman and mother of three has made a point of instilling in her family the importance of engaging in mitzvot.
That is why she chaired Jewish Volunteer Connection’s (JVC) Community Mitzvah Day, an annual day of volunteer opportunities throughout Baltimore, from 2008 to 2010. It’s why her children made sandwiches and delivered them to homeless shelters, meeting and speaking with the clients on December 25 last year.
And, that is why she also agreed to chair Mitzvah 365, a new initiative from JVC, a program of THE ASSOCIATED.
“I chaired Mitzvah Day, but there are 364 other days of the year,” says Grossman. “We want to find ways for individuals to get involved in community service every one of those.”
Mitzvah 365, set to launch later this month, will feature 365 ways individuals and families can make mitzvot and community service a daily part of their lives. “We hope to inspire our community to give back to the community,” Grossman says.
Each day on the Mitzvah 365 website, individuals will discover existing volunteer opportunities already happening in the community or organizations where they can create their own community service projects.
“For example, we might highlight Special Olympics one day and work with interested individuals to help them make volunteer connections,” says Grossman.
Erica Bloom, assistant director for JVC, adds that there will even be ideas for Shabbat, such as offering to babysit in synagogue or walk an elderly person to shul. “We want to create a culture of service that doesn’t just happen once a year,” she says.
That culture of service is evident in another new opportunity for local families. “Volunteams,” a collaboration between JVC and THE ASSOCIATED’s Jewish Community Services (JCS), will bring families together to be part of a volunteer team. They will commit to making the lives of adults with special needs a little brighter.
Each family on the team will choose one day of the month to visit a group of adults living at one of the JCS residences for adults with developmental disabilities. Together they might play games, read stories, make snacks and create craft projects.
“The families and residents can do whatever they like to do,” says Beth Land Hecht, Senior Manager, Volunteer Services for JCS. “When you begin to see some of the same people over again, you start to build a relationship. They remember you and you remember them. You become friends.”
In addition, the program will include opportunities for all the families participating as part of a “Volunteam,” along with the adults they visit, to get together for larger social events several times a year.
“If you start a culture of volunteering when your kids are young, by the time they become bar or bat mitzvah, it is natural for them to pick a project with which they have experience and to which they are connected. Hopefully this positive volunteer experience will carry them into their teen years and will continue to build,” says Hecht.
For Grossman, that culture of giving back is already ingrained in a positive way. She laughs as she shares the story of her son, telling a relative who asked her what he was doing for Christmas Day.
“My son said, ‘what do you mean, what are we doing on Christmas? It’s Mitzvah Day. That’s what you do,’” she recalls.
Interested in joining a “Volunteam?” Email Beth Land Hecht at email@example.com or call 410-843-7456.