Upon my return home from The Associated-sponsored mission trip for 12 Jewish teenagers from Baltimore to Odessa, Ukraine at age 17, I knew my involvement with the JVC had only just begun. That upcoming holiday season became my first time volunteering at JVC’s annual Mitzvah Day at the Park Heights JCC. I encouraged my parents and my sisters to attend the event and help out as well. That was six Mitzvah Days ago, and we haven’t missed one since.
Every year, thousands of items are donated to JVC for the event, and on Christmas day, hundreds of volunteers from the Jewish community gather together to assemble winter care packages for people in need. Following an entire year of planning, the event is filled with a variety of volunteer activities for families, fun music and holiday cheer. All of the planning committee’s hard work pays off when approximately 1,500 care packages are delivered to various shelters and soup kitchens by the end of the day.
As a recent college graduate who just moved home to the Baltimore area to attend grad school, this was the first year that I was able to join the Mitzvah Day committee myself. My dad, who has been on the committee for several years, was the Chair this year. Now, not only was I able to play my part as a volunteer, but I helped organize the behind-the-scenes aspects of Mitzvah Day as well.
While the rest of my Jewish friends wake up on Christmas morning with plans for movies and Chinese food, I get to put on my Mitzvah Day shirt and “Ask Me” name tag, head to the JCC, and prepare for the day’s events. In the past, I have had various roles such as handing out different colored ribbons as a code to where the bags are heading, restocking the donated items as they disappear into these bags and even videotaping the event to create short movies.
I have loved every minute of my involvement with the program, and hope to continue to be a part of it for years to come. It always feels good to volunteer in the community, but there is something extra special about doing a mitzvah during the holiday season. To know that we, as a community coming together, have the potential to put a smile on someone’s face who is facing difficult times is a truly precious holiday gift.