Category Archives: Volunteering & Advocacy

A Great Way to Help on #GivingTuesday

Giving Tuesday Phoneathon

By Anna and Daniel Klein
Co-chairs, #GivingTuesday Community Phone-a-thon

It’s safe to say that giving isn’t new to any of us. From helping at our children’s schools to helping in the larger community, all of us want to make the world a better place, even if that that place is a small corner, especially if that place is Baltimore. So it was with great excitement that we agreed to chair The Associated’s #GivingTuesday phone-a-thon for our community. We wanted to help.

Like the act of giving, an Associated phone-a-thon isn’t new. It’s a time-honored and effective way to reach out to donors, inviting all to help ensure the strength of our community with their gift. As chairs of the #GivingTuesday phone-a-thon, we are excited about leading a group of dedicated volunteers who will call longtime and new donors to ask for a gift to the 2015 Annual Campaign. We’re calling all day, Tuesday, December 2, during three shifts: 10 a.m. to noon, noon to 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Our goal is to raise more than $1 million to help The Associated care for people in need.

We cannot think of a better day than #GivingTuesday to raise these funds. Part of a massive, now-global day of giving, #GivingTuesday exists as a counterpart to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Now in its third year, #GivingTuesday has become a day devoted to collective giving … inspiring everyone, everywhere to give to favorite organizations and causes.

Our ask to Jewish Baltimore? Become involved on #GivingTuesday. Here are three ways:

  • Phone-a-thon: Whether you’ve made calls before or are a newbie, help raise funds for our community. We’ll show you how.
  • Book Donation: Bring new or gently-used books for pre-K to eighth graders at Cross Country Elementary Middle School, where the Jewish Volunteer Connection and CHAI: Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc., engage volunteers in the Bookworms reading program and in tutoring opportunities. Drop off your books at either the Weinberg Park Heights JCC or Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC lobbies.
  • Give: Strengthen, nurture and care for others with a gift to The Associated. Your gift – of any amount – matters. Plus, every gift increase and every new gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar through the #100DayChallenge.

Learn more:


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Filed under Philanthropy, Professionals, Uncategorized, Volunteering & Advocacy, Women, Young Adults

A Precious Resource

resource library

By Melissa Cordish
As Jews, we understand that the concept of a covenant is central to our tradition. From Abraham and Sarah to our collective experience at Sinai, the theme of Brit appears over and over again. Striving to understand what is expected of us and working to fulfill these expectations is part of the essence of being a Jew. This concept is also key to the relationship between volunteers and the organizations for which they serve; A clear mutual understanding is critical the achievement of a meaningful volunteer experience. Members of boards or committees accept responsibility for their work and, in return, expect a level of respect and enrichment from their experience.

To facilitate this mutually beneficial relationship, The Associated’s Center for Community Engagement and Leadership (CCEL) has developed a Brit Avodah, a covenant of service, between board members and the organizations they serve. CCEL works both within The Associated system and in the general Jewish community to ensure that those who generously give their time and talent come away from the experience feeling good about the work they have done and also enriched by their interaction with the organization.

This is no small feat. To achieve this goal, CCEL has developed the tools organizations need to keep volunteers engaged in their board or committee experience and works with organizations to help them put these best practices into action. A robust resource library covering everything from writing a D’var Torah to ice breakers for meetings to Jewish values is featured on the Associated’s website and is available to the community.

CCEL professionals and ambassadors also work directly with volunteers in The Associated system to ensure that their communal role is well-suited to their wants and needs. By meeting individually with each person and exploring his or her strengths and areas of interest, CCEL is able to match volunteers to the right leadership opportunity. Some people pursue involvement which utilizes their particular talents; others may choose an area of need which resonates with them. No matter what they seek, CCEL can help connect an interested volunteer with the right opportunity.

CCEL’s commitment to this mission reflects important elements in Jewish communal life in Baltimore – the effective use of the time and talent of our volunteers and the cultivation of a cadre of active leaders for tomorrow. These dedicated volunteers are an incredible asset to our community. The decisions made by these boards and committees have the potential to impact countless lives. And the stronger and better trained that cohort of leaders is, the stronger our community will be.

Baltimore is unique among Jewish communities. Many struggle to engage leaders and lack a plan for succession among their boards. The Associated has been training future generations for many years and benefits from a robust cadre of volunteers who are poised and prepared to lead our community for years to come. Every committee or board member working in our community has the ability to lead from any chair. These leaders move our communal agenda forward and take care of our community. Thanks to them and their willingness to learn and grow in their roles, our community truly is in good hands.

Melissa Cordish is chair of The Associated’s Center for Community Engagement and Leadership.

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Filed under Leadership Development, Professionals, Volunteering & Advocacy

5 Things To Do This Week in Baltimore

Check out these great events for the whole family sponsored by The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore or Associated agencies.

Saturday, November 15
Pre-show: 7:00 p.m.; Performance: 8:00 p.m.
Hot Rize – America’s Bluegrass Band Rides Again
Gordon Center for Performing Arts

Grammy-nominated bluegrass band Hot Rize comes to the Gordon to debut their first album in 24 years. Enjoy their unique contemporary approach to traditional bluegrass music. Event is co-presented with Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival. Pre-show features live music with Letitia VanSant and beer tastings with Baltimore’s own Union Craft BrewingTickets are $35 in advance and $39 at the door. Learn more.

Sunday, November 16
11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
JCC’s Annual College Fair
Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC

High school students and parents can meet with representatives from more than 40 colleges and universities nationwide. Attend free workshops to learn about the admission process, hear about financing a college education, discover Israeli programs after high school and understand how to choose the right college to meet your needs. Go to College Center to learn more.

Sunday, November 16
1:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Family Farm Days
Pearlstone Center
pearlstone nov

Join us for our monthly Family Farm Days, where you will explore a different Jewish environmental theme. This month, help make the farm ready for winter, learn how to identify and plant trees, discover native plants, visit the animals in the pasture and explore the farm’s bounty! Program is $15 per family. Learn more.

Sunday, November 16
3:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble
Gordon Center for Performing Arts
feets dance

INCREDIBLE FEETS entertains with a music and dance performance that celebrates percussive dances from around the world. Enjoy percussive dance and music from Ireland, England, South Africa, Canada and the American South. Show includes audience participation and lots of foot-tapping fun. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Program is sponsored by BGE with support from the Maryland State Arts Council. Learn more.

Tuesday, November 18
6:30 p.m.
Meet Your Elected Officials
The Associated Krieger Building

Join the Baltimore Jewish Council for a special session to meet and greet local legislators. Learn about their priorities in the upcoming year. Learn more


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Filed under Families, Teens, Volunteering & Advocacy, Women, Young Adults

Igniting My Passion for “Something Good”

karen singer

By Karen Singer

Anticipating turning 50 and dropping my youngest at college, all in the same week, got my head swirling about 16 months in advance of the actual reality. All I could think about was this–what was this almost 49-year-old woman to do?

I did what I know how to do best—I talked about my mixed emotions with friends and decided that I needed some help to plan the next phase of my life. A close friend reminded me not to ask, “How am I going to achieve this challenge?” rather “who can help me achieve this challenge?”

Those who know me might share that I am passionate about most everything; I truly utter “awesome” and “fantastic” about most everything. I share life with a loving husband, and we are so proud of our two children. I have a rewarding professional career and have always coupled my professional commitments with civic involvement, serving on a variety of wonderful Boards and typically, focusing on their fundraising efforts. However, it still seemed time for a change.

Through my networking, it became obvious that I was not alone in this challenge. To answer “who can help?,” I learned that The Associated developed “Chapter Two,” a nine-month program intended to help women ignite their next passion (whether due to becoming empty-nesters, retiring or just wanting to make a change). In September 2013, a year before my anticipated milestone events, I attended my first Chapter Two meeting. While the 24 women’s backgrounds varied, we shared a common goal:  a desire to ignite our next passion.

Then, in the blustery cold of February 2014, I found my next passion. With fellow Chapter Two participant, Susan Manekin, we organized a “Princess Party” in collaboration with Giving Hearts, a teen program coordinated through the Jewish Community Center and Jewish Volunteer Connection (JVC), the hands-on volunteer branch of The Associated. The “princesses” were invited from the Jewish Caring Network and The Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics at Sinai Hospital.

On the surface, the party resulted in painted faces, cereal necklaces, lots of frilly pink dresses and hugs for all.  Yet, beneath the surface, there was some magic –- one grandmother battling a terminal disease thanked us effusively as the party enabled her to create lasting happy memories with her granddaughter. We would not have known of her dire circumstances from the smiles on their faces.  As I reflected on how much pleasure I had planning the event with the teens and rolling around on the floor playing with the limb-lengthening patient and her siblings, I knew that I could fill my anticipated void with more hands-on volunteer activities.

In a blink of an eye, I graduated from Chapter Two and was honored to join the Board of JVC, whose mission is to foster a culture of service and engage volunteers to meet vital community needs. What a great next step in my journey!  I was then invited to co-chair JVC’s Adult Volunteer Engagement Committee with Susan Manekin, with the goal of creating easy, accessible and recurring volunteer opportunities for adults, whether for two hours per month or twice a week.

As my personal journey was taking shape, my anticipated milestone birthday and college-drop off were also approaching quickly.  As someone who loves to plan a good party, I needed to listen to the voices in my head which were telling me to continue the passion that had been ignited. During a JVC planning meeting, I mentioned to Erica Bloom, assistant director at JVC, that I could use her help to plan a hands-on volunteer birthday party to celebrate with my friends. An hour later, as I hurried out of our meeting to get to work, Erica asked me what activities I like doing most, as my passion would be contagious.

My 40 minute drive to work was all it took to conceive of “Something Good” – a weekend hands-on volunteer initiative was born. I love combining friends from different aspects of my life; l love organizing details; I love learning about organizations which could use a little extra help. PLUS, my schedule had some weekend openings!

I called Erica to share my idea and she translated my energy into JVC parlance. By launching “Something Good,” I was creating a “Volun-team,” a group of committed individuals to do “something good” on a monthly basis. I would be the leader, with the participants becoming the team!

My milestone birthday arrived, college drop-off came and my focus on launching “Something Good” filled that special spot. In September, nearly 40 friends gathered at a Girl Scouts’ camp in Howard County to mulch, remove debris from a building to be demolished and weed an area for native plants species. On October 16, “Something Good” participants gathered for “Blankets and Bagels” at my home to create 28 polar fleece blankets to comfort the patients of Kennedy Krieger Institute.

Upcoming “Something Good” activities include preparing food and serving the homeless, making a community mosaic and assisting the elderly in getting their homes ready for the spring!  JVC is my “go to” resource for additional volunteer ideas, and I thank them for supporting “Something Good.”

When you find yourself on a similar journey, remember to ask “who can help?” and know that a simple call to JVC can match you with an opportunity to enrich your life while enriching the lives of others. If you would like to join the “Something Good” Volun-team, please email me at


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Filed under Volunteering & Advocacy, Women

Governor’s Day to Serve

So many of us are just busy! It’s a constant struggle to try to get everything done, and we often find ourselves making lists in our heads while driving, during meetings, in the bathroom, making meals and in the brief moments of the day when our mind wanders. Aside from the kid’s lunches, bills to be paid and other critical tasks to be done, this constantly growing “To Do” list includes the desire to volunteer. But WHEN?!

Sometimes, when there is a community-wide day of service, it’s easy to set aside time to do good. Recently, Jewish Volunteer Connection (JVC) took part in the Governor’s Day to Serve (#daytoserve) a state-wide interfaith time of service. This was one of JVC’s four community-wide days of service and it’s a great way to get a taste of volunteering in the community.

Here is a look at how our community participated in this year’s Governor’s Day to Serve.

bt governor

Beth Tfiloh Congregation’s Brotherhood served dinner and socialized with the residents of Baltimore Station, a therapeutic residential treatment facility treating veterans and others dealing with homelessness, poverty and addiction.

bt kids

Preschool students from Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School collected socks for Healthcare for the Homeless, which provides health related services, education and advocacy to those who are homeless.

diller garden

Diller teens and parents assisted with a community garden, in partnership with Pearlstone Center and Weinberg Village.


diller boys

Diller teens planted a garden at Weinberg Village in Owings Mills.

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Filed under Families, Volunteering & Advocacy

A Volunteer’s Message

Jen_Grossman_12.24.10 044

By Jennifer Grossman
Chair, Jewish Volunteer Connection (JVC)

I remember vividly the day I was asked to chair Community Mitzvah Day, and my reply was ‘what is Mitzvah Day?’ Not only was it the beginning of my JVC involvement but it reminded me of how we as a community need to be more informed about the good things that happen, things that we at JVC make happen.

Since then I have seen first hand all the amazing things JVC does. I have witnessed how connecting people to meaningful volunteer opportunities becomes the gateway to helping them become lifelong volunteers, helping people to believe that the power of their time is a critical resource!

As I begin my two-year term as chair of JVC, I have several goals. First and foremost is to continue to meet vital community needs. Those needs constantly change, and so will JVC with them!

My hope is that together with the JVC staff, we will continue the growth and expansion of VolunTeams to help meet those needs. VolunTeams are making volunteering possible for everyone, regardless of much or how little time one has to volunteer. They have made hands on volunteering accessible and attainable for anybody, whether they are young adults, young families, baby boomers or seniors. With a VolunTeam, we can meet community needs without burning out our community members!

As a family we are part of the JVC board VolunTeam. My kids have been volunteering all their lives. Together as a family we have been involved in countless JVC and other volunteer experiences, so when it was our Sunday to go to a CHAI senior’s house to weatherize a home we all piled in ready to seal windows, fix showers and rake leaves!

But our experience went so much deeper than that. At one point, I came upstairs to get some more tape and I saw the homeowner sitting with my kids, offering them a snack and telling her story of what it was like when she was a kid.  She talked about how much brighter her house was with young children in it and with crumbs on the floor! How she loved the sound of the giggling and the finger prints they left everywhere.

At that moment,  I realized that this VolunTeam was as much about a people to people connection as it was a legitimate weatherizaiton project. We later crossed paths with the homeowners and both my kids and the homeowners stopped and reminisced about the morning, without a word about the windows, showers or leaves!

As you read this, if you asked yourself “what is that” or “how can I do that” even once, I challenge you to ask! Had I not asked what Mitzvah Day was that day, I would have missed out on eight incredible years of volunteer opportunities.  Too many people in our community can’t even begin to understand the incredible work JVC does both in and out of the Jewish community.

Together, let’s change that!


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Filed under Families, Volunteering & Advocacy, Women

Does Empty Time in the Summer Spell Trouble for Teens?


By Susan Kurlander
Health Educator, Prevention Education
Jewish Community Services

“Summertime . .  . and the living is easy” — or so thought my teenage daughter. She planned to sleep until noon every day and then just hang out with friends during the summer of her junior year of high school. It was a rude awakening for both of us when I realized I had never set down expectations for what she considered her free time, and she had never dreamt that I would have anything to say about her lack of constructive activity.  We were both remiss in our perspectives.  My sense is that is easy for many parents and their pre-teen and teenage children to fall into the same pattern.

Parents and kids alike need a break from the overscheduled days we have during the school year. We need to catch our breath and enjoy things we don’t have time to do when we’re busy with so many obligations. But if our teens don’t have goals to accomplish or activities to participate in, all that free time can lead to risky behaviors and unhealthy habits.  When parents aren’t around, it can be too easy for kids to engage in unrestricted computer use, to have easy access to medications including prescription drugs kept in the home, to indulge in abusing alcohol kept at home or to watch R rated movies without parental supervision.

So, how do we help our teens find the balance between enjoying their newly found free time and accepting some responsibility to use that time in positive and non-harmful ways?

Communication and trust are key components to making summer a time of growth and appreciation of what we have. Conversations about expectations need to take place, with both parents and teens expressing their thoughts without being judged. Remember, there can be lots of options for how the summer unfolds as long as it winds up being a time to rejoice, rejuvenate and regroup.

Even if your children attend camp, here are some suggestions for how their free time can be used positively and productively:

• Volunteering at senior centers, the zoo, animal shelters, soup kitchens, etc. will look good on college resumes and applications.
• Attending a class or two can give students a jump start on deciding about a future college major.
• Planning a future fundraising project for a worthy cause might insure the success of that project.
• Participating in a recreational sport can help to develop the prowess needed to gain a place on the team in the fall.

Here are some organizations to check out:

American Red Cross (Junior Red Cross) – Help organize a blood drive or participate in knitting projects

The Ronald McDonald House – Collect pop tabs off aluminum cans to donate to the program.

Habitat for Humanity – Help build homes for poor people in the community.

Meals on Wheels – Do craft activities such as making tray favors for delivered food.

Libraries – Plan a themed story time for toddlers; clean and sort books.

Congregations and Schools – Many welcome student helpers to move books, sort materials, and clean up.

A “perk” of all these suggestions is that teens will be building self-esteem and nurturing a sense of self-worth that is critical for making healthy decisions about what they do with their lives not just during the summer, but forever.

Whatever the activity is, encourage and expect your preteen or teenager to do something constructive as well as relaxing during those lazy summer days. The combination of having fun while accomplishing something significant could give your child a whole new perspective on life. Most importantly, your child’s time will be much less likely to engage in risky behavior when summer time is used fruitfully.

Learn more about JCS Teen Prevention Services.


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Filed under Families, Teens, Volunteering & Advocacy, Women