Like any good nonprofit, The J relies heavily on volunteers to be successful. Where would we be without volunteer youth sports coaches, pre-school room parents, and the hundreds of volunteers we rely on for successful events like the Jewish Food and Culture Fest and Sam Lapidus Montclair Run? And of course let’s not forget committees and boards and even the occasional consultant.
Our sincere thanks to all of them.
And while we strive to appreciate our volunteers all year long, allow us to take advantage of Volunteer Appreciation Week to write a few extra words.
It’s in the sauce
Last week we hosted one of our favorite volunteer events: distributing food to families in need, in partnership with the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama (yet another organization that thrives on volunteers). Our most consistent partner in helping distribute food at the monthly event has been students and staff at the N.E. Miles Jewish Day School.
“The biggest thing I want our students to learn is that serving others is the ‘secret sauce’ of life,” says Brian Cain, head of school at NEMJDS. “We live in a ‘me first, me second, and me third’ world that teaches us to take as much as possible and that my happiness is paramount. That is the exact opposite of why I believe we are here on earth. The best way to serve others is to give of your time and efforts.”
The school backs up its sentiment by offering a class titled Youth Philanthropy. “Our kids want to help,” says Brian. “They want to make the world a little better and a little kinder.”
A dose of tikkun olam
It was last fall when the idea of asking students to help with food distribution came to Katie Hausman Grace, community engagement director at The J. The arrangement would be especially convenient since the school and The J share a parking lot. The students haven’t missed a month since they started helping in September.
“Our food distribution events have been a great opportunity for the students to learn the value of tikkun olam,” or repairing the world, says Katie. “The first time the students helped out they were a bit nervous about talking with our drive-through clients.
“But they’ve since opened up and grown in confidence, and the endeavor has turned into a time they can enjoy giving back to the community.”