For the past month every Monday my son Cyrus and I have participated in bunches of lunches. The quarantine has been hard for our family in the sense that my husband and I are both working and we are constantly juggling conference calls, drafting documents and entertaining our son. Bunches of Lunches provided us a wonderful opportunity to reflect on how while we may have struggles during this time we also have the opportunity to help others through their struggles. We taught our son the importance of community at a time when he wasn't able to engage with his community in person. He prioritized his time decorating notes and we had good conversations about the ways we need help and the ways we can help others. It is always easy to feel isolated and even more so during a quarantine, thank you for this wonderful project that helped us connect to our community.
I have no memory of my first Mitzvah Day, which I am told we attended as a family at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC when I was in preschool. My mom tells me that I colored cards to include in care packages and blessing bags and that she and my dad helped my little brother and I go through the assembly line to pack winter care packages. I don’t know why we did not return to the JCC on Christmas the next few years, but I am pretty confident that we did not realize it was an annual event. When I was in middle school, one of our neighbors told my mom about another Day of Service sponsored by the Jewish Volunteer Connection (JVC), and from that day forward, we were hooked. Four years ago, we participated in the first Mitzvah Day that I can remember. My mom, brother and I served Christmas dinner at Baltimore Station and we stayed for a while afterward to talk with some of the residents. It was a cool experience and we returned a few months later with JVC as part of an event, Tailgate with a Purpose, where we served lunch and then watched the game with the residents who seemed as excited to get to know us as we were to get to know them. In fact, this experience led me to join the Baltimore Hunger Committee at my school (Friends) because they volunteer at Baltimore Station during the year. We needed to stay closer to home the next Mitzvah Day and so we decided to volunteer on both December 24t and 25t at Levindale. It was two more great experiences and we have chosen to return to Levindale each year since. I love spending time with the residents and hearing their stories and I feel good knowing that I am giving back to the community. For the past couple of years, my mom has been the project leader, hosting a holiday party on the 24th and facilitating bingo on Christmas. This year, as a member of the JVC Mitzvah Day board, I wanted to take on more responsibility and I am stoked to be the leader for these Levindale events (though I am sure my mom will be keeping a close eye on me!) I know I lead a very blessed life. I am surrounded by a loving family, attend a school with teachers who encourage and challenge me, and live in a safe neighborhood. I never need to worry about there being enough food, being warm enough in the winter or cool enough in the summer. I do not take this for granted and I want to give back and make a positive difference in the community. Mitzvah Day is just one of the many volunteer opportunities that I enjoy doing with JVC. There are so many opportunities for people of all ages to volunteer throughout the year, both directly or indirectly, even if time is very limited. For me, Mitzvah Day was a springboard to learning about more opportunities for giving back, and the community service with JVC has provided me with a larger appreciation and understanding for why this “work” is important.