Opinion | How a notary came to gift books to children

Julia Bailey
Julia Bailey (Courtesy of Bailey)

By Julia Bailey

I applied to be a notary about seven years ago, when I returned to Baltimore. I lived here when I was attending Towson University and left after graduation to study in Israel. Being a notary alongside my mother was something that I was looking forward to. My mother, Ruth Sacks, was a notary in Washington, D.C., and worked for the Federal Trade Commission and was also a notary in Maryland. As a child, I remember watching family friends, neighbors and even friends of friends come to our house, feeling so desperate, and always extremely appreciative of the five minutes it took for my mother to notarize for them. She was happy to help and never charged.

After I was sworn in, I started advertising in “The Advertiser” in the G’mach section and later I started calling myself the “Notary Gmach of Baltimore.” Now, I have a Facebook page so people can get in touch. When people would ask me how much I charge, I used to tell them I just want to help and I don’t accept money. They were always shocked.

This all changed one day when a close family friend needed a document notarized and put me in my place. He told me that I’m denying the person the opportunity to give and that people don’t want to receive services for free. He explained that I should allow people to give money because they are so grateful that I am available at night, on Sundays and on government holidays when banks and other places with notaries are closed. After thinking it over, I reached a compromise and decided that I’d accept donations that would go to tzedakah, allowing people to express their appreciation, yet following in my mother’s footsteps and not taking a penny.

For years, the Notary Gmach of Baltimore was happy to donate money to Bnos Yisroel in Baltimore and worked closely with Rabbi Chaim Amster and Gitty Goldstein to put the money where it was needed most.

When both of my boys began attending Darchei Noam Montessori, donations started going toward the scholarship fund there, but I knew there was more to this mission. My 94-year-old grandmother, Ruth’s mother, reminded me that she also used to be a notary and worked as a librarian at the University of Maryland for 30 years.

Now, every dollar donated is put toward growing the school library at Darchei Noam Montessori. We are grateful to Shabsi’s Judaica for the beautiful selection of books in stock and the kindness extended to schools. To make donations stretch even further, we shop when Shabsi’s is running a sale. Last year over winter vacation, the Notary Gmach began subscribing to the Menucha Jewish Book Box where several newly released books were delivered for just $30 per month. Since Darchei Noam began as a preschool, our goal has been to expand the elementary-level reading material. Jessica Fink and Sonia Kozlovsky from the Macks Center for Jewish Education, Faige Katz from the Jewish Children’s Library at Congregation Shomrei Emunah and Malka Edelman from Bnos Yisroel made themselves available for questions, suggested ideas and have been mentoring me every step of the way.

As I wrote in an article for the Darchei Noam Montessori Newsletter: Montestories for Rosh Chodesh Adar:

Over $500 was donated to The Notary Gmach of Baltimore in the year 2020. Each month, $30 of the total money donated is used to purchase two newly released Jewish books, delivered in the Jewish Book Box from Menucha Publishers. Then, any remaining money is set aside to purchase books on sale from Shabsis Judaica, stretching each dollar donated even further. Although it has only been a year since the Notary Gmach partnered with the growing library at Darchei Noam Montessori, more than 35 brand-new Jewish books have been gifted to our school.

The Notary Gmach has advantages in that it is open both during regular business hours as well as after business hours, which include weekends and government holidays when banks are closed. Most notarizing takes place outside on the trunk of a car, but you don’t even need to get out of your car with the curbside notarizing option. If you or someone you know needs a notary, please call 443-449-7879. Although donations are not required, as it is a free service, people appreciate the opportunity to give to a worthy cause.

Julia Bailey is a notary in Baltimore.

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