Serving the Region

Preschoolers from the JCC help decorate a sukkah at Weinberg Park Assisted Living. (Provided)
Preschoolers from the JCC help decorate a sukkah at Weinberg Park Assisted Living.

For the fourth consecutive year, volunteers from Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C., are participating in a number of service projects as part of the Governor’s Day to Serve. Among the Baltimore contribution is a concerted effort by Jewish Volunteer Connection, including activities that range from a month-long food drive at the Park Heights JCC to a neighborhood beautification project in partnership with the 6th Branch, a community service nonprofit for veterans.

Day to Serve started in 2012 as a single-day event that was made possible by the governors of these states and then-Washington Mayor Vincent Gray. It later expanded to a full weekend in order to accommodate multiple religious groups and now lasts a month from Sept. 11 until Oct. 10.

Avi Sunshine, a program associate at JVC, said the goal of programs such as cleanups are not only to serve the community but also to “build
relationships all across the border.”

“We really try to look at whatever critical needs exist, and that means doing a city neighborhood cleanup is a critical need,” he said. “It helps show that people outside the community care.”

Sunshine said most of the activities are open to anyone, and some are as simple as visiting the sick in the hospital. JVC will extend its participation in the program by one day when volunteers visit the Hackerman-Patz House at Sinai Hospital on Oct. 11, where they will hold a tailgate reception with residents and then watch the Ravens play the Cleveland Browns. They will bring pillowcases and cards as part of what Sunshine said is a process of “bringing a sense of normalcy” to the patients.

“When you’re taken away from your home and brought to a hospital, it’s a very difficult time for everyone,” he said. “Working with families and children who are going through difficult times is also very meaningful and impactful.”

Sunshine said JVC is partnering with other organizations as well such as the Jewish Federation of Howard County and PJ Library. He said many of the events revolve around Sukkot, such as a sukkah decorating activity that took place on Thursday at Weinberg Park Assisted Living.

[pullquote]“We really try to look at whatever critical needs exist, and that means doing a city neighborhood cleanup is a critical need. It helps show that people outside the community care.”[/pullquote]

“The most exciting ones are connecting those holidays to events,” he said.

For the event, preschool students from the JCC and their parents helped decorate a sukkah.

Judy Bickford, a preschool teacher at the JCC, said this is the second year they have participated. She said the convenient location of Weinberg makes the event an ideal way for the students to give back.

Last year, Bickford said two classes of kids between the ages of 3 and 5 participated in addition to residents, adult chaperones and teachers, bringing the number involved to 1,000.

“In this day and age, we’ve come to where our seniors are in assisted living and our children are in pre-schools,” she said. “It’s connecting our school to the community; it’s intergenerational. Volunteers of all different states and backgrounds are here for this event.”

Bickford said some decorations last year were store bought and some were from recycled materials. She said some of the decoration making will take place at Weinberg this year.

“Not only are we going to make some there, but we’re going to bring some with us,” she said.

Bickford said one addition this year will be her class of 2-year-olds participating in the decorating. She said the event is popular because the students feel they are “visiting their adopted grandparents.”

“Last year, I asked my pre-Ks, who were going on to kindergarten, what’s the favorite thing that they did this year, and immediately one of them looked at me and said, “Visiting our friends across the street,” Bickford said.

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