I have the opportunity to see a lot of good work being done in our community. And much of that work is done by many, many volunteers.
Whether they are helping out at a community Mitzvah Day, doing good in interfaith situations, or serving on committees and fundraising for institutions like their synagogue or the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island, volunteers are vital to our Jewish community and the greater community around us.
This was brought to mind several times recently.
As I write this, the Jewish Alliance has just completed its annual Super Sunday. What would Super Sunday be without volunteers? The community members who show up on a Sunday morning to make phone calls seeking donations are a dedicated bunch. It’s not easy to ask for money. And in this era of scam phone calls, fake fundraisers and caller ID, their calls often go unanswered. But call they do, because they believe in the mission of the Alliance. And the volunteers’ efforts are usually rewarded by a call back at another time. (Read more about the annual fundraising kickoff on today’s cover, and see photos of the volunteers on page 4.)
I am constantly impressed by the work of volunteers at our area synagogues. Most congregations are led by clergy and other staff members. But where would they be without the volunteer lay leaders?
At a recent High Holy Day service at an area congregation, the president spoke passionately about her journey to leadership. Initially, she said she volunteered as a way to feel connected to a new community. After that, she found it hard to say no when there was a need. Now, she’s the congregation’s president, and recommending that others follow the volunteer path to not only help but to form connections.
These are some of the benefits of volunteering: connections, a sense of community, doing good deeds, helping others.
In many cases, volunteers are highly trained and integral to the operation of an organization. Take Meals on Wheels, for example. This is a national effort to deliver food to vulnerable seniors who can’t easily leave their homes. Delivery people are often the only contacts a shut-in has on a daily basis, so they are trained to look for problems beyond the need for food.
Did you know there is also Kosher Meals on Wheels in our community? The program often needs drivers to deliver meals to seniors. Contact Jewish Collaborative Services for more information (jfsri.org).
Volunteering is ageless. Young and old can participate. Area schools have community service requirements now in an effort to demonstrate the importance of volunteering and to start a lifelong habit.
As a volunteer you quickly discover that giving of yourself is a two-way street: You feel good when you are doing good and you are helping with the mitzvah of tikkun olam, repairing the world. Whether you are paying it forward or giving back, volunteering does both of these.
Opportunities abound for getting out and helping others. Whether at your synagogue, community institution, animal shelter or school, you are sure to find a place that will welcome your talents. You will help others, and you will feel good about it.
I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been the beneficiary of someone’s choice to volunteer. In this season of renewal, that’s something to think about. Repairing the world won’t happen unless we all work together. That’s what volunteering is all about.
How will you use your talents this year?