National Volunteer Week… and Beyond

Every week at JCRC is busy and this one is no exception, but even amidst all the public events, the press rumbles – all part of the ‘normal’ life of a CRC, what really keeps our team busy is the steady work of realizing the values of Boston’s Jewish community in the civic sphere.

Across the nation this week, (April 10-16) people are marking National Volunteer Week.  President Barak Obama, as he has done each year, issued a Presidential Proclamation declaring this week as a time to recognize the incredible work of volunteers in service. In Boston, today is One Boston Day, a time to honor those impacted by the Marathon bombings by giving back to the community and sharing acts of kindness.

JCRC marked this week with special projects, photo ops, and some well-deserved volunteer appreciation.  As a service organization, we’re dedicating time to highlight the work of our over 1000 volunteers participating in JCRC initiatives this year.

  • We started Sunday with a new collaborative service project between ReachOut! and Northeastern Hillel, engaging 70 students in a day of volunteering.
  • Sunday was also a mitzvah day in the South Area of Greater Boston. About a dozen seniors at the Simon C. Firemen Community and teen participants from TELEM worked together to make over 100 sandwiches to donate to the Evelyn House in Stoughton, both local ongoing TELEM sites.
  • Our young adults launched “Bring a friend to ReachOut!” this week to recruit and engage new young adults in the program.
  • The Greater Boston Jewish Coalition for Literacy (GBJCL) will be delivering over $2000 in brand new books to each of their partner schools in honor of the hundreds of volunteers who generously give of their time each week to support a thousand students. This special gift was made possible by our friends at First Book and Simmons College.

A small confession – much of this incredible work would have been done regardless of National Volunteer Week. The activities this week are, in fact, just another facet of our ongoing partnerships with the community organizations with which we work. Our volunteers serve every day, investing an incredible amount of time, energy, and passion to build relationships with people and with organizations to create lasting change.  It is what allows us at JCRC, to be able to experiment with new programming, to try different ways of engaging with our partners and volunteers and to work collaboratively to develop the best ways to serve our community. 

So why was this week different than all other weeks (other than that I’m obviously pre-gaming for Passover)? 

This week, we connected young people and seniors, as always, but this time, it was to join together in service and provide for the needs of another organization. ReachOut! leaders, in thoughtful collaboration with our service partners, created the opportunity for young adults to get a taste of the program by bringing a friend to volunteer. We celebrated the work of our literacy volunteers – and expanded on their work– by providing access to great literature in schools, something that isn’t always available.

In the President‘s  proclamation he calls “upon all Americans to observe this week by volunteering in service projects across our country and pledging to make service a part of their daily lives.”  

Let us use this week – and specifically today in Boston – to launch a new commitment to service, but let’s not let it stop after the week has passed. Let’s integrate service into our everyday lives through the relationships we build.  It takes more than a week to create lasting change.  Our volunteers do incredible work every week.  We should honor their commitment this week knowing that next week they will still be tutoring students who are not yet reading at grade level; next week, there will still be a group of young adults who will be serving meals to those in need in Cambridge; and, next week, there will still be teens who spend time with an isolated senior after a full day of school.  It is the ongoing work we honor today, this week and always.