Martin Luther King Jr said, “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.” Most of us are familiar with this quote and similar expressions of the importance of volunteerism. Words like this have inspired generations of people to participate in community service. This notion of making the world a better place through individual acts is deeply rooted in American culture, dating back to the colonial era with the first volunteer fire departments, and groups of volunteers who supported the revolution. The pursuit of justice is at the core of Judaism as well.
Today, volunteerism is widespread and serves as a common link between the for-profit, government, and non-profit sectors. The national conversation on this was front and center last week when I attended the Points of Light Conference on Volunteering and Service. The breadth of industries represented was extensive, from big name fashion corporations to municipal government groups to grassroots advocacy organizations, all with an investment in community service. It was clear that service is not only important in the non-profit world, but is crucial to the functioning of every sector.
While there was a lot to take in from four days of conversation about all facets of the volunteer engagement world, a few lessons stood out. The United States is witnessing a unique and important moment in time for volunteerism. More than ever, millennials are looking for meaningful service work where they can roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. Bill Basl, Director of AmeriCorps, a featured speaker at the conference, cited that 70% of millennials have the desire to make a difference but only 3% volunteer. At the same time, the baby boomer generation is retiring and they want to use the skills they have cultivated over the years to serve a good cause.
This is an exciting prospect for those of us thinking about how to include more people in volunteer service. There are thousands of people waiting for the right kind of opportunity. It was startling to learn that while 65 million Americans volunteer, 20 million do not return to serve again. We clearly have our work cut out for us.
What are the implications for JCRC as a service organization and the Boston Jewish community? We are extremely well positioned for this new pivot to community service. JCRC has a current portfolio of service programs that provides opportunities for people of all ages, millennials and baby boomers alike. Our hope for the future is to expand on these initiatives and provide a range of ways for the Jewish community to become involved in service. We are committed to recruiting, supporting and sustaining energetic groups of well trained volunteers who truly make a difference, by addressing needs identified and prioritized by our partners; community based organizations on the ground throughout Greater Boston.
Our volunteers are deeply passionate about the organizations with which they work. Our service sites drive the experience so the impact is real and meaningful. Sustained community service fosters genuine relationships between people that keep our volunteers coming back, sometimes for as much as eighteen years.
Our sense of community derives from our shared Jewish values. A commitment to chessed and gimilut chasadim, acts of loving-kindness, is what keeps us grounded together in this work. This winter, we will have another opportunity to come together, as representatives of the Jewish community, and in collaboration with volunteers throughout Greater Boston in the name of service. For the first time, JCRC will be organizing volunteers from the Jewish community to participate in the Martin Luther King Jr national day of service on January 18th, 2016. We will work together with our partners at City Mission to identify real community need, and engage our volunteers in a meaningful way.
I invite you to join us in this movement, to learn more about our service programs, and to discover the right volunteer opportunity for you.
Director of Service Initiatives