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Beaming about Big Sunday

JCC Cares, the community service group of the Merage JCC, and University Synagogue were two of the groups that participated in Big Sunday on May 5.  Big Sunday brings together thousands of volunteers all over California to participate in community service.  The LA based community service organization, Big Sunday, has been activating citizens into service since 1998.

JCC Cares ran a Mother’s Day event for the ladies of Project Access which included haircuts (from the stylists from TEK Salon), manicures, acupuncture, shopping, jewelry making and lunch.  JCC Cares also harvested the fields at the Incredible Edible Park.

Former Irvine mayor and current city councilman Larry Agran presented University Synagogue with a Certificate of Recognition for its efforts in the Annual “Weekend of Compassion with Big Sunday.”  Five years ago, University Synagogue joined a county-wide project in an effort to serve the underserved while working together with its interfaith neighbors.

Attracting nearly 1,000 volunteers from a variety of faith institutions around Orange County, UCI, corporations and grassroots organizations, University Synagogue opened its doors as a hub where volunteers could find a variety of service projects inside the social hall.  Volunteers also had an option to work in the community packing boxes of food at the OC Food Bank, painting homes for low-income families, gleaning crops with 2nd Harvest, Free Listening at the Mission Viejo Mall and cleaning up the beach.  There were seven hubs all around Orange County.  Indoor hub projects at University Synagogue ranged from assembling donated toiletries for domestic violence shelters, preparing sandwiches for the community service organization Share Our Selves, a Mah Jongg tournament to raise money for a domestic violence shelter and designing colorful paper flowers for senior shut-ins.

“University serves as a stellar model of the spirit of volunteerism and hospitality, opening their doors to the greater community to work with our diverse neighbor while focusing on our common values”, said Sande Hart, co-chair of the Orange County effort and President of SARAH (Spiritual And Religious Alliance for Hope), facilitator of the Orange County effort.

Rabbi Arnie Rachlis of University Synagogue (US), who shares the facility with Reverend Jim Turrell and  the Center for Spiritual Living (CSL), kicked off the day with a welcome and thanking the kids of all ages and adults for taking compassionate action  which is relevant in all of our faith traditions.  Lynn Friedman was chair of all the hubs of Orange County and Shelly Komer and Kim Bridge, chairs of US and CSL respectively for the Irvine hub.

The students of the US religious school participated in their classrooms by making lasagna and decorating cookies for homeless shelters, drawing on bags to be filled with the collected toiletries, sandwich preparation for the homeless and river clean up.

In addition to the activities, there were a number of non- profit organizations to both create awareness of the needs in OC and the opportunity to sign up to become involved as volunteers for projects during the year.  OC Center for Abused Children, Working Wardrobes, Tias Arms and Senior Serves were a few of the many organizations to support.

Big Sunday mobilizes 50,000 volunteers and hundreds of activities each year in its annual weekend of service and has become a year-round service organization.  It has extended its operations around the country.

The women’s interfaith organization SARAH (Spiritual And Religious Alliance for Hope) partnered with Big Sunday as an effort to provide an opportunity to bring our community together and create new experiences through service.  The objective was to end religiously motivated violence and create reconciliation and understanding.

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