With an early love for volunteering, five years ago, Nancy and Adrienne Matros, a similarly avid volunteer, started JCC Cares, a program at the Merage JCC. With a social action mission, bringing volunteers together to perform tikkun olam (repairing the world) and gemilut hasadim (acts of loving kindness), it’s grown to incorporate hundreds of volunteers each year.
Like Nancy’s experience, JCC Cares now teaches volunteering to a younger generation. Over 20 families regularly participate with JCC Cares’ family volunteer team. Events include gleaning at Incredible Edible Gardens, packing food at the OC Food Bank, cheering for Special Olympics, and baking cookies for our fire and police departments.
Few experiences mean more than volunteering as a family. “It’s been such a blessing,” said Jamie Evans, who volunteers with her husband and two sons, “not just for the organization and people we are supporting, but for us as a family. Children watch everything you do. By giving back to the community, you show them firsthand how volunteering makes a difference and how good it feels to help other people and enact change. ”
Recently 52 volunteers — families and individuals — converged on The Lighthouse in Costa Mesa. Volunteers made breakfast burritos, fruit and more goodies for over 100 people.
JCC Cares also works with the J’s preschool, encouraging volunteering in the very young. Kids as young at 18 months came to school with bags of food to share. Little kids toddled about carrying bags of food as best as their little arms could. They collected over 330 pounds of canned foods. Lisa Monette, Director, Sheila & Eric Samson Family Early Childhood Learning Center at the JCC, was thrilled that the “children made the connection between the food and mitzvah, and the understanding that their families were helping to provide meals to other kids. There was so much energy that day.” Α