According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, fifty-five percent of our youth, 12 to 18 years old, volunteer each year. That rate is nearly twice the adult rate.
Youth involved in religious activities are even more likely to volunteer. So, it is not surprising to see communities of Jewish youth traipsing around Orange County making a difference. Yet, it can still be a challenge to find a volunteer experience.
Each year, Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’a lot hosts its Mitzvah Launch, engaging nearly 500 youth, ages 3 to 16, in volunteer work. Rabbi Leah Lewis explained that the idea is to introduce children to nonprofits and community work and “launch” them into more regular volunteer efforts.
Likewise, in addition to its own congregation-wide Mitzvah Day, Rabbi David Young, at Congregation B’nai Tzedek, is planning a family volunteer weekend in New Orleans. While enjoying the sights and sounds of New Orleans, with and without parents, youth will work hard each day with Habitat for Humanity, continuing the recovery efforts.
At the Merage JCC, JCC Cares, the social action committee invites the community to get involved in monthly mitzvah opportunities developed for all ages. “We’re making a real effort to include families and kids,” says JCC Cares co-chair, Nancy Chase, “Volunteering as a family is a great opportunity to do something constructive together while helping to teach your kids about big issues. Besides the wonderful benefits to our community, there are many benefits for your family. Volunteering together enhances values such as kindness, compassion and tolerance.” Families are invited to join JCC Cares at the Orange County Food Bank August 3, register at www.jccoc.org. ✿
Audra Martin has worked with children in the JCC field for over 17 years and is the Director of Children and Camp at the Merage JCC. Contact Audra at: firstname.lastname@example.org.