by Breeanna Rosen Bergman
As this year’s Jewish Federation of Cincinnati’s Give a Day draws near, I think back to my past involvement and realize how fortunate I am to be able to donate my time through such a well-run event. For those who aren’t familiar with Give a Day, last year’s one-day event included more than 650 people volunteering for 24 projects to impact over 30,000 lives throughout the greater Cincinnati area. This year’s event will be even bigger—with more projects and volunteers—and will even go global, as Israelis in our sister city, Netanya, take part in this day of social action.
My involvement in Give a Day has truly been rewarding. The first year I was involved, I decided to become a team leader and head up a project based at the Epic House, a retirement home in downtown Cincinnati. All together, we had 15 people who dedicated their time that day, painting, cleaning and refurbishing their outdoor furniture. Although the work wasn’t the most enjoyable, the people who lived at the Epic House really appreciated it. You could tell how excited they were when they came into their clean, freshly painted rooms. Not only did we help them by doing simple things, but the group also ate lunch with the residents. It’s not often the residents at the facility have so many visitors at once—not to mention LaRosa’s pizza! They enjoyed telling us about their life stories and grandchildren. We even met one resident who was 101 years old.
What was unique about our group is that we had many non-Jewish Cincinnatians volunteering, which was wonderful because they learned about our community and its dedication to improving Cincinnati and our fellow citizens. Many of them started the day not even knowing what mitzvah actually means, but by the end of the afternoon they surely understood it. This brief interaction even led to some of the volunteers going back to Tthe Epic House to volunteer further, reflecting the power and impact of Give a Day.
Last year, I was part of the LEAD class and spent the day in Over-the-Rhine at the Peaslee Neighborhood Center, which teaches children creative arts. My class split up into several groups and painted, weeded their garden and asphalted a walkway in their playgrounds. Perhaps the most interesting part of the day was when we learned that the volunteers at the center were teaching the children about permaculture and where their food comes from. To further this effort, we helped fill their compost bin in their garden area, so they could teach the kids how to plant.
These two brief interactions left an impact on me and my fellow volunteers. We were not only exposed to new organizations in the city, each doing great things for their constituents, but we were also able to bond with each other. It’s refreshing to see our community coming together to improve the lives of so many people of various ages and religious affiliations.
No matter which project I choose this year, I know I will feel a sense of accomplishment and pride for the Jewish community. I look forward to meeting many new members of our community on April 29, 2012, and hope that many of you will join me for one of the most rewarding experiences of the year.