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Repairing the World, One Trip at a Time

I recently sat down with Michele Chakaya, a food justice fellow for Repair the World NYC  to discuss how she got started working with Repair the World and her upcoming service trip with EntryPointDC (the 20s and 30s program of the EDCJCC). This trip, called B’Yachad: A Giveback Getaway Trip to Brooklyn, is an immersive experience where participants volunteer with a variety of organizations, and learn about the systemic issues that create inequality in our society.

Stacy: Tell me more about you! Why did you want to be a fellow and what does Repair the World and their fellows do?

Michele: I am originally from Minneapolis, MN. My family comes from the former Soviet Union and I grew up speaking Russian. Prior to coming to Repair the World, I was working at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. There, I was introduced to various social justice issues and became interested in the social justice world. I have been a Repair the World food justice fellow since August 2017, and I will continue to be a fellow until July. My main partner is Hunger Free America, and I volunteer with them as a SNAP benefits screener. Repair the World organizes tens of thousands of young Jews to volunteer in tackling pressing local needs each year. Our food justice and education justice fellows work with local nonprofits to arrange volunteer and learning opportunities through a peer-to-peer model.

Stacy: What are some of the community service and learning projects participants will be partaking in on the B’Yachad trip?

Michele: We’ll learn about food justice by preparing a meal for the hungry at St. John’s Bread and Life and canvass neighborhoods to inform the local community about the SNAP Benefits and Food program.

We’ll also be helping out at a youth after-school project with Brooklyn Community Services. Racial justice is something we’ll focus on during our time together – the group will partake in anti-oppression training led by Repair the World. And, we’ll have the opportunity to empower young inmates by editing their poetry through the DC-based organization, Free Minds. One of our local board members will be leading a tour of the Crown Heights neighborhood, and Friday evening the participants will join with other local young professionals for a community Shabbat.

Stacy: What do you hope the volunteers will learn from the trip?

Michele: I hope they come back to DC committed to getting involved in service and social justice opportunities. I hope they bring back new ideas, practices, and inspiration that they learned over the weekend, and are able to explore their relationship between their Jewish identities and social justice. And I hope they can reflect on the importance of volunteering, as well as get to know the challenges, strengths, and communities in Crown Heights.

Stacy: What are some of your favorite things to do in Brooklyn and NYC?

Michele: I love to hang out in our neighborhood – Crown Heights, Brooklyn. There are several locally owned businesses on our street, many of which are Caribbean restaurants which serve delicious meats. We are also very close to Prospect Park, which is so beautiful and a very nice place to relax when the weather cooperates. When it comes to the Jewish community, I have enjoyed connecting with the various Moishe Houses, in particular, there is a Russian Speaking Moishe House that has been very welcoming!

Learn more about B’Yachad: A Giveback Getaway Trip to Brooklyn here. The trip is from June 7 – June 10 and applications are due May 7th. Limited spots available.

 

 

About the Author: Stacy Miller is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. enjoys entertaining her large Jew crew at her home and is currently the Director of EntryPointDC, the 20s and 30s program of the Edlavitch DCJCC. She represents all things Northern Virginia as the Founder of NOVA Tribe Series and is a former GatherDCGirl of the Year Runner-Up. Most importantly, she wants you know she LOVES this community a-latke.

 

 

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EntryPointDC is committed to helping Jewish adults in their 20s and 30s in the D.C. metro-area build and maintain a Jewish identity and a connection to the community through social and educational programming.  Annual community service projects include Everything But The Turkey, D25 Day of Service, and Good Deeds Day. Repair the World NYC enables people to transform their neighborhoods, city and lives through meaningful service experiences, rooted in Jewish values, history and heritage.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Jess and Sophie: Jewish Do-Gooders of the Week

Want to nominate your amazing Jewish friend to be featured on GatherDC? Send his/her name, brief blurb, and contact info to info@gatherdc.org.

Sophie and Jess are Do-Gooders. In their spare time, they do things like volunteer at local soup kitchens, give back to Jewish non-profit organizations, and plan community-wide days of service. Get to know these two mensches as we chat about french fries, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and giving back.

From left: Jess Sher and Sophie Buslik

Allie: Describe each other in one word.

Jess: Radiant, giving off good, positive vibes. Sorry, that’s more than one word!

Sophie: Dedicated, driven.

Allie: Where does your passion for volunteering come from?

Jess: Volunteering – whether serving on a board or helping with a one time event – was really important in my household growing up. Learning this from my grandparents and parents is what led me into the social action world.  Community service is for others, but it also feels really good to make small changes and small positive impacts.

So, when I moved to DC, I started volunteering for The Jewish Federation and ADL (the Anti-Defamation League). I also enjoy volunteering at places like N Street Village, or helping build homes where you can get your hands dirty and know that you’re making someone’s home a happy place.

Sophie: I love being a part of making our community better and engaging other people to do that. When I started working after college, I felt like I had a lot of free time outside of work so I started volunteering with my company (Booz Allen Hamilton) at places like SOME and Miriam’s KitchenLater on, my husband (then boyfriend) introduced me to Federation, and I wound up getting involved with the volunteer aspects of the organization. I love the idea that even if you don’t have money to give, you can give in other ways to help those who can’t help themselves.

Allie: I hear that you’re volunteering to make Good Deeds Day happen this year. Tell me about that!

Sophie: Good Deeds Day (which is Sunday, April 29) is DC-area’s day to give back, and is part of the global day of service where millions around the world volunteer to help their community.

Allie: What Good Deeds Day service project should our GatherDC readers sign up for?

Jess: I’d say the project with N Street Village, to prepare/serve meals to homeless and low-income women. There’s also an opportunity to make meals for those facing homelessness at DC Central Kitchen.

Sophie: There’s a service project specifically for young adults to help out at Covenant House, which provides resources to homeless, disconnected, and exploited youth.

Allie: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Sophie: “Be where your feet are.”

Jess: I really like that! So important to be present, be in the moment.

Allie: If you could have dinner with any celebrity, who would it be?

Jess: Taylor Kitsch, but only if he came as his character Tim Riggins from “Friday Night Lights”.

Sophie: JTT. Jonathan Taylor Thomas circa 1997.

Allie: If you could eat only 3 things for the rest of your life, what would they be?

Jess: My mom’s challah. Summer strawberries. Chicago Giordano’s deep dish pizza.

Sophie: Crabs. French fries. I really only have two.

Allie: Who is the biggest Do-Gooder you know?

Sophie: Jose Andres – I always see him giving back locally and around the world. I love how he uses his work and passion for food to help others.

Jess: My parents. They give a lot of their time, talents, and treasures to make an impact in St. Petersburg, FL (where I grew up). I’d be lucky if I could make just part of the impact that they’ve made.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Sophie/Jess: They Do Good!

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

18+ Ways to Volunteer in DC this Holiday Season!

‘Tis the season for holiday cheer and holiday parties, funky Hanukkah sweaters and even funkier Hanukkah gifts from your great aunt or your office secret snowflake. Even though everyone loves socks, scarves, and Starbucks gift cards, why not consider making this time of year more about giving gifts instead of getting them? Here are 18+ amazing opportunities to give back this winter – which one will you choose?

Photo courtesy of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

For foodies:

For those great with Bubbes:

  • D25 Day of Service: Monday, December 25th
    • Spend your Christmas Day with the EDCJCC giving back to the local DC community before hitting the movie theater and eating Chinese food.YP EVENT: There’s a special Columbia Heights-based session for young professionals through EntryPointDC that you can find here. These YPs will be visiting low-income and food insecure seniors through We Are Family DC. If this D25 activity doesn’t sound like you, be sure to check out the other D25 volunteering options including the Cookie Drive going on now through December 23rd!

For the super crafty:

For animal lovers:

For Northern Virginians:

For those with really busy schedules:

Photo courtesy of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

  • Coat Drive with ThriveDC: Drop off between January 8th and January 11th
    • ThriveDC helps those facing homeless across DC. You can contribute anytime by providing a warm coat to a person in need through their winter coat drive.
  • Capital Area Food Bank at Giant
    • Headed to Giant to buy canned beans for your famous chili? Buy an extra can for the food bank and drop it off in the collection cart on your way out of the store.
    • A loyal Safeway customer instead? Make a small donation at the register to help provide food for residents in need.

For those with volunteering in their New Year’s Resolutions:

Consider becoming a committed volunteer in 2018 at one of the organizations below.

For those who live through their phone calendars (I’m right there with ya), here’s a list fit for that “Add to Calendar” button:

December 13th, 6:30-8 pm: Pre-D25 Gift Wrapping at the EDCJCC

December 16th, 8-11 am: Wreath Laying at the Arlington National Cemetery

December 17th, 8:45 am-12 pm or later: DC Central Kitchen Volunteering and Brunch with Moishe House Capitol Hill

December 17th, 11:45 am-1:30 pm: Doing Good with JFE at N Street Village

December 17th, 1:30-3:30 pm: Pre-D25 Gift Wrapping at the EDCJCC

December 17th, 6:30-8:45 pm: Patricia Handy Place for Women Volunteering with YP@AI

December 20th, 5-8 pm: Wrap gifts with We Are Family

December 25th, 10 am-2:30 pm: D25 Day of Service with EntryPointDC

January 4th, 7-9 pm: Hunger Action for DC Central Kitchen at EDCJCC

 

About the Author: Shira Cohen is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you! When not writing about volunteer opportunities in DC, she works in student life and disability services at a local law school. Originally from Charleston, SC, Shira loves DC Library $1 book sales and District Taco.

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Top 5 Reasons To Volunteer this Good Deeds Day

GDD2016_buttonRnd3How wonderful it is that no one need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank

As Jews, we have the extraordinary and critical commandment to leave the world just a little bit better than the way we found it. We are told to live our lives not solely focused on our own pursuits of success, but on the success, justice and welfare of society at large.

The world depends on individuals realizing that we are not independent of anyone or anything on earth – but that we are interconnected. The hostile anger and bigotry of one person can spread hate across a nation, just as the loving kindness of another can create lasting peace. Each of us has the ability and the responsibility to share our goodness with the world. We are here for only a limited time, so, as Anne Frank once noted, why wait a single moment before starting to make our difference?

It was in this spirit that in 2007, renowned businesswoman and philanthropist Shari Arison launched Good Deeds Day, the international day for those of all ages and backgrounds to join together in the pursuit of the idea that, “if people will think good, speak good and do good, the circles of goodness will grow in the world.” Since Arison and the organization Ruach Tova first launched Good Deeds Day in Israel, it has grown exponentially. Today, more than half a million volunteers in 90+ countries across the globe participate in this phenomenal day of service. Among them are more than 10,000 Do Gooders right here in Greater Washington.

On April 10th, for the fifth year in a row, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington will host The Sara and Samuel J. Lessans Good Deeds Day. Together, community members from across the DC area will gather for more than 200 projects and put our own spin on Arison’s idea into practice: that every single person can do something good, be it big or small.

In honor of Federation’s five remarkable years of planning and hosting Good Deeds Day in Greater Washington, here are the Top 5 reasons why you should sign up to join us on April 10:

  1. Get the “Helper’s High”: Positive Psychology has conducted extensive research studies proving that those who take the time to give back to others are happier than those who do not. According to the Americans’ Changing Lives long-term research project, “volunteer work is good for both mental and physical health. People of all ages who volunteer are happier and experience better physical health and less depression.” – Peggy Thoits, a lead researcher on the study.
  2. Meet Some Really Nice People: It turns out that when you volunteer with other people who are choosing to spend their Sunday make the community a better place – you meet awesome people.
  3. Make Bubbe Proud: All your life, your family has been spending every waking moment (subconsciously or not) trying to turn you into a mensch. Now’s your chance to show them – and thousands across the Greater Washington community – that you are a “Do Gooder.” You are someone who lives with the Jewish values you learned in Hebrew school to be kind, loving, respectful, hardworking and passionate about giving back.
  4. Make a (Real) Difference: This is not just a day of feel-good fluff. On April 10th you’ll put your best self to work and get your hands dirty to make a real difference for those in need. From gardening and planting, to packing and delivering food to local seniors, to making care bags for homeless children and blankets to keep hospice patients warm – check out more than 200 projects available to choose from!
  5. Forget Your Problems: At the end of the day, making time to step out of your own head, consider the plight of others and make a difference, however big or small, to improve their lives, is a powerful feeling. Every single day, we encounter people who are facing some sort of struggle. Yet, often times we are far too caught up in our own plans, logistics, relationships, career planning (ad infinitum) that we become unable to notice or be there for others.

On Good Deeds Day, you’ll have the incredible opportunity to pause, get outside of yourself and lend your time, your kindness and your resources to help those in need throughout our community. I can’t wait to meet you – and Do Good with you – on April 10th!

Allison Cossman is an Account Executive at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.

Volunteer opportunities for the Jewish New Year

So you’ve survived most of your first holiday season in D.C. It’s been a hectic stretch—but now’s the chance to take it one step further by getting out and volunteering your time for a good cause, especially while the weather is still good.

Many organizations around town want to help you find your volunteering stride.  Including:

  • DC Minyan frequently posts new volunteer opportunities—whether it’s for helping out around the shul or volunteering as a hospice worker. The best way to link up with upcoming projects is to email DC Minyan’s Steering Committee at sc@dcminyan.org, and they’ll match you up with a good opportunity based on your interests and schedule.
  • Adas Israel has a number of ways you can contribute to the synagogue and the community at large. You can sign up at their website here, and see the checklist of projects to join. Opportunities range from working on membership and fundraising, to helping with food banks, blood drives, and visiting the sick.
  • The DC JCC is also a great resource for finding out when the next days of service are, and finding a blood drive or a soup kitchen to help out with. Their calendar is complete with projects year-round, and descriptions of their programs can be found here. On Oct. 23, the Behrend Builders group will be cleaning and painting The Family Place at 3309 16th Street.
  • If you’re more of a knitter, head over to the DC JCC for their Handmade for the Homeless project to make hats, scarves, gloves and mittens from noon to 2 p.m. on Oct. 23.
  • Etz Chayim DC is a community forum for people in the area to exchange ideas and create events related to Jewish and environmental work. They’re having a farm day volunteer opportunity Oct. 23 at the Farm at Walker Jones. The small farm at K Street and New Jersey Avenue (northwest) will be open for eager volunteers from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Contact Rhea Kennedy at theschmea@gmail.com to RSVP and get information.
  • Common Good City Farm, on V Street between 2nd and 4th streets, is having a crop-picking session on Oct. 23 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Volunteers pick crops and drop them off at a local homeless shelter so others can join local, healthy food. Register here for the project.