Enrich Your Life by Volunteering
It is 3:30 in the afternoon at Hamilton Elementary School in Mount Vernon and a teen volunteer reminds a small group of third graders at the WJCS Off the Street afterschool program to hurry up and finish snack. Only a little encouragement is required today because they know it is their turn for Storybook Hour and they do not want to miss a word. As they file excitedly into the common area, the volunteer reader welcomes them with a warm smile and they promptly sit “crisscross applesauce” on the floor.
The volunteer, a retired teacher, has chosen to read The Elves and the Shoemaker to highlight this month’s theme of gratitude. Animated as he turns the page, he happily stops for questions along the way. At the conclusion of the book, the volunteer leads a lively discussion on how the children can express gratitude in their own lives and then donates the book to the school.
It only takes a few moments to change a life.
As Manager of Community Engagement for WJCS, I help individuals and families find meaningful volunteer opportunities in one of our 80 plus programs throughout Westchester. With over 20,000 people served annually, including 7,000 children, WJCS can help you find a way to give back to your community.
When I speak to people about volunteering, people often tell me that they wish they could help but are short on time. We all have many responsibilities that put demands on our precious time. As a result, WJCS tailors volunteer opportunities to fit the individual. Whether you are a busy parent or you are seeking to find the right match for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah project, WJCS will work with you to find an opportunity to match your talents, skills and expertise.
Volunteer opportunities should complement your life, not complicate it. One hour a week can help an elementary aged child improve her reading skills, a middle schooler understand her math homework, and brighten the day of someone isolated at home. These opportunities allow you to build relationships and provide a break from your weekly grind.
While some people are very busy, recent retirees and widowers may wish to fill their time with fulfilling volunteer opportunities. For example, The WJCS Compeer program matches a volunteer with a person going through a hard time, like anxiety or depression. After a quick training, volunteers call their match and meet weekly at a diner, library or at the movies. Another option may be visiting the sick or watching children whose parents are attending a high school equivalency course. Whether it is volunteering with young adults on the autism spectrum at the WJCS Supper Club or serving lunch to seniors, WJCS has an opportunity that fits your needs.
Jewish tradition strongly encourages an active role in Tikkun Olam, healing and repairing the world. Every person, through his or her own unique spirit, has the capacity to change a life and create a ripple effect across families and communities.
Rebecca Sigman is Manager of Community Engagement at WJCS-Westchester Jewish Community Services. To find out about volunteer opportunities at WJCS, please click on http://www.wjcs.com/volunteering/.
*This article was first published in Westchester Jewish Life and is published on wjcs.com with the permission of the publisher of Westchester Jewish Life.