500 Volunteers Make a Different December 25 Day of Service

Published Friday, December 1, 2017


Common lore suggests that Jewish people spend Christmas day eating Chinese food and going to the movies.


JCC Cares, a social action program at the Merage Jewish Community Center, seeks to change the stereotype. JCC Cares is sponsoring a variety of Christmas Day volunteer projects for families and individuals. Young and old, will cook and serve breakfast, bake cookies, provide hygiene kits and add cheer to our community.


In its first year, four years ago, 150 volunteers launched the day of service. This year more than 500 hundred volunteers are expected. Families, friends, individuals, Jewish and not, will participate in more than 25 projects throughout Christmas Day and throughout the county.


“This provides an opportunity to help and to teach our children the true spirit of volunteering,” Sheila Dalva-Hornback, who with her son and husband, is making hot meals for Potter’s Lane, a home and support system for veterans.


Nancy Chase, a lifelong Orange County resident and Merage JCC board member, learned volunteering from her family. Ten years ago, she started JCC Cares, along with friend and fellow lifetime volunteer, Adrienne Matros. They recruited a dozen or so friends/volunteers and the group continues to grow. The program, free to the community, brings volunteers together to perform tikkun olam (repairing the world) and gemilut hasadim (acts of loving kindness).


As Nancy says, “Every event wrenches your heart and amazes you with the strength people find. We work with dozens of local nonprofit agencies, hundreds of volunteers and hear a thousand stories each year. The stories are amazing, moving, and simply a call to action. The families at the many nonprofits we work with, graciously think we are doing them a good deed, but our families will get as much back from the day’s efforts.”


More information is available at December 25 Day of Service.


Jesse Tabakin, 3, gives it all he's got, including facial muscles, to create a holiday card of form flowers for either the homeless, firefighters or children with cancer at Merage JCC, Irvine. The Newport Beach resident, his older sister and parents spent Christmas morning doing good deeds for those less fortunate. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, Orange county Register/SCNG)


As seen in the Orange County Register December 25, 2016

'You need to give before you get': Volunteers fan out across O.C. on Christmas Day

Nothing like ripping through wrapped gifts under a Christmas tree when you’re a kid, but 10-year-old Adam Hoshino and his family had something else they needed to do first: head to the Jewish Community Center to make cards and toiletry kits for the homeless.

“You need to give before you get,” said his mom, Eileen Hoshino, as she helped fill bags with soap, shampoo and other toiletries.

Adam -- whose Catholic and Buddhist parents are members of the Jewish Community Center -- didn’t seem to mind.

“We’re making stuff for the poor and helping them have a good Christmas,” Adam said as he finished putting the finishing touches on a Christmas card he designed with a Pokemon character.

While the Hoshinos of Irvine worked at one table, about 100 more children and adults spread across other work stations at the Merage Jewish Community Center of Orange County, decorating cards for children with cancer, making and delivering food for the homeless, baking cookies for firefighters working the holiday.

Altogether, more than 300 volunteers joined the third annual Christmas Day event organized by JCC Cares, a social action group at the Merage Jewish Community Center of Orange County. They visited retirement homes for veterans and other seniors, a church, a hospital and other sites.

“A lot of Jewish people have nothing to do on Christmas day and this is a great way to serve the community,” said Nancy Chase, who along with Adrienne Matros co-founded the JCC Cares group some eight years ago to fulfill the concept of Tikkun Olam: performing acts of kindness to help to repair the world.

This year, the first night of Hanukkah -- which changes yearly depending on the Jewish calendar --coincided with Christmas Eve. That made Christmas day even more special for Jennifer Feinleib, who already has a lot to celebrate every Dec. 25.

“It’s my 46th birthday. I’ve been volunteering on Christmas since I was single,” said Feinleib, who was in town with her husband and young children while visiting her mother in Westminster.

“This is part of our faith. It’s also a nice way to pass down to our children what it’s all about: doing a mitzvah (or good deed,)” Feinleib said while her five-year-old daughter, Julia, drew hearts and stars on a card for sick children.

Over at the cookie-making table, meanwhile, Orly Kochinski, 6, was quite methodical with her decorating technique.

The trick was to slowly place sprinkles on top of the cookies. Then a little more. Twin sister Meital had a different approach: she dumped them all at once.

“I’m making cookies for firefighters. They work on holidays like Christmas and can’t be with their families,” Meital said.

The girls’ mother, Sivan Kochinski, said that this year’s Christmas-Hanukkah coincidence – known to some interfaith families as Chrismukkah -- felt different.

Usually, with most places closed on Christmas Day, “there’s a little feeling that the world has shut down.”

On this Christmas, however, the Kochinski family volunteered through the JCC to set up a free holiday meal for the homeless at the Southwest Community Center in Santa Ana and then arrived at the JCC for more service projects.

“It’s nice to have something to do,” she said. “And it’s nice to help other people.”


By Roxana Kopetman, staff writer at the Orange County Register. Contact the writer: 714-796-7829 or