For many, December 25 evokes holiday thoughts for delicious celebrations, presents, and family. For me – not so much. While I love the holidays, family celebrations, and presents (!), my family enjoys Chanukah. That, typically, means that December 25 is a day most businesses are closed and friends are busy.
Like many of our Jewish friends, December 25 is a day where I – and my family – are anxious to find fun.
Five years ago, JCC Cares, a social action committee at the Merage JCC in Irvine, launched a December 25 Day of Service with a variety of volunteer projects for families and individuals. In its first year, 150 volunteers launched the day of service. This year more than 500 hundred volunteers are expected to participate.
The day has become a family tradition for many. Families, friends, individuals, Jewish and not, will participate in more than 25 volunteer projects throughout the day and all around Orange County. Projects are developed for young and old, including playing games with residents in senior homes and youth shelters; packing hygiene kits for those living on the streets; cooking and serving brunches for veterans, seniors and the homeless; and delivering treats to nonprofits throughout the community.
Rafael was just two years old the first time he participated in the December 25 Day of Service. He, with his mother and father, lined the halls of the JCC baking brownies and decorating cookies to share with firefighters. The day “gives us the opportunity to teach our boys the meaning of tikkum olam (the Jewish concept of acts of kindness performed to repair the world) and instill in them what it means to help others,” explains Emily Ryan, Rafael’s mother. Together, the family of four, have baked brownies for firefighters, prepared sack lunches with the Heritage Pointe seniors, and packed hospitality bags for families in Puerto Rico.
In fact, more than 54 families with young children – as young as two years old – sold out the “Treats for Firefighter” project within 48 hours. The JCC will add a second shift so more families can bake brownies and decorate cookies, delivering the homemade treats to variouscommunity firehouses.
“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, learned volunteering from her family.
Eleven years ago, Nancy Chase, a lifelong Orange County resident and volunteer, with Adrienne Matros, another lifelong volunteer, recruited a dozen or so friends/volunteers to start JCC Cares and five years ago together they launched December 25 Day of Service. “The day has proven as meaningful for the volunteers as it is for the people we serve. We work with dozens of local nonprofit agencies, hundreds of volunteers and hear a thousand stories each year,” shares Nancy.
Free to the community, the program brings volunteers together to perform tikkun olam (repairing the world) and gemilut hasadim (acts of loving kindness).
More information is available at December 25 Day of Service.