The joke is that Jews go to the movies and eat Chinese on Christmas Day. Not at the Merage JCC.
Six 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 550 volunteers are expected to participate.
Adrienne Matros, JCC Cares co-founder, shares “We have over 500 volunteers of all ages and walks of life that truly make a difference in our community”.
The day has become a family tradition for many. Families, friends, individuals, Jewish and not, will participate in more than 30 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 and firehouses 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 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 Rafael’s mom, Emily. Now a family of four, through the years they have have baked brownies for firefighters, prepared sack lunches with the Heritage Pointe seniors, and packed hospitality bags for families in Puerto Rico.
“This provides an opportunity to help and to teach our children the true spirit of volunteering and tzedakah (charity),” Sheila Dalva-Hornback, director of the Aronoff Preschool. The preschool is spending the holiday season collecting canned goods and toys to share with the many December 25 Day of Service projects.
“The day is as meaningful for the volunteers as it is for the people we serve,” kvelled JCC Cares co-founder, Nancy Chase.
Free to the community, the program brings volunteers together to perform tikkun olam (repairing the world) and gemilut hasadim (acts of loving kindness).
Register at www.jccoc.org