Service Leadership While Strengthening Community

For Emma (she/her) volunteering has always been important to her with service as the guiding force in different moments in her life. “No matter where I have lived throughout my life I always made sure that I continued to do the work needed to make my neighborhood and my community stronger,” says Emma. 

Throughout the pandemic, Emma struggled to create moments where she was able to make a deep and meaningful impact while making lasting connections through her volunteer experiences. That changed for Emma when she opened up an email from Hey Alma, a feminist Jewish culture site and online community, in the summer of 2021 that featured the Repair the World Service Corps, an opportunity Emma immediately seized. “That email changed everything for me. I had finally found a way to be connected to my community again.” Emma applied and joined the first ever Repair the World Service Corps summer cohort as a corps member in the Bay Area.

As the world began to reemerge and vaccines became available, Emma began working to address the lasting effects of COVID-19 on systematically under-resourced members of the Bay Area community. At the start of the summer cohort Emma was paired with Rogers and Rosewater, an organization that has been bringing hot homemade meals to people facing food insecurity in Oakland every Wednesday since December 2018. The opportunity to organize and run a donation drive for Rogers and Rosewater arose and, although the task seemed daunting to Emma at first, she quickly took on the leadership role of reaching out to Jewish networks in the Bay Area and helping to bring tents, sleeping bags, water, food, and other supplies to Rogers and Rosewater. “Every couple of days when I would check the donation bins they would be overflowing with donations. Those moments were so reassuring and they reaffirmed that people really wanted opportunities to make a difference and were ready to give.”

The role volunteering played in Emma’s life shifted for her over that summer. “I see now that I am capable of doing so much more within my community and that I can lead service work and mobilize others to volunteer by creating experiences centered around service,” Emma said as she reflected on her experience as a corps member. She is committed to service now more than ever. “I learned so much from my fellow corps members and have engaged in such thoughtful discussions around systemic challenges not only faced by The Bay Area community but by cities everywhere.”

Emma continues to serve her community as a member of the Junior League of Oakland East-Bay where she works to support women and children and ensures that unhoused people receive vital resources by running her own donation drives. “Growing up and as an adult the Jewish value of Repairing the World (Tikkun Olam) was a value that was the center of my Jewish learning and through the Service Corps I witnessed volunteers, my fellow corps members, and the nonprofits we worked with live out the value in a special way.”