As a young child, Danna grew up in a traditional Christian household observing Sabbath. “From sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday we spent a lot of our time volunteering.”
This upbringing helped to instill in Danna a passion for community organizing and for advocating for those whose voices were not often heard. “My life changed when I started volunteering with Repair the World in 2014 responding to local community issues around housing.” During this time, Danna was a single woman navigating her return to New York City. Now a working mother with two small children, she still dedicates time to serve through Repair alongside community partners, any way she can.
Her service work over the years has opened her eyes to critical social needs and inspired her to find ways to meet those needs. Her first service project with Repair addressed housing laws impacting different neighborhoods in New York City. “I began to hear stories about what it feels like as a local member of the community being priced out of a neighborhood through gentrification. I saw up close how some laws purposefully made it more difficult for longtime residents to stay.” Her first day serving with Repair, she recalls, was a “great day,” because of the conversations she had with local residents, and because of the opportunities that were created to ensure that local community members had access to information around the issues and laws impacting their neighborhoods and homes.
Danna also volunteered at the TLC Women’s Shelter in East New York, where her time was filled “with meaningful sharing and impactful caring, while uplifting and strengthening each other.” This service experience in particular gave her valuable perspective as Danna focused on the preciousness of each human (kavod ha’briyot). “It was a reality check for me. Now, at times when I’m having a difficult day I realize that you never know what others are going through. We need to always consider how we treat others and that each person’s experience is different and unique – we must approach situations with compassion.”
Through service, Danna continues to learn about how to build community in a way that elevates the diverse experiences of community members. “Of course I love the impact we create by serving, but the knowledge I gain about my surroundings and my neighbors is just as important. And by being present in the community, serving visibly, it creates opportunities for other people to learn more about their home and to find ways to strengthen their community through service.”
When I’m out, canvassing neighborhoods, or serving in any way, people see that and are curious to learn more. That often transforms into a meaningful connection made and to another volunteer stepping up to make a difference.
There are many lessons that Danna has taken away from her service experiences. “I’ve learned that volunteering includes walking through the door with an open mind and an open heart—and being ready to use your talents and oftentimes learn new skills to better serve others.” She deeply appreciates how Repair brings so many different communities together, and that service, at its very core, has a unique power to connect people from different backgrounds and different life experiences.