Archive for : volunteer

Destination Detroit

by Devon Rubenstein and Emily Phillips

If you told us when we were still students at the University of Michigan that we would graduate to organizing monthly service days for Michigan State, we would have said, “Thanks but no thanks, AmeriCorps!” Of course, we are only kidding, but the rivalry did have a funny way of initially affecting our enthusiasm for the partnership. And yet the true colors of volunteering have overcome school colors to create Destination Detroit. 
Destination Detroit is a partnership of Repair the World and MSU Hillel, which brings diverse student groups together through service and shared experiences in Detroit. On monthly Fridays throughout the year, groups of about 40 students come from East Lansing to Detroit for a fun-filled day of volunteering, sightseeing and, of course, food. The participating groups include:
  • Arab Cultural Society
  • Asian Pacific American Student Organization
  • Black Student Alliance
  • Camp Kesem
  • Culturas de las Razas Unidas
  • The Greek Community
  • Jewish Student Union
  • Student Housing Cooperative (Co-Op)

For our most recent Destination Detroit, we partnered with Davison, a Detroit elementary and middle school known for its dedicated teachers and creative curriculum. For a testament to Davison’s commitment to education, look no further than Judy Robinson, who recently retired after teaching kindergarten at Davison for 39 years, still volunteers there, and was integral to bringing Destination Detroit to her school.

Davison has attracted a large population of Detroit and Hamtramck’s recent immigrants from Bangladesh. (More on Hamtramck below.) and attracts a large population of Bengali students. The diversity of both the Davison and MSU students enriched everyone’s experience, but the day’s theme — Science Rules! — showed us we had more in common than we thought.

Room One: Ecosystem Art!
How could college volunteers and elementary school students who’d never met before create individual works of science-themed art that would then be combined to beautify the school? Enthusiastically, it turns out. Each grade tackled an ecosystem — ocean, desert, and forest — with students and volunteers decorating their own sheets using found objects like pine needles, cotton balls, paper bags, and shiny fragments from old CDs (ones we feverishly broke prior with gloves and bolt cutters). While each kid’s picture was great on its own, the truly spectacular part of the project was seeing hundreds of these pictures collaged together and mounted in the hallway.

Room Two: Science Experiments!
Pennies don’t command much respect as currency these days, but they are are great for experiments. 1. Inertia: resting pennies on an index card on a cup and trying to get pennies to drop directly into a cup while only moving the index card. (It’s harder than it sounds.) 2. Chemical Reactions: testing to see whether dish soap or hot sauce (Sriracha, in case you’re curious) would clean the tarnish off pennies. If you’re anything like our friends a Davison, you’ll be amazed by which worked.

Room Three: Food Chain!
Classes created their own ecological rock-paper-scissors with predator, prey and producer — replete with pantomime. For example, lion eats antelope, which eats grass, which survives lion. Elementary and college students faced off repeatedly, transitioning accordingly (i.e. in Lion vs. Antelope, Lion stayed Lion and Antelope became Lion) and learning about ecological balance and interdependence in the most chaotic way imaginable.

Destination Detroit blends service and Detroit experiences in a way that always manages to excite, engage and exhaust everyone. After many hugs and high fives at Davison, the MSU students ventured into the cold for a tour of the amazing work by Powerhouse Productions, including the Ride It Sculpture Park, Sound House and Power House. Then, out of the cold — and, for that matter, out of Detroit — to Hamtramck, a city surrounded by the City. At the Polish Art Center, we learned from residents (experts and authors) about the rich immigrant history that preceded the current wave of Bengalis and Yemenis who now fill many of Hamtramck’s homes and storefronts. And the trip would not have been complete without pierogi, stuffed cabbage and more from Polonia.

Spreading Good this Holiday Season

Giving is to Winter like sour cream & applesauce are to latkes: we hope you spread ‘em generously! Whether it’s serving meals to the hungry, supporting Sandy recovery efforts or igniting a child’s passion for reading, the festival of lights offers many ways to give. How can YOU spread good this holiday season?

In Repair the World’s hometown, thousands of people still need heat and light in their homes following hurricane Sandy. We hope you’ll help spread some good, and share some light in these darker times by giving a gift that no one – and no hurricane – should take away: education.

What can YOU give to promote literacy across the country?

TIME: The Repair the World team is hosting a HoliDay of Service on 12/9 in New York City to create educational gifts for the students of PS 253 in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn! Packed with school supplies, a new book, and a battery-operated reading lamp, these literacy kits that will be donated to the students  whose school was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. Older students will use these kits over winter break to read aloud to younger students, which means each book will have a double impact! Sign up to join us (space is limited so chime in quickly!). Can’t make it to the event? Organize one of your own with this tipsheet. You can also donate books through our registry here.
BOOKS: Reach Out and Read is an incredible national organization that reaches almost 4 million (!) students each year. By “prescribing” books to their patients, pediatricians and medical professionals become education allies. You can join them by participating in our online book drive, which lets you virtually pick books to donate to local communities. Your efforts will help children build early literacy skills, making them more ready (and excited!) to read when they enter school.
GELT (MOOLAH): With low-income, public schools facing a dearth of resources, the innovators at Donors Choose have created a way to create micro-change out of pocket change. Donors Choose gives public school teachers a platform to fundraise for the specific needs of their students. Donors Choose has thousands of pages posted by teachers in all 50 states. Requests range from laptops and microscopes to basic markers and crayons, and each dollar donated goes directly to fund teacher’s projects. Search by zip code to help a teacher in your neighborhood, or donate to classrooms that have been impacted by Hurricane Sandy.
e-NSPIRATION: Share this post with your friends so they can get in-depth updates about how to hit the ground volunteering. If 8 (as in nights in Chanukah!) people list you as a reference when they sign up for our newsletter, you’ll get an awesome Repair the World tee – now available through our online store!

And don’t forget to check out our 8 nights of Sandy Service for tips on how your small differences can add a whole lot of light.

Shalom TV Daily News 11/6/12

Hurricane Sandy, Google and a Message From the Whirlwind

I’m looking at a Google map that showed up on my Facebook feed. It is filled with multi-colored virtual thumbtacks on my desktop that says Hurricane Sandy Recovery — Volunteer Opportunities. The colors represent the type of help needed. Red pin: volunteer opportunities at food banks and evacuation shelters. Yellow pin: donation sites for emergency supplies and food. Teal pin: volunteer opportunities to clean up damaged neighborhoods.

Between phone calls with colleagues, photos and new reports, and live Twitter and Facebook feeds, I felt I had entered the fourth dimension and was personally in the heart of Sandy’s path as it thundered up the coast and pounded the northeast.

But I wasn’t. I am based in Seattle and by next week I suspect my Twitter and Facebook feeds will return to their normal rhythms of witty comments, and photos of smiling people and cats (being a dog owner, something I just can’t understand). And that is the challenge all of us not living in a flooded neighborhood without power or fresh water face — those of us who are not face with children’s or simple questions of “why?” and “what’s next?” Those of us not forced to look at destroyed neighborhoods and needing to answer the same questions for ourselves. Very quickly, as if having passed an accident on the highway that makes us pause our conversation and shutter, we will, as we must, continue along down the road of our lives.

But we can’t just keep driving along. Commandedness — the demand of a response both as an individual and as a community — is one of the most powerful ideas the Jewish tradition has brought into the world. A felt obligation to pull off the road and to not keep driving. The acceptance that no matter who I am or where I am, I can’t be a bystander. A response is obligated by nature of the skills, talents and gifts I’ve been given; we as a community have been given; we as a country have been given.

And yet, I suspect those colored thumbtacks on Google will increase like a visual manifestation of urgent need. In fact, the truth is the world is populated with multi-colored thumbtacks, but unless the disaster is so merciless and the photos so compelling to activate our fascination with abomination we will never react to them. Most of us will never bother to look. And that is, as it always has been, our challenge. For us not in the recovery zone the question isn’t “why,” but what are we going to do about it? Not just today but always.

Here is a list of ways you can get involved now in recovery efforts in the northeast.
Follow Rabbi Will Berkovitz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@CitizenRabbi

Thanksgiving Volunteer Opp: Everything But the Turkey with the Washington DC JCC

Washington DC people, take note! This November 19th and 21st the Washington DCCJCC is hosting their “Everything but the Turkey” event – an annual volunteer opportunity that brings together 500 volunteers to prep Thanksgiving side dishes for the city’s hungry and homeless population. The program, which is in it’s 12th year, works closely with DC Central Kitchen, one of the city’s leading anti-hunger organizations, to make a real difference in the community.

Erica Steen, the DCJCC’s Director of Community Engagement, took some time to talk with Repair the World about what it’s like to prep Thanksgiving dinner for 6,500 people, and why volunteers shouldn’t wait to sign up.

What exactly is Everything But the Turkey?
It’s an annual event where we partner with DC Central Kitchen to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for all of the homeless shelters and low-income community organizations in the city. They make all the turkeys and we make all the side dishes. Every year more than 500 volunteers join us the Monday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving to prepare the dishes.

Amazing! How many people does the program feed, and what’s on the menu?
There are 100 different shelters in the area that feed approximately 6,500 hungry people a full Thanksgiving dinner. In addition to turkey, which DC Central Kitchen makes, we prepare green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, coleslaw, stuffing and a harvest salad, which includes beans and corn.

What do people do while volunteering?
The volunteers are involved in all aspects of food prep. We organize tables of eight and each table is given one recipe and all the supplies and ingredients they need to make that recipe multiple times. Over the course of the two days we make approximately 12,000-15,000 servings of food. Because we have volunteers who come with their children, we also make snacks for an after school program that DC Central Kitchen runs.

How do you keep track of all that food?
It’s a lot of team work! We have our own staff and DC Central Kitchen also sends representatives who help volunteers pack up trays and make sure things run smoothly. There’s even someone at the door tallying up the completed trays as they leave the kitchen. The process is made somewhat simpler because we do not cook anything at the JCC. We do the cold prep and then wrap up the dishes in clearly marked aluminum trays. They are then packed into a cooler van and delivered to DC Central Kitchen. A couple of the dishes like the coleslaw and harvest salad are good to serve as-is, but anything that needs to be cooked gets cooked there.

Can you talk more about who participates?
We have a wide variety of participants, and we let people know they do not have to have previous cooking experience to get involved. That said, a lot of people who volunteer love to cook – some people even bring their own knives! A lot of our preschool families come with their kids. And companies or groups from local universities will often sponsor a table. We also have grandparents who bring their grandchildren and let mom and dad stay at home to prep their own Thanksgiving meal.

This year, we are really ramping up sponsorship opportunities. Groups can sponsor a table and we add their logos to our advertising and website. Individuals can also sponsor. I had a mom call me this morning who wants to sponsor a table in honor of her daughter’s bat mitzvah, which is the following week! They’ll bring friends and family and make a bat mitzvah service project out of the day.

How can people sign up to be involved?
People can register directly at our website – but if they’re interested they should sign up soon. This event fills up quickly every year!

Find more volunteer opportunities with the Washington DCJCC here, and learn more about DC Central Kitchen’s work and how you can get involved here.

FINDING A HOUSE OF OUR OWN

Everyone has that one place where they feel happiest and most comfortable.

For me, it is an old car factory on Holden Street, which is now used as the city of Detroit’s recycling center, Recycle Here! I stand there every Saturday morning welcoming recyclers, answering questions and collecting zip codes.

But it was in front of my favorite space that I found the perfect place to live.

I spent three months this summer scouring Detroit’s real estate listings with three soon-to-be housemates. We were looking for a place to call home for not just ourselves, but the new Repair the World-Moishe House, where for the next year we will work to build a community for young Jews by creating a home-base for service and volunteerism — and of course socializing.

Finding a house is never easy. This is the ninth time I’ve tried, and it had unique challenges. For one, none of us were living in the same city when we found out we had been selected to live in the Repair the World-Moishe House. (Over the course of our search, I believe the four of us were in the same country at the same time for a total of four days.) And in our separate corners, each was incredibly busy on our own with jobs that let us do a little good in this world.

I run Green Living Science, a nonprofit that works to help mobilize action and education around environmental issues in Detroit.

Besides trying to communicate over different time zones, we found out that it isn’t that easy to find a house to rent in Detroit with four bedrooms, plenty of space for Shabbat dinners, and a surrounding community with the infrastructure ready to tap into for planning volunteer and service projects.

Thankfully, a little serendipity stepped in.

Green Living Science works with the nonprofit Recycle Here!, the city of Detroit and Detroit Public School’s Office of Science to bring recycling services to some 20 local schools for the first time as well as in-class and after school lessons that teach students about recycling and environmentally sound waste disposal.

That means that I have a close association with about 2,000 students, teachers and community leaders — and the great advantage of talking to more than 500 different Detroit residents every Saturday.

It was on one of these Saturdays in front of Recycle Here! that I started telling a recycler named Tony about the same thing I talked to everyone about at the time: my search for the perfect house.

It turned out that Tony was looking to rent the other side of his duplex in Woodbridge, a historic district full of beautiful mansions and large front porches perfect for meeting neighbors.

It was the first neighborhood I lived in when I first moved to Detroit in 2007 and nostalgia set in as I started thinking about all the things I loved about the neighborhood, including the diversity, the character of the houses, the library next to Scripps Park, the backyard gardens, the history and the neighborhood pancake breakfast.

But nostalgia gave way to practical thought as my mind started racing about all the different organizations in and near Woodbridge with which we could partner, and about all of community projects in which we could be a part.

Without even seeing it, I knew the perfect house had found us.

By the time you read this, I and my three new friends and housemates (I believe you met Devon on this page last month) will have lived in the house for a little more than a month.

The first couple of weeks spent setting up the house have been a little less magical than the story that brought us to its door. We’re working out logistics, scheduling, deciding who does what chore, who cleans which room and trying to figure out who gets to share what food.

(I’ve been named de-facto house treasurer, responsible for bills and rent.)

By the time you read this next dispatch, we’ll have more fun stories to report, as now we’re also in the midst of planning our first few volunteer projects and social engagements.

So far, our welcome to Woodbridge has been amazing. A number of organizations have already offered to host Shabbat dinner in our home.

We’ll start saying yes as soon as we work out the details — and are actively creating our October calendar of events now.

In October, our real work will begin. We’ll start to partner with local nonprofits on volunteer projects. The first will be with Arts and Scraps, an organization that assembles learning kits for kids. So check our website soon for more details.

In the meantime, we’re going to find time between our day/evening/weekend jobs scavenging to find enough furniture to fill the house, brainstorming volunteer projects, and sometimes even finding time to enjoy the massive garden and koi pond in the backyard of our perfect service house. 

Rachel Klegon runs Green Living Science and is a resident of the new Repair the World-Moishe House in the Woodbridge area in Detroit.

PRESS RELEASE: Repair the World & AJFCA Launch Volunteer Initiative Program

 –Leading Organizations Partner to Inspire New Generation of Civically Engaged North American Jews–

NEW YORK, NY, APRIL 2012 – Repair the World (Repair), a national nonprofit that mobilizes Jews to serve those in need, has partnered with the Association of Jewish Family & Children’s Agencies (AJFCA), the membership association for North America’s Jewish family service agencies, on a Volunteer Initiative Program to increase the size and effectiveness the Jewish family services network’s volunteer base.

AJFCA, which supports a network of 125 agencies across the United States and Canada annually serves hundreds of thousands of Americans in need from all faiths and backgrounds. It will work with Repair the World, which connects Jewish Americans to meaningful service opportunities and builds capacity for organizations to run effective service programs rooted in Jewish values, to infuse AJFCA’s member agencies with new models of volunteering.

The Volunteer Initiative Program will focus on expanding outreach to young adults and increasing opportunities for this demographic to volunteer at AJFCA member agencies and will include a series of workshops, networking opportunities and information sharing sessions. It will also provide technical assistance and support to local AJFCA outposts to promote volunteering, provide service-learning resources and build the capacity of local volunteer leaders.

“The work of Jewish family service agencies is so important, especially given today’s economic climate. The need to build the volunteer capacity of those agencies is a shared concern for both Repair the World and AJFCA,” said Jon Rosenberg, CEO of Repair the World. This is a natural partnership and we are tremendously excited about the work ahead.”

Together, Repair the World and AJFCA have hired Jennie Gates Beckman to serve as the Initiative’s first Manager of Civic Engagement & Repair the World Programming. Based in Baltimore, Beckman will help lead the effort to effectively engaging thousands of people in vital volunteer work. Beckman, who has a Master’s Degree in Jewish Communal Service from Brandeis University, has worked in volunteer recruitment for the past five years at the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

“Today’s young adults will form the support base for our network of Jewish family service agencies tomorrow and into the future,” said Lee Sherman, President and CEO of AJFCA. “Repair the World and AJFCA share a recognition of the importance of engaging this group with the essential work of our agencies. Jennie’s experience inspiring young adults to volunteer in Baltimore makes her an excellent choice to lead this initiative.”

ABOUT THE ASSOCIATION OF JEWISH FAMILY & CHILDREN’S AGENCIES

AJFCA is the membership association for approximately 125 Jewish family service agencies across the U.S. and Canada. Ranging in size from small departments of local Jewish federations to some of the largest human services agencies in North America, our members provide vital services to clients of all ages, faiths and economic backgrounds. They counsel families, feed the hungry, assist the elderly and protect the vulnerable. We are united by the values of our Jewish tradition and work together toward our common goal of tikkun olam, repairing the world.

ABOUT REPAIR THE WORLD

Established in 2009, Repair the World is a national nonprofit organization that mobilizes Jewish Americans to contend with the world’s most pressing issues through service.  Headquartered in New York City, we connect individuals with meaningful volunteer opportunities to help their local, national and global communities, and builds the capacity of individuals and organizations to run effective service programs rooted in Jewish values. For more information, visit weRepair.org.

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PRESS RELEASE: Detroit Nation and Repair the World Launch Drive, Detroit Nation’s New Tech-Based Volunteer Initiative Designed to Boost Local Economy


Partnership enables initiative launch, hiring of Detroit Nation’s first staff member

New York, NY and Detroit, MI, September 24, 2012DetroitNation, a national expatriate organization dedicated to supporting the Detroit region, and RepairtheWorld, a national nonprofit that works to inspire American Jews to volunteer, today announced the launch of Drive, Detroit Nation’s proprietary incubation program that hopes to build the local economy by encouraging social entrepreneurship.

Designed to extend the network and resources available nationally to social entrepreneurs in Detroit, Drive hopes to help Detroit’s social entrepreneurs quickly scale their venture. Teams of skilled Detroit Nation volunteers partner with Detroit- based social entrepreneurs for intensive sessions designed to help the participating local businesses overcome challenges that have prevented them from achieving growth. Two types of intensives are offered, a Blitz session which lasts one day or an extended session which takes place over a period of four weeks. Drive allows Detroit based social enterprises to connect with mentors nationwide. Drive also hopes to help build Detroit’s position as a vibrant place to live and do business. Volunteer teams from across the Detroit Nation network are strategically matched, through a skills and interest-based process, with social entrepreneurs in Detroit to help them overcome self-identified challenges in developing their businesses.

“We are grateful to Repair the World for helping build Drive as a robust volunteer solution,” said Rachel Jacobs, founder, Detroit Nation. “We look forward to the launch of the program in late fall and expect that Drive will facilitate opportunities for individuals with an interest in Detroit to engage in the city’s burgeoning start-up culture. Further, Drive will provide access for Detroit’s social entrepreneurs to professionals with the resources needed to help sustainably scale their businesses.”

“Repair the World has been working to build volunteerism in Detroit, with a large focus on education and literacy. We’re excited to grow our commitment to boost the local economy by building the area’s community of social entrepreneurs,” said Will Berkovitz, senior vice president, Repair the World.

Meg Pouncy, program manager, has been hired to oversee Drive’s launch and subsequent implementation. In addition to being a successful product designer, Meg is also the founder of Blue Sugar, a design firm committed to designing products and services that achieve positive social impact.

Detroit Nation has begun seeking volunteers and Detroit businesses to participate in the initial phase of Drive. For more information about Detroit Nation and Drive, visit http://www.detroitnation.org/drive_2012

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About Detroit Nation

Detroit Nation is a national volunteer-led organization dedicated to supporting Detroit by directing the money, skills and energy of native Detroiters now living elsewhere to organizations engaged in economic development, cultural innovation and job creation in Southeastern Michigan. With more than 1,700 supporters between five chapters in Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Washington D.C., Detroit Nation members represent a range of industries, including professional services, film, media, green engineering and healthcare.

About Repair the World

Repair the World is a national nonprofit organization that mobilizes Jewish Americans to address the world’s most pressing issues through volunteering. Headquartered in New York City, we connect individuals with meaningful service opportunities to help their local, national and global communities, and enable individuals and organizations to run effective programs rooted in Jewish values. For more information, visit weRepair.org. Follow us on Twitter @RepairtheWorld.

 

Contacts:

Meg Pouncy

586-322-6484

[email protected]

OR

Dara Lehon, Repair the World

646-695-2700 x18

dara@weRepair.org

 

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