I am passionate about community service. Because I recognize how truly lucky I am, I appreciate the fact that I can positively influence the lives of others. While those who know me well have seen the tremendous role service plays in my life, they have also witnessed my commitment to share this belief both with the families in my community and, most importantly, the students with whom I work. It can be difficult, as an individual, to make a difference. However, I have help! Here is where I am really lucky!
Who are the Mitzvah Makers?
I advise a group of teens (comprised of my post Bar and Bat Mitzvah students) who are dedicated to improving the areas in which they live through community service. They are my “Mitzvah Makers”. A philosophical component of of my spiritual education program focuses on community service. Specifically, I share my belief that being “adult” (again, post B-mitzvah age) members of society requires us to be responsible for our communities and compassionate with regard to our neighbors.
This group has a history of proven dedication to their community. They have coordinated Thanksgiving Food Drives, organized children’s activity/carnival days, and collected holiday gifts for less fortunate children. Mitzvah Makers meet monthly with me and, as a group, identify needs in their community where they believe they can help.
Being a “Mitzvah Maker” provides service minded youth an organization within which to operate. They learn to identify problems, brainstorm solutions and work together as team to develop a plan to make a difference. In short, these teens have a positive impact on their community while enhancing the interpersonal skills that will serve them well in to the future.
Community Service – Feeding the Hungry
For years I have been dedicated to providing assistance to the homeless population in South Florida. Often times, this group is overlooked when community service projects are discussed. People often make uneducated judgments. Therefore, they assume that being homeless is a result of being lazy. This simply is not true. In fact, there are many reasons why an individual may become homeless. Things happen that are beyond control. That said, I strongly believe in withholding judgement. Instead, I focus on helping those less fortunate simply because it is the right thing to do.
Because of this, I regularly share my commitment to feeding the homeless with my community. In fact, each year a number of my Bar and Bat Mitzvah students elect to “feed the homeless” as their mitzvah project.
Recently, my Mitzvah Makers elected to coordinate a day of “feeding the homeless”. Needless to say, I was so proud. Together, they made sandwiches and bagged lunches. (Thank you to the XXX family for sharing your home so we had a place to work.) Then, we transported our food to Fort Lauderdale and personally distributed it. Historically, everyone who receives lunches from me has been polite and grateful. This trip was no exception.
What’s coming up
This month our Mitzvah Makers have embarked on something new – a pet food and snack collection to be donated to a local rescue organization. The recent hurricanes across the country have brought forward the issue of abandoned animals. This is a tremendous problem in our country and there are a number of organizations in South Florida dedicated to helping to solve this problem. We encourage you to learn more about it and contribute where you can.
For more information on Mitzvah Makers visit Shema Koleinu at http://shemakoleinu.org Cantor Debbi Ballard has been serving the unafilliated Jewish community of South Florida for 13 years. Learn more about her at http://mypersonalcantor.com