Caring Connections members relish opportunity to give back to community
By Stacey Spencer • JFCS Disability Services Manager
Caring Connections members – Jewish adults with disabilities – love to get together for events! I mean, they really like attending Caring Connections events. Who wouldn’t? After all, having a designated time to hang out and do cool things with people you enjoy hanging out with appeals to everyone, right? The events are social, engaging, interactive, creative, and of course, entertaining.
Caring Connections events are sometimes planned to coincide with the Jewish holidays or Shabbat. Like the time we went to Adath Jeshurun Congregation for a rousing dancing and singing session for Simchat Torah. Or the beautiful outdoor Kabbalat Service we had at Mount Zion Temple over the summer. Additionally, our annual “Sing-along Passover Seder” has over 100 people who come year after year to celebrate Pesach in a creative and significant way. Even the pandemic did not stop us celebrating our Jewishness together; we successfully pulled off a “Havdalah by the Campfire” Zoom event (ok, it wasn’t a real campfire, but it was in front of a real fireplace!) with over 40 Caring Connections members, along with their friends and family, attending virtually.
Other Caring Connections events offered the opportunity to learn new talents and discover skills we did not know we had. Like when we joined Rabbi Davis at Beth El Synagogue to learn how to bake delicious challah. Who knew how much we enjoyed making bread from scratch?! Last winter, Caring Connections members participated in a series of three art classes, led by a professional artist, and it really unleashed great creativity!
Caring Connections members have been so appreciative and so grateful for the program that they were looking for a way to say “thank you” and give back to the community—so we gave them the opportunity to do just that.
Caring Connections members recently had the opportunity to collaborate with the JFCS Hag Sameach (Happy Holidays) program, which helps ensure that people in our community who need extra assistance, both during the holidays and throughout the rest of the year, have a resource to receive holiday gifts and essential items for Chanukah. Last year alone, 900+ individuals received holiday gifts!
Our goal was to pack 120 toiletry kits, which included shampoo and conditioner, soap, deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste, and other small toiletry items, to be included in the Hag Sameach holiday kits that will be distributed in December.
And we did it – we packed all 120 toiletry kits, working diligently with ease and grace. The room was filled with vibrant energy, collaboration, laughter, and joy. When surveyed after the event, Caring Connections members said, “Let’s do this again next year” and “Can we do more events like this one to help other people”? The only complaint I received was “I wish this was a longer event and that we got to pack more kits!”
We were not a group of people with disabilities in a room; we were people in a room with the common goal of helping others. Caring Connections members had the opportunity to experience the great sense of accomplishment and the warm-fuzzy feeling we get when we volunteer and help others.
Let’s keep challenging and changing our expectations about what people can do, not about what they can’t do because of our disabilities. In the end, Caring Connections members experienced the joy that comes from a meaningful volunteer experience – helping our community and strengthening the Caring Connections community in the process.
For more information about Caring Connections, please contact Disability Services Manager Stacey Spencer at email@example.com
For more information about Hag Sameach, please contact Program Manager Mindy Teele at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about Volunteering at JFCS, please contact Community & Volunteer Engagement Manager Dana Shapiro at email@example.com
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