As part of Mitzvah Day, hundreds of people flocked to Congregation B’nai B’rith and fanned out throughout Santa Barbara on Sunday to tackle a wide range of volunteer service projects.
More than 20 projects were offered at the synagogue and in the community, in partnership with local nonprofit organizations. Mitzvah Day has been a tradition at Congregation B’nai B’rith since 2005, and it allows all generations to come together and engage in acts of kindness.
“The goal is a confluence of energy toward a fixing of the world,” said Congregation B’nai B’rith Cantor Mark Childs.
“As Jews, we are obligated to do it all of the time, every day. As individuals, there’s something about the community coming together and the energy of the community together in one place.”
Volunteer opportunities included assembling lunch bags and basic items to be delivered to the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, making toys for shelter animals and help preparing evacuation bags for pets, and supporting laundry facilities and supplies for the homeless and those in need.
Other projects involved stocking and decorating welcome bags to help infants, young children and teenagers feel at home when they arrive at Transition House, assembling skateboards to be delivered to children in the foster care system, and making care bags for homebound seniors, congregants recovering from surgery and members facing loss.
Jen Lewis, a volunteer and director of Jewish learning programs at Congregation B’nai B’rith, helped assemble meal bags for families of the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, which supports and assists South Coast families with children battling cancer.
Some items that were donated for the bags included soups, canned vegetables, stuffing and desserts.
“We are making bags that have ingredients to make a Thanksgiving meal,” Lewis told Noozhawk. “It’s everything but the turkey.”
Beautification projects also took place at the Beit Ha Yeladim preschool on the synagogue campus, and members of Men of B’nai B’rith were helping improve a wheelchair access ramp, a walking path to the new prayer circle and a handful of gardening projects.
“We are trying to clear away brush so that we can put an orchard,” said Dan Habecker, a volunteer and Men of B’nai B’rith member. “Ideally, if you come back in a few years, you’ll see fruit trees that will be something our kids and fellow congregants can enjoy for years to come.”
The American Red Cross was also on hand for blood donations.
More than 300 people of all ages participated in the nearly three-hour volunteer effort.
“It’s anything from small arts and crafts projects that preschoolers can participate in, to building projects, giving blood, getting out into the community and beautifying our community,” Childs said.
“Everyone can access their own interests, skill sets, talents and be together with all of the people doing the same kind of thing.”
A team of about 30 energetic volunteers was sewing colorful, fleece superhero capes for kids and siblings of children fighting cancer, in partnership with the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation.
The group hoped to make 50 personalized capes. Half were going to the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation and the other half to Hadassah, said Sissy Taran, a community volunteer leading the group station.
“They are very creative,” Taran said of the capes.
Helping remove invasive sea lavender from the Carpinteria salt marsh, bringing board games or activities for seniors and joining the Center for Successful Aging at the Friendship Manor retirement home in Isla Vista, and beautifying Transition House were some off-site projects.
People also could work in the garden at Casa Serena, a rehabilitation facility for low-income women and their children; spruce up Isla Vista Youth Projects Inc.; prep, cook and serve food to homeless people living at PATH Santa Barbara; and singing to residents of Hillside House.
With the holiday season at hand, there are a number of ways that volunteers and nonprofit partners can come togther in behalf of the community.
Now in its seventh year, #GivingTuesday is a global day fueled by the power of collaboration and social media, according to GivingTuesday.org.
It takes place the Tuesday after Thanksgiving in the United States, and is considered “a movement to create an international day of giving at the beginning of the Christmas and holiday season.”
Many organizations kick off the charitable season and participate in the effort to give back.
— Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.