Your plastic’s no good here

Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center is looking for nimble fingers to wrap gifts. Photo courtesy of Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center
Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center is looking for nimble fingers to wrap gifts.
Photo courtesy of Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center

With Chanukah and Christmas falling on the same eve, credit cards are getting a workout this month. But if you want to give of yourself, not just with plastic, there are eight days’ worth of volunteer opportunities in the Washington area.

Day 1: Visit seniors at Charles E. Smith Life Communities

Volunteers at Charles E. Smith Life Communities help keep residents connected to the outside world, said Monica Mayer, volunteer program manager.

“It is about our residents still feeling like they’re a part of the community, despite not being able to get out,” she said. “They can still be engaged with what is happening” outside.

Volunteers organize religious services, bring in certified therapy animals, perform as a singer or musician or simply provide companionship to residents as friendly visitors.

Mayer said the organization has an Adopt-a-Grandparent program for children age 10 and older to pair up with residents who may not have family in town.

Volunteers can give residents an opportunity to experience what’s going on in the community with events taking place at CESLC.

“If there’s a popular book, they can have a book club. If there’s a holiday, they can be a part of that holiday,” Mayer said.

The agency has 400 individuals volunteer each year in its six buildings, assisting residents and helping with administrative work. More than half are youth.

Day 2: Teach technology with Jewish Council for the Aging of Greater Washington

For Jewish Council for the Aging of Greater Washington, volunteering can mean answering phone calls and emails about senior resources and aging well or teaching a class on technology to senior citizens.

JCA also has an intergenerational program where adults (age 50 and older) help to mentor at-risk youth.

“We depend on people that do extraordinary things on a regular basis,” said CEO David Gamse.

In JCA’s 2016 fiscal year, volunteers provided 1,164 hours of assistance by phone and email and 1,437 hours of instruction about technology in Maryland and Virginia. Additionally, 353 volunteers donated 6,778 hours to serving 916 at-risk youth, whom they mentored and tutored in 83 locations.

Day 3: Party with seniors and The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

Feel like cutting loose? The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington will hold a Chanukah party at the Chevy Chase Senior Home on Dec. 18 to bring joy to seniors during a festive celebration filled with music and festive treats.”

Day 4: Deliver meals on wheels with Bikur Cholim

Have a car? Are you artistic? If you answered yes to either question, Bikur Cholim of Greater Washington wants you. The organization welcomes volunteers to deliver meals to hospital patients and drive seniors to medical appointments. Young artists are invited to create works for display at the agency’s kosher hospital pantries.

Day 5: Be indispensable at Jewish Social Service Agency

“There are some program we can’t do without volunteers,” said Elana Sandler, director of volunteer engagement at the Jewish Social Service Agency.

JSSA volunteers visit in hospice care as well as a kosher meals-on-wheels program where volunteers help run day-to-day operations.

JSSA also runs Café Europa, a twice-yearly social program for Holocaust survivors and volunteers provide transportation, serving food and dancing with survivors.

In the last fiscal year, JSSA had an estimated 1,000 volunteers assist the agency. A group of 150 volunteers collectively made 4,160 hospice visits, 50 volunteers helped at Café Europa and nearly 100 volunteers delivered 25,000 meals to almost 120 seniors.

Day 6: Wrap things up with Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center

Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center is holding several gift-wrapping sessions. The center needs nimble fingers to assist in wrapping more than 2,000 gifts to be sent to Washington residents. Children are welcome, and no gift-wrapping experience is required.

Day 7: Free on Christmas? Know the words to ‘Deck the Halls’?

If you need something to do on Dec. 25, the DCJCC will have its day of service, where an expected 1,000 volunteers will serve meals, sing carols, visit home-bound seniors, throw holiday parties and help to keep Washington’s spirits high. Activities will take place throughout the day at various locations.

Day 8: Help a family have fun at the Bender JCC of Greater Washington

Dec. 25 is Family Fun Day at the Bender JCC in Rockville and the agency is looking for volunteers to help. No doubt you’ll also get to watch “Rugrats Chanukah” and what the JCC describes as a “very, very popular children’s animated movie.”

One more thing: While these organizations love volunteers, people showing up unannounced can throw things off. So give of yourself in one more way and contact the organization before you arrive ready to help.

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