By Talia Wilk and Leah Farb

We both have our Bat Mitzvahs on May 8th—we thought we could have a bigger impact in the community if we combined our efforts on a mitzvah project. It’s been hard to find meaningful volunteer work for our mitzvah project during the pandemic because we have had to social distance and the options have been limited.

We started our work by talking with Ava Harder, JF&CS Manager of Volunteer Services. She explained the volunteer opportunities and process to us, suggesting several meaningful options including supplying Family Table grocery items, creating baskets for CHAI Services houses and collecting general personal care items for clients. But what really resonated with us was when she spoke to us about Healthy Families and the opportunity to help teenage mothers and their children by providing backpacks with school readiness items for Healthy Families clients.

Ava helped us understand that while being a mom is never easy, being a teenager and providing for your kid(s) during COVID-19 is even more stressful for these clients. She explained that we could purchase backpacks and fill them with all kinds of fun stuff for the three-year-olds who would be graduating from the program.

Then we got to work! We talked with our families about how to move the project forward. We decided that we would create 10 backpacks for Healthy family graduates and fill them with all the items they would need for school—crayons, coloring and picture books, stickers, etc. We also wanted to give a gift to the young mothers who have worked really hard to be able to graduate from Healthy Families—we decided to provide them with gift cards to celebrate their big achievement.

Although this project was meant to be work, it was so satisfying for the both of us to know that we were helping other people, other families. We are so glad that we had the opportunity to work on this project, for JF&CS and Healthy Families and we got to make an impact on these families and their kids. We have enjoyed this volunteer opportunity so much that we are actually planning on volunteering again for JF&CS at the end of April for CHAI Services Shabbat dinner!