It’s OK To Have Fun!


Anne Frank said “Give of yourself. You can always give something, even if it is only kindness. No one has ever become poor from giving.”

 
These words mean so much in so many different aspects of our world. Everything from cooking for the homeless to sharing your business skills to just saying hello to someone living on the street. Every little thing we do makes a difference. Whether you want to think of it as the domino effect or a ripple in the water; everything we do makes a difference.

Recently a volunteer at our Handmade for the Homeless project asked me if her knitting for others really counted as volunteering. She was concerned that if she was truly enjoying herself while knitting and schmoozing with the other knitters that maybe she wasn’t doing something so great.

I think having fun while doing for others makes your giving even more special. Growing up I was taught to give tzedakah. I always thought this just meant to give money. The literal definition of Tzedakah means justice or fairness; making things equal amongst the masses. Not only is what we do is tzedakah but is truly G’milut Chasadim, giving kindness, benevolence, giving of ourselves.  And in this, I think it only means more if we truly enjoy what we are doing.

Not only will the hats and scarves knitted and crocheted by our volunteers bring warmth to those living on the streets in the winter but hopefully they will be filled with the love and fun that the volunteer who made them put into it.

Have you volunteered lately? There are so many things you can do to make a difference in our world, in our city! Find something that you enjoy and put your heart into it.

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Painting with a Purpose

February seems to be a busy birthday month! How do you celebrate your birthday when you hit a milestone? This month Lloyd turned 60 and Josh turned 40, and on two separate occasions we coordinated Behrend Builders projects for them.
It just so happens that Lloyd is a fabulous photographer and has artist friends. With the help of his friend Judy Beth they drew an amazing mural on one of the walls at Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV). With images of its founder Mitch Snyder and other community members surrounded by a colorful tapestry, there was so much to paint that Lloyd’s 50 birthday party guests didn’t get the mural finished. Though the mural is still a work in progress, all 50 guests had a great time and felt like they really made a difference for the residents. The mural fills one of the residential hallways, and the inhabitants that came in and out throughout the day were thrilled to see the bright colors as opposed to the usual white wall.

Bright colors weren’t the request at Transitional Housing Corporation’s (THC) Partner Arms I. This amazing facility is one of THC’s many apartment buildings focused on helping the homeless become self-sufficient. THC asked for a clean coat of crisp white paint through the apartment building, and that’s what Josh and his party guests gave them. We provided supplies, connections and support for the project while Josh and his wife brought their friends, pizza and a cake to celebrate his birthday.

Both parties were a great way to not only celebrate milestone birthdays but a way to give back to the community. While Lloyd and his partner Ruth made a donation to help support the costs of the project, Josh asked his friends, in lieu of gifts, to please make a donation to Behrend Builders. It was a win-win for everyone!

Keep Behrend Builders and the Morris Cafritz Center for Community Service in your mind for celebrations. We can custom make a project to your wants and needs. It’s a great way to give back to the community, celebrate your birthday, bat mitzvah, retirement and have fun all at the same time. For more information contact Erica Steen at ericas@washingtondcjcc.org.

The Big Waste

It was one of those nights where I found myself at home lying on the couch flipping channels. The Food Network is usually the last channel I go to to find something to watch. Don’t get me wrong, I love their shows, but for some reason whenever I watch I end up eating when I’m not hungry.  It is The Food Network!

Well this night was different, the show that night was The Big Waste, and it made me think a bit more than usual (and not about food).

The Big Waste: First class chefs Bobby Flay, Michael Symon, Anne Burrell and Alex Guarnaschelli tackle one of the most massive problems in food today – waste! Divided into two teams, with only 48 hours on the clock, they are challenged to create a multi course gourmet banquet worthy of their great reputations, but with a big twist; they can only use food that is on its way to the trash.

To an extent, we do this for Hunger Action (we accept donations and most of the shopping is done at the Capital Area Food Bank), but Bobby, Michael, Anne and Alex took things to a new level. Maybe the Morris Cafritz Center for Community Service should try some of their recipes!

Or maybe we should be all be freegans. Freeganism is the practice of reclaiming and eating food that has been discarded.  On The Big Waste, Anne spends the evening with a freegan dumpster diving and checking out garbage bags of food being tossed out by restaurants.

The group also went to local bakeries and farms and took waste from there: eggs that weren’t a uniform size, chickens with broken wings, fruits or vegetables with a few brown spots.  All perfectly good to eat but not something most would pick from a store shelf.

Do you have a contact at a restaurant, a bakery or a local farm? Do you buy the non-perfect fruits and vegetables at the grocery? If we all pitch in and collect food that might be thrown out, think of the difference we could make.  Donate it to Hunger Action, DC Central Kitchen or give it someone living on the street.

One-third of the world’s food is wasted. What are you going to do?

Everything But…

Have you participated in the Morris Cafritz Center for Community Service‘s Everything But The Turkey event? If not you’re missing out.

Imagine being in a room with over 100 volunteers along with cabbage, sweet potatoes, celery, bread, green beans everywhere. Join us for this amazing event where we prepare food for the homeless for Thanksgiving. It’s a fun project and a great way to give back to the community!

We’ll provide everything; food, recipes, utensils and all. Learn more and register today! Space fills up fast!

All of the food prepared is donated to DC Central Kitchen and their partner agencies.

Have you ever lost?

Luke?Have you ever lost something or someone that wasn’t really yours to begin with? It kind of aches and leaves a hole and you’re really not sure why.

August 30, I gave what people call “the gift of life,” through my Peripheral Blood Stem Cells (PBSC). I was excited that my cells could help fight someone else’s disease.

I found out this morning that Luke and I lost the fight.

Be the Match/National Bone Marrow Registry will not give you the name of your recipient until one year after the donation, but I needed a name. To be more personable and to make the situation more realistic for me, I began calling my recipient Luke (for the Leukemia that possessed him), to make him a person. Naming him made it much easier to fight for Luke and to give him my PBSC.

I understand the need for anonymity but it hurts to know that I can’t contact his family, send them a condolence card by name, or even learn the town where they live.

Do I have a right to grieve? It is a shame that this Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) could not have been a new beginning for Luke, this stranger in my life.

Still, it was still worth it and I would do it all over again.

If you aren’t a part of the National Marrow Donor Program, you should be. It’s easy to register, and saves thousands* of lives each year. I wish Luke had been one of them.

(And if you don’t feel comfortable joining the registry, join us to donate blood on October 27. I’ll be there.)

 

Read the whole story here:
How I Became a Stem Cell Donor
How I Became a Stem Cell Donor (part two)
Soon to Be Stem Cell Donor

It’s a New Year, Volunteer
!

*They currently need twice the donors they get. 10,000 people are on the bone marrow waitlist, and only 5,000 ever get the transplant.

It’s a New Year, Volunteer!

So much is happening in the Morris Cafritz Center for Community Service!

Luke

Those who’ve read my blog postings, part 1 and 2, know that Luke is the name I’ve given to the recipient of my Peripheral Blood Stem Cells. On August 30, I did what I hope will save Luke’s life. What a surreal experience! Now it’s a waiting game. I was told that no news is good news, and that I will be updated on Luke’s condition the first week of October. Cross your fingers (part 3).

Turkey

56 days and counting until we make Everything But The Turkey. It sort of freaks me out to think that in less that 60 days more than 500 volunteers will be joining us to prepare thousands of meals for people that are hungry in DC. I had a meeting on Friday with our partners in crime, DC Central Kitchen, and all of our plans are a go. Sharpen your knife skills (or buy us new ones from our Bed, Bath and Beyond registry) and get ready to register. Registration will open by October 31. Watch the Volunteer View for a go date.

D25 turns 25

It’s hard to believe it but the community service project that started it all here at the Washington DCJCC–December 25th Day of Service (D25)–is turning 25 this year! With only 90 days to go, we could use your help. We’re busy planning volunteer projects and making the day a bit more special that usual (with a fabulous photo exhibit and more) and could use your support. Click on the following and we’ll tell you more about being a volunteer project team captain, donating in kind to D25, or being a D25 anniversary corporate sponsor.

Behrend success story

This is the story of Gloria and her son Shane.

This mother and son moved to DC a few years ago to take care of Gloria’s dying mother. Because of this, they were living on Gloria’s mother’s disability and social security checks while caring for her. Once Gloria’s mother passed the checks stopped coming, and they could no longer afford to stay in the apartment and became homeless. Behrend Builder’s Randy met them in the dead of winter while they were sleeping in an abandoned van. We started giving them blankets, clothes, food, etc. and finally got them into one of the four transitional apartments Behrend had fixed up on Georgia Avenue.  This was the break they needed. Both mother and son have now passed their GEDs, have jobs and just recently got their own apartment.  Sometimes a helping hand and knowing that people really do care can make the difference!

This is really just the tip of the iceberg. Check out our full calendar of projects.

Tomorrow Rosh Hashanah begins. This year, make your mark on the world and volunteer. Shana Tova!

Soon to Be Stem Cell Donor

I’m only superstitious some of the time. I have no problem walking under a ladder or stepping on a crack or even with black cats (I love you, Chuck).
However, I am superstitious about next Tuesday.

It’s only a week away, but so much could go wrong. I’m nervous, excited and terrified all at the same time. I am ready to scream and can’t keep this secret about the donation inside any longer.

For those that may not have read my January 2010 (part one and two) posts, here’s the quick recap. I was lying on the beach in Key West, FL when I got the call that I was officially “Luke’s” bone marrow match – aka, the anonymous recipient of my peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC). I was honored to be able to make such a difference in one person’s life. Then, a little over a week before the February 1 donation date, I received a call that Luke was in the ICU.

My donation was canceled. They didn’t reschedule.

Believe it or not, twenty months later, this month, I received another call from Be the Match saying that Luke was healthy enough to receive the donation.

So here I am: one week prior to the donation and so many emotions are going through me. I wanted to write this post weeks ago when I found out I was going to donate, but was nervous. That silly little thing called superstition and the fear that my past blog posts jinxed my donation. Will this post cause some sort of problem to occur over the next week?

Over the next week, please think of Luke. Send your prayers to wherever you send your prayers and hope that my nervous, needle fearing self will get to go to the Annandale Apheresis Center next Tuesday to donate my PBSC.

If you’re not in the National Bone Marrow Registry, check out the do-it-yourself kit to register from home. You can also come to our Blood Drive/Bone Marrow Registry on October 27 at the 16th Street J.

What a great way to save a life!

(And if you know any good superstitions for keeping away jinxes, let me know.)


 

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