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.

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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.)


 

Community Service Up Tos

By Erica Steen, Director, Morris Cafritz Center for Community Service

What we’ve been up to:We’ve had a busy summer so far, including four weeks of camp–three weeks for high school students and one for middle-school students. The four weeks took a lot out of us, but we think the students learned a bit, and so did we.

One of our favorite days of camp was volunteering with Street Sense and their Vendor-for-a-Day program. Our group paired up with local vendors (you’ve seen them on the DC streets wearing highlighter yellow vests) to help them sell their Street Sense papers. Our students are neither homeless nor hungry, but they truly got to experience what it might be like).

Students stood on the corners in their borrowed yellow vests hocking the paper: “Help the homeless; only $1” or “Buy Street Sense, a paper written by the homeless, only $1.” The students noticed many business people answered cell phone calls without the phone ringing, crossed the streets to avoid them, or just looked away. We also had people donate money and not take the paper, pay $5 for an issue (opposed to the suggested $1) and (our favorite) people who stopped to ask questions about who we were and why were selling the paper (since we didn’t seem homeless). Over the three sessions with Vendor-for-a-Day we raised over $400. It was an amazing experience for all of us.

The next time you see a Street Sense vendor on the street, buy a paper, it makes a difference.

What we will be up to: We’ve got a new volunteer project this month that you should register for! We’re going to volunteer with Common Good City Farm (CGCF). They are an amazing community garden in LeDroit Park. We’ll begin July 31, and in August we’ll be going on the 4th Sunday evening of each month. Volunteers will help the staff with whatever’s needed everything from picking the weeks harvest to helping teach a class on healthy eating. We will be at the mercy of the CGCF staff, but it will be a good time no matter what! But don’t take our word for it…the CGSF has the endorsement of the Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the Prince of Wales.

How you can be a part of what we’re up to: It’s easy; just visit our website to see all of our upcoming volunteer projects!

Other UP TOs…we’re on Twitter at VolunteerDCJCC and in September and October we’re doing a sock drive, drop NEW socks off at the JCC front desk and we’ll make sure they get a good home.

Cherry Blossoms and Jewish Advocacy

With the Cherry Blossom Festival commencing and the flowers out in full force, it’s no longer doubtful (despite the recent weather) that Spring is officially here. Author Rob Sachs posted an article, “An Afternoon of Cherry Blossoms and Swastikas,” on The Huffington Post about his unique experience at the annual festival this past weekend.

He discusses his weekend jaunt through the Tidal Basin and then, unexpectedly, into the adjacent United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Sachs juxtaposes the joyful nature of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival to the pain and suffering on display within the neighboring museum and draws a comparison to the Jewish tradition of stepping on a glass; he attributes this tradition, as do many, to the call from the Jewish community to remember the pain of the past even in the most joyous moments of our lives.

To that end, springtime – for Jews – is all about celebration and juxtaposition.

During Purim, for example, we are literally commanded to eat, drink, and throw raucous parties, while simultaneously crying out the name of our enemies and exterminators over and over until we’re numb to the sound.

Likewise, Passover, which is right around the corner, requires us to eat and drink like Kings and Queens. However, we still must dip our greens in the tears of our ancestors and spread the bitter pain of the Jews of yesteryear all over our matzot.

While these are the traditions many of us grew up with, maybe it’s time to consider adding some new traditions to our beloved springtime regiment of Food with Reflection. Bad things happened in the past, and it’s important to remember them, nevertheless it’s also important to reflect and act upon the struggles our communities face today.

There’s no better time than Spring – the season of renewal and hope – to get involved.

This April, for example, consider coming out to volunteer with the DCJCC’s Spring into Action program on April 10th (or other new volunteer opportunities). This annual event raises awareness about local environmental issues while providing opportunities for the community to engage with each other and work hand-in-hand towards a solution.

This year, our 2011 theme is around urban agriculture, community gardening, and park restoration. With oil prices, obesity rates, and unemployment all on the rise, it’s important to remember that our food system isn’t just about food; the way we grow our food impacts the environment, our health, and the economic and employment stability of our communities.

Local and sustainable agriculture is a great source of fair employment, healthy food, and community-building throughout the greater Washington DC area – it’s a great chance to meet some local farmers, advocates, and other families in your own neighborhoods. And bring the kids! This year, Spring into Action falls at the same time as Earth Day and Global Youth Action Day, to get all ages involved in sewing some seeds of change.

If you’re looking for a new, conscientious twist on Passover, also consider heading over to the National Rainbow Seder with DCJCC’s GLOE, or the Labor Seder with Jews United for Justice. Both of these seders are fun, meaningful ways to explore some of the most important social issues of our time – this year focusing on the rights and freedoms of the LGBTQ international community, and the struggle to find – and keep – good jobs.

(And there’s nothing like Jewish guilt and copious amounts of food to drive a movement, so don’t wait to jump on board: both of these events tend to sell out every year.)

At the end of Sachs’s article, he pondered that maybe his detour into the museum wasn’t so random after all; as Jews, we are inexplicably tied to a history of people that have sought justice for themselves and their communities for millennia.

No matter what your favorite part of Springtime is – the eating, the socializing, or the reflecting – take a break from the normal routine and make this holiday intentional by exploring not just the issues of the past, but those pertinent to our communities today.

And don’t forget to stop and smell the blossoms! Spring is as fleeting as it is special. Take advantage of it.

By the DCJCC’s Behrend Builders coordinator, Michal Rosenoer. Contact her with comments, concerns, or for more information at behrendbuilders@washingtondcjcc.org.

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