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Sustain, Nurture, Go Green; After All, It's a Mitzvah!

October 8, 2009 By:
Amy Purdy, JF Feature
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On Nov. 1, Mitzvah Mania volunteers throughout the area will lend a hand to sustain and nurture individuals, the community and the environment. Three of the event's projects -- "Morris Park Go-Green," "Winterization" and "Adopt-a-Family" for Chanukah gift-giving, present an opportunity for community volunteers to make a tangible difference, according to Jackie Needleman, who together with husband David Cohen, Lana and Bernie Dishler, and Simi Kaplin Baer and Marc Baer co-chair Federation's third annual day of tzedakah and tikkun olam.

Volunteers for the Morris Park project will "enjoy a hands-on learning and team-building experience, while helping maintain the park," according to Andrea Gottlieb, chair of this project, which is a collaboration between Federation and Fairmount Park's Department of Environment, Stewardship and Education. Morris Park, at 6900 Sherwood Road, is one of the 62 parks in Fairmount Park, one of the nation's largest and oldest city-operated park systems.

For Gottlieb, this project has dual benefits: "Working together provides an opportunity to connect to the land, as well as to our community in a hands-on way."

She added that "our lives are so busy with TVs, cell phones and computers -- the seasons can change, and we may miss all the beauty around us. Mitzvah Mania gives us an opportunity to stop and appreciate our natural gifts right in our own backyard."

Volunteers will meet on Nov. 1 at 9 a.m. in the Morris Park meadow (72nd Street and City Line Avenue) and will work in groups, led by Fairmount Park staff. Participants will plant trees and bulbs; clear walking trails; and learn about native and invasive plants. The project, which will be held rain or shine, runs until 1 p.m.

Organizers recommend that participants wear long sleeves, long pants and closed shoes. Work gloves and tools will be provided. Stewardship volunteer coordinator for Morris Park Joseph Caesar, who is working with Mitzvah Mania organizers to design and run the project, said: "I love Mitzvah Mania because it's a wholesome community approach to stewardship."

Students of the High School of the Jane Fishman Grinberg Religious School of Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley plan to participate in Mitzvah Mania's "Go-Green" project.

According to teacher Shari Feldman, who's organizing the group, "we volunteer with Mitzvah Mania each year. It's a wonderful way for students to engage in the community and feel they are part of a larger process beyond their own lives."

She added that "Mitzvah Mania is also a great way to introduce our students to Federation's direct impact on the community. It's a day of amazing philanthropic outreach -- and 35 Har Zion students plan to volunteer this year!"

Groups and individuals are welcome to register for the project online at: jewishphilly.org/mitzvahmania.

Keeping Folks Warm This Winter

"Nurturing our neighbors is one of the core principals of this year's Mitzvah Mania, and the 'Winterization' project definitely helps to sustain and nurture those in our community who are most in need," said Needleman.

"This year, especially, we recognize that people may be facing added economic difficulties," she added.

The goal, according to organizers is to prepare 50 homes for winter by performing tasks such as wrapping pipes, weather-stripping windows, changing smoke-alarm batteries and filling gaps in basement walls with foam insulation.

Volunteer teams of five, led by a project manager, will complete the home maintenance jobs in each home.

"Volunteers will focus on rooms that are used most, and work to reduce drafts and insulate where possible, with the aim of lowering the homeowner's energy costs this winter," notes Needleman.

The Winterization project is a collaboration between Federation and the Energy Coordinating Agency of Philadelphia, Inc., a non-profit organization that helps low income people in the region conserve energy. This agency will conduct a series of hands-on training for project managers, who will train their teams in preparation for winterization tasks.

Community groups, synagogues and families have volunteered to winterize homes, and there are still homes available for interested teams of volunteers.

Federation affinity groups that have adopted homes include Business and Professional Services, the Renaissance Group, as well as Hakesher HaIsraeli and the Kehillah of Lower Merion. Area synagogues adopting homes include Temple Sinai in Dresher, Congregation Adath Jeshurun in Elkins Park.

"This is a wonderful project where many age groups come together, work hard with friends and family, and directly improve the lives of people in the community," explained Needleman, who added that "the final task of each team is to hang a new mezuzah on the front doorpost of the homes."

To join a team or learn more about this project, call the Mitzvah Mania hotline at 215-832-0564.

Making Chanukah Brighter

According to Julia Engel, chair of the "Adopt-a-Family" project, numerous opportunities exist for schools, families and organizations to purchase Chanukah gifts for low-income families.

"I don't want to disappoint the families, especially the children," says Engel.

Thirty low-income families in Northeast Philadelphia will receive anonymous gifts from Mitzvah Mania volunteers.

Individuals or groups can "adopt a family" and purchase items from a particular family's wish list before Nov. 1.

On Mitzvah Mania day, the volunteers will gather at the Klein JCC in Northeast Philadelphia to wrap the gifts. JCC staff will then distribute the packages on Chanukah.

"Adopt-a-Family excites me because we can make a difference -- and we do make a difference!" notes Engel. "Mitzvah Mania shows how our actions can change the tenor of someone's day. That's powerful!"

Volunteers who would like to participate in the Chanukah project can e-mail: juliafe@comcast.net.

 

Now's Your Opportunity to Connect to Mitzvah Mania

To Volunteer: jewishphilly.org/mitzvahmania 
Mitzvah Mania Hotline/Volunteer for Winterization Project: 215-832-0564 
Facebook: facebook.com/people/Mitzvah-Mania/100000145291936 
Twitter: twitter.com/mitzvahmania 
YouTube: youtube.com/mitzvahmania 
Flickr: flickr.com/photos/mitzvahmania 
MitzvahMania Blog: mitzvahmaniablog.com

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