Growing up in a lower-middle class family, my parents did not have much time to volunteer. My father worked hard to support us; my mother also had a full-time job once I was in school full-time. Her free time was spent furthering her education and enabling the family to slowly rise to upper-middle class by my late teens.
My children were fortunate in that I did not need to work to support the family and was able to be home with them most of the time. I wanted them to appreciate how lucky they were both in material goods and in the luxury of having a mother who only worked part time. Therefore, from the time they were old enough to participate, we volunteered for many causes. We spent afternoons at the local food pantry and worked shifts at Opportunity Village, a local charity for disabled adults in the Las Vegas community among other things. We joined the temple’s Kadima club which had different monthly volunteer activities. My eldest son learned free lunch was not provided at his school during final exam week, and he organized a food drive to provide meals during this period for the students most at risk at his middle school. All of these were wonderful learning opportunities for both of my children.
For me personally, though, the most meaningful volunteering I have participated in was through Hadassah. There were a variety of experiences here also; what united them in being special was that we were empowered as women to organize meaningful activities and join with our closest friends to complete our mission. We cooked meals at Ronald McDonald House, stocked the food pantry, and organized a health fair that educated the community and provided free screenings.
One volunteer activity was especially meaningful for me because it combined two of my passions. Hadassah, of course, and helping children in foster care. As a pediatrician who has worked with many foster children in my career, this was a special project. We partnered with a local nonprofit, HerShe, that helped teens and young women in foster care transition to independent living. This relationship continued for almost a year, until, unfortunately, HerShe was no longer able to continue with its purpose. We had holiday parties for the girls during which our members were each partnered with a particular girl. We provided gifts, of course, but also, and maybe more importantly, spent time with the girls and let them know we cared. We had a gardening day at their new transitional living house where our members helped the girls plant a new garden to beautify the house. There were other parties and shared meals and gifts.
As a women’s organization that aims to empower women and girls, this partnership to help share this goal of self-actualization with the very at-risk young women was truly special.
While that partnership, unfortunately came to an end, Hadassah continues to always seek out volunteer opportunities that are meaningful. Currently, due to the pandemic, we can’t have hands-on projects. We do continue one of our long-standing projects of collecting feminine hygiene products to donate to middle and high school girls so they don’t have to miss school when they can’t afford to purchase them. I know we will soon return to our usual hands-on engagement. Nothing could be more meaningful than helping others complete their education and hopefully improve their lives in the future. For more information on this project visit this link.