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Changing the World Together, One Block at a Time

Partnering with local church and women’s shelter, volunteers clean and beautify a neighborhood block.

Community Contact Information: 
Temple Judea Mizpah 
Skokie, IL 
www.templejm.org


Goals:

  • Feed the hungry in the community
  • Improve the appearance of the neighborhood around the church
  • Build relationships between two communities

Overview: 
The congregation developed a partnership program with a local church and women’s shelter to clean and beautify a neighborhood block. Relationships were fostered between the communities as volunteers swept the streets, pulled weeds, planted flowers, painted over graffiti and washed windows. Special opportunities were created to encourage youth participation. 

Preparation: 
After preliminary organizers’ meetings, volunteers arranged to close off the street, advertise to both communities, arrange local press coverage, solicit donations for all activities, creating lessons for the children in religious school.

Marketing was done on a grassroots level with fliers, e-mail communication and direct phone calls to congregants. The congregation was presented with a very specific list of the needed items for the day so donations could be encouraged. The church advertised through word of mouth at the daily kitchen dinners and at services. A local caterer donated her time and her industrial grill to cook and help serve lunch. 60 families made donations of hot dogs, buns, drinks, cookies, condiments, tools, flowers, seeds, soil, pots, art supplies and money

Project Implementation: 
The program included two separate events; one at the church and one at the synagogue. 
In the first event, volunteers spent the afternoon cleaning up the block, sweeping the street, pulling weeds, turning dirt, planting flowers, painting the church walls which were riddled with graffiti, preparing a garden at a nearby women's shelter and serving lunch to members of the community. Older members of the congregation who were unable to do heavy work came just to visit and get to know members of our partner community 

The second program, held at the synagogue, gave the church the opportunity to give back to our community, to feel that they, too, had something to offer in helping others. Volunteers from both communities came together to paint bathrooms, wash windows, sand and paint benches, and again, share lunch. Children planted a garden with perennial flowers and had the opportunity to create a ceramic tile as a permanent part of the garden. 

Results: 
The most impressive aspect of the program for most adults was the sight of the children on their knees together, digging in the dirt, planting flowers. There was no fighting or harsh words. The sheer joy on their faces, their little hands working together in the dirt seemed to create a community all its own. This seemed to be the point of the program: people working together to create a more beautiful environment for the community to live, work and play in.

This program received a Fain Award in 2009.