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Fain Winner: CHESED Social Action Program for Youth

CHESED Social Action Program for Youth

Apr. 1, 2009

Monthly social action activities for families with children grades K-3.

 

Community Contact Information:

Temple Adat Elohim

Thousand Oaks, CA

www.adatelohim.com

 

Goals:

  • Cultivate a life-long love of social action from a young age
  • Expose young congregants and their families to varied areas of social action.
  • Serve as a springboard for volunteers to engage further in social action

 

Overview:

CHESED introduces families with children to age-appropriate monthly social action activities such as serving meals at a shelter and visiting a senior’s center. The monthly events are run by volunteer parents and provide opportunities to integrate social action into the folds of family life.

 

Preparation:

Chesed was founded by a congregational family. While clergy often participate with their families, the program is completely lay-led. The volunteers have complete say in the annual schedule and events are led by a rotation of parents. Participants are therefore deeply invested in the program. Families are recruited through flyers and emails, which are sent to religious school parents. Events occur on a monthly basis, and enrolled families are able to participate according to their availability.

 

Project Implementation:

A typical "year" (8-9 months) looks like this:

September: Kickoff meeting

October: Sort food at the food pantry (underpriveleged)

November: Sing to the elderly at the local senior center (elderly)

December: Feed the homeless a meal at the congregation’s winter shelter (homelessness)

January: Planting trees with the Nat'l Park Service (environment/Tu B’Shevat)

February: Help fix up the California Wildlife Center animal hospital (animals, environment)

March: Fill backpacks to give away to lower income children (children)

April: Make "Giggle Bags" to give to children in local pediatric hospital wards (infirm)

June: Raise money and awareness for victims of genocide with the Jewish World Watch’s "Walk for Darfur" (genocide)

 

Results:

In addition to helping up to a dozen local agencies a year, we believe the greater impact is instilling a consistent, life-long commitment to social action. Some of the amazing results of this program include:

  • Volunteers created and continue to run a winter homeless shelter
  • Many families established relationships with local agencies and volunteer on an ongoing basis, not just through a one-time Chesed event
  • Several families converted the synagogue to a green entity (and we're not just talking changing lightbulbs … they oversaw our recent bathroom renovations and landscaping)
  • B’nai mitzvah students have been able to do their mitzvah projects with organizations and agencies that they have already built relationships with.
  • The congregation started a program for graduating Chesed children called "Rachamim." It is for youths ages 10-17 and so it has an "older" focus.