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
- 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
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.
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.
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)
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.