JVC Challenges Community to 100,000 Acts of Service

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Jewish Volunteer Connection’s Bookworms program has volunteers read and donate books to classrooms. Photo by David Stuck.

Jewish Volunteer Connection has thrown down the gauntlet, issuing its 100,000 Acts of Service Challenge to Baltimore’s Jewish community.

Running from January to December of 2020, the goal is for the community as a whole to perform 100,000 acts of volunteering by year’s end. The challenge is simultaneously intended as a way to celebrate the 100th anniversary of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore and to spark a wave of volunteerism for the year. Community members interested in participating can submit their volunteer activities via the JVC website.

The event is a follow-up to the 90,000 Hours Service Challenge that the JVC held ten years ago, according to Ashley Pressman, JVC’s executive director. “Now we’ve upped our game a bit,” Pressman said, “and we see it as a challenge to get the community to tell us about 100,000 ways in which we’re all helping each other and our community.”

Those who submit their acts of volunteer service can opt to have the JVC officially post about it on social media, along with a picture of themselves if they like. “We want to give people a chance to really tell their stories,” Pressman said, noting that participants who reach certain thresholds will earn Peloton-style badges. She also stated the JVC is considering ideas for other ways to celebrate as the community hits certain targets, though they have no definitive plans on that yet.

For those interested but unsure of where to begin, Pressman said she wanted the community “to know that all the different ways people volunteer in their lives can count as an act of service,” such as serving on a board, volunteering at a school, or giving a gift to residents experiencing homelessness. “We’re trying to get people to think of all the ways they volunteer already in the community,” she said.

For those still having trouble brainstorming, Pressman recommended JVC’s “Live With Purpose” program, or coming to one of the organization’s “Annual Days of Service.” Pressman made clear that the JVC staff is eager to help community members find the volunteer opportunity that’s right for them.

Pressman herself has already started to take up the challenge. She is active in her synagogue, and her family will participate in JVC’s Annual Days of Service. “When we’re driving around,” she said, “we often have conversations about gifts we can give to people experiencing homelessness, and have a conversation with them when we do.”

Karen Singer, the co-chair of the 100,000 Acts of Service Challenge, is also getting involved, volunteering at Our Daily Bread to help serve meals to the needy. She also plans to help clean up a city park during the JVC’s Good Deeds Day, March 29.

“We want to really plant the seeds that are already strong for continued and sustained service for the next 100 years,” Singer said.

Pressman said she has two principle goals for the challenge. The first is for people to learn of the many different ways in which they can incorporate volunteering into their already busy lives. The second is to provide some recognition to those already engaged in this type of work. “One of my goals is to really shine a spotlight on that work, and how much people care for each other,” she said.

Pressman also hopes that the challenge will bring to light the systemic issues that face Baltimore.

“About 50% of the work that JVC does centers around issues of poverty, hunger, and homelessness,” she said, “making sure people have their very basic needs addressed. … We want people to understand that as a Baltimore community, we need to be looking for ways for people to become self-sufficient.”

“The volunteer work that we do is a critical piece of helping people get through the day, and we want to do that through a lens of dignity.”

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