8,000 volunteers participated in Jewish Federation of Greater Washington programs on Good Deeds Day.
Stuffing goodie bags for veterans, the sick, and the homeless; painting pictures to be sent to Israeli victims of terror; repairing houses and collecting clothes, books, toiletries, and toys for those in need. This is just a sampling of the 150 projects undertaken throughout the Greater Washington area for the Seventh Annual Sara and Samuel J. Lessans Good Deeds Day on Sunday, April 29, organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.
Good Deeds Day is an international event; in 2018, 2.5 million volunteers collectively volunteered for seven million hours in more than 100 countries. Locally, there were 30 project sites in Washington, D.C., 80 in Maryland, and 40 in Virginia, according to a Federation spokeswoman. Drawing 8,000 volunteers, she said it was the largest organized Good Deeds Day effort in the United States.
“Our Greater Washington community is united in our commitment to doing good for others,” noted Gil Preuss, CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.
"The community seems to keep loving it and keep coming out," said Lauren Kessler, who led Federation's events throughout the region.
Many projects focused on helping vulnerable local residents, including the homeless (39 projects), the sick (32), and the hungry (28). Twenty-seven projects addressed the environment, and the remainder focused on various other causes.
At the Moishe House in Northern Virginia, 30 people created 50 dog toys out of T-shirts, socks, and water bottles. The toys went to the Friends of Homeless Animals in Aldie, Virginia, which also spoke to participants about adopting dogs, a few of which visited Moishe House on Good Deeds Day.
“It’s an amazing day of tikkun olam [repairing the world],” said Emily Mathae, a Moishe House resident who organized the project. “I personally foster dogs for a local dog homeless shelter. I am very passionate about rescue dogs,” she said.
The Netter family of Washington, D.C., spent two hours digging and pulling firmly-entrenched bamboo roots from the backyard of the Bernard Creeger Bikur Cholim House on Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda, Maryland, a Jewish home away from home for families who have a loved one seeking treatment at the nearby National Institutes of Health and area hospitals.
Laura and Mark Warshawsky of Kemp Mill, Maryland, have spent Good Deeds Day at the Bikur Cholim House for the past three years.
“I love gardening,” Laura Warshawsky said. “I’m doing what I love, and I’m helping others.”
Her mother, Ring House resident Evelyn Margolis, joined in, pulling weeds and preparing a gardening bed.
At the Misler Adult Day Center in Rockville, Maryland, people ranging in age from 10 to 95 danced the Chicken Dance, the Electric Slide, and the Hokey Pokey at the Jewish Council for the Aging’s Senior Prom. It was a great opportunity for seniors, family members, and caregivers to relax and have a good time.
“The JCA Senior Prom showed how adults and children alike yearn for human contact, and how they love to dance the Hora,” said David Gamse, CEO of the Jewish Council for the Aging. “One of the older dancers said it best: ‘Today, I feel welcome and alive!’”
At the nearby Bender Jewish Community Center (JCC), volunteers with the Jewish Social Service Agency (JSSA) created self-care kits, filling them with toiletries and candles.
At the Samuel Gompers-Benjamin Franklin Masonic Lodge No. 45, volunteers created goodie bags for area veterans. In a separate room, families decorated bags and filled them with activities for young people to use while their parents attend legal and social services meetings.
Most area synagogues and Jewish schools opened their doors to collect donations for the needy, from cell phones for victims of domestic violence to clean socks for the homeless. Kitchen supplies, books, diapers, toiletries, cleaning supplies, and sports equipment also were collected.
Over at Gesher Jewish Day School in Fairfax, Virginia, artists of all skill levels created paintings about “what it meant to them to save the world,” explained Kessler, who is the JConnect director at Federation. The paintings will tour the world with Parachutes for the Planet, a project that collects parachutes from around the world and exhibits them at large venues to raise environmental awareness.
By Suzanne Pollak
Sophie Buslik, Good Deeds Day co-chair, summed up the busy day: “Good Deeds Day is a time for our community to come together to help each other. As family, friends, and neighborhoods, it is our responsibility to look out for one another, and Good Deeds Day is a special way for us to do just that.”