To be honest, I have lost count of how many actual Mitzvah Days our family has done. We started many years ago when our oldest daughter (now 19) could barely write her name on a paper bag.
I was inspired by Kelly Gaines (also a physical therapist) who was in charge of the program for many years and by Susan Jacobs with her can-do attitude and her commitment to making Mitzvah Day meaningful and more improved every year! Additionally, my philanthropic mom friends that I met at the Charlotte Jewish Preschool have been a great source of inspiration since they exhibit the ability to lend their time and extraordinary skills to many social issues that extend beyond Mitzvah Day.
It’s amazing how being responsible for little people makes you think harder about what traditions and life lessons you would like to pass down to them, so participating in Mitzvah Day was a no-brainer for us…and a win-win for all. It’s a brilliant idea to come together for one great day as a temple community to help others in need.
Three generations of our family have participated in multiple ways. The beauty of Mitzvah Day is that as our children have grown, we have been able to pick different projects based on their interests and abilities all while bonding with fellow congregants and performing acts of tikkun olam.
We have made boo-boo bunnies for sick children at the Levine Children’s Hospital. We have pulled weeds at the Sterling Elementary and Shalom Park community gardens, as well as cleaned up the Hebrew Cemetery. We have participated with teacher prep activities for Sterling Elementary. We have decorated countless bags and assembled summer fun packs for Sterling Elementary kids. We have donated books, games, and toiletries. We have counted, sorted, and organized many donated items over the years and loaded up my van to deliver bags and bags of goodies (edible and non-edible)! My girls and/or I have also cleaned up Camp Mindy, sang songs at Sunrise Assisted Living, organized snack bags for Salvation Army Center for Hope, and played with kids at Charlotte Affordable Housing.
As our kids have gotten older, I was able to help out in other ways too…by captaining a project, becoming registrar, then chair of the religious school projects, then back to captaining again. I found that the more involved I became in Mitzvah Day, the more I got out of it.
So, in over 15 years of participating in Mitzvah Day, the biggest life lessons I have learned are: perform acts of tikkun olam however you can and surround yourself with people that lift you up and inspire greatnesss. If you do these things, your life and other’s lives will be full in so many immeasurable ways!
Marissa Brooks has been a member of Temple Beth El for 20 years this June. She lives in Matthews with her family, works as a physical therapist for Novant Health, and in her “spare” time has volunteered with many agencies on Shalom Park…you also might catch her performing with JStage or in the next Purim-palooza!