I’m sure many of you have read reports pointing to the fact that volunteerism is on the decline, especially post-COVID. I am here to tell you that that is not true here in Nashville. On Tuesday, August 29 Jewish Family Service had the opportunity to shower our appreciation over 125 volunteers who helped our agency achieve its mission in the past fiscal year.
In times of crisis, the number of volunteers increases. For example, during COVID we had volunteers who made phone calls or porch visits to our isolated older adults, delivered meals, or taught them how to use their computers to stay connected virtually while isolated physically.
Once again, our community is rising to the occasion during the Jewish community’s most recent crisis, the October 7 massacre in Israel and resulting war in Gaza. The first volunteer opportunity came when we had 36 ultra-Orthodox individuals land unexpectedly on a charter plane in mid-October. We had volunteers who at the last minute loaded them in their cars to get them to hotels, brought clothing, caterers who pitched in and prepared kosher meals on the fly and at cost, so essentially volunteering their time. In a short six days, deep connections were made and the Nashville Jewish community showed them true southern hospitality.
Next was filling a cargo plane with basic needs for Israel. We put an email out on a Thursday and by Sunday afternoon the Gordon JCC auditorium and bins in congregations were overflowing with thousands of pairs of socks, underwear, backpacks, and towels. If we had had more than four days, I am confident our community could have filled two cargo planes! Later that week, 11 volunteers spent an afternoon sorting and palletizing the donations at Project Cure to be ready for shipment on the cargo plane.
Finally, the volunteerism surrounding the six families who are temporarily in Nashville for a two-month period of respite has been overwhelming. These are families from kibbutzim that were destroyed in the Gaza envelope, and our community has wrapped them in a warm embrace. JFS has coordinated volunteers at Akiva School in the classroom translating, babysitters, 47 volunteers who have provided homecooked meals loaded with love 2 times a week, and host families who have been the Israelis “go to” adopted families over the past 2 months.
It is interesting. When I speak with colleagues at other JFS agencies around the country, they aren’t seeing the type of intense activity that we are seeing surrounding Israel. Maybe it is because Nashville is small and mighty and always rises to the occasion. Whatever the reason, I am grateful that JFS can always pivot to meet the need, but our small staff couldn’t achieve what we do without all our volunteers who walk by our side.
If you would like to learn about volunteer opportunities, please visit www.jfsnashville.org/ways-to-help/volunteer
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