Getting Hooked on Current Events

If you have a passion for the news and are looking to do direct volunteer service, the NCJW/Essex Current Events program, in partnership with local independent living residences, is a sure fit. Volunteers facilitate groups of senior citizens in engaging and timely discussions of local, national and world events.

I expressed my interest, went to one of the groups as an observer and I was hooked! In the last two years I’ve facilitated groups with all types of volunteers, both men and women. The common denominator is our desire to bring newsy discussions to people who sometimes aren’t heard or listened to on the topics of the day.

I found out quite quickly that seniors have strong opinions and want to express them. The role of facilitator is to set an open, honest and respectful tone and try and give everyone a chance to speak.  We don’t share our personal opinions, but rather keep the discussion moving and suggest topics should the conversation lag.

What happens in a typical hour-long group? I usually have a list of topics on my phone along with an ending joke or funny story…always a hit!  We work in groups of two facilitators each week; some facilitators work with notes, others bring clippings from newspapers. We begin by asking, “What would you like to talk about today?” and then it’s off to the races!

There are people of differing political persuasions in every group.  We’ve spent hours talking about the state of the presidency, the #MeToo movement, moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem, the North Korea summits, climate change, local elections, self-driving cars and other tech innovations…the list goes on and on. We’re always looking for additional facilitators. You don’t need to have any experience with seniors, just a desire to lighten up their day with a lively discussion. Make that first call and join the Current Events team! Email volunteer@ncjwessex.org.

Just Two Hours Can Make a Difference

A new lipstick, a fresh journal and a lovely scented lotion – these may be items that you treat yourself to regularly, but for women in economic need, these are luxuries that may be out of reach.  Volunteers at our most recent Mitzvah-in-a-Minute event decided to change that story. With the help of some generous donations, NCJW/Essex volunteers created dozens of “Take Time for You” gift bags filled with cosmetics, hair care products and other little luxuries that were presented to NCJW/Essex Center for Women clients throughout the month of May.

The gift bags are just one example of the way NCJW/Essex touches the lives of local women, children and families in economic need. The Mitzvah-in-a-Minute program is a series of community service projects planned throughout the year that can all be done in under two hours. 

One of our newer projects is creating “Period Ready Kits” in partnership with the NCJW/Essex Period.Project.  Volunteers fill cosmetic bags with sanitary pads, travel deodorant and lip balm. The bags are given to school nurses for distribution to middle school girls in need.

A favorite morning for many volunteers is chopping and slicing vegetables for freezer-ready meals as part of Mitzvah-in-a-Minute “Fill-the-Freezer.” Center for Women clients are so grateful to receive trays of homemade lasagna, burritos, soups and other hearty dishes that they can serve to their families.

Involving your children in community service is easy with Family Mitzvah-in-a-Minute events.  At these fun, child-centered events, children hear from local agencies about why their time and service are important and how the packages they are assembling help the community.

If you have two hours, you can make a difference! To learn more about volunteering, organizing or hosting a Mitzvah-in-a-Minute, please contact Dina Stambler, Director of Volunteer Outreach and Membership at dstambler@ncjwessex.org.