The numbers tell the story: Throughout Monmouth County on Oct. 25, hundreds of eager participants, with the support of 22 organizations and over 300 volunteers, turned out to engage in dozens of activities as part of the 10th annual Mitzvah Day, the JCC of Western Monmouth’s largest single day of Jewish community caring.
The main headquarters was Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls, where a Mitzvah Day Fair hosted 50 volunteer organizations — representing the congregation’s 50th anniversary. There were nine categories of organizations: to benefit animals, children, the elderly, the environment, health, the homeless, human rights, efforts to fight hunger, and Israel.
Beyond the temple, programs took place throughout the county: clothing, food, and toy collections and blood drives; a snack drive for overseas troops; and a used blanket, towel, and sheet drive to benefit the SPCA. Entertainment and activities were offered to residents of area senior facilities.
At MRT, Judy Levine, principal of the temple’s religious school, said she thought the event was a great success, with children finding numerous ways not only to volunteer but to have fun. Perhaps the most enjoyable activity for the children, she said, was meeting the animals from Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs Inc., which trains dogs to provide emotional and therapeutic support to residents of nursing homes and hospitals.
Youngsters were also excited, said Levine, by a project that had them building giant tzedaka boxes and by a demonstration from gardeners on ways to compost to help the environment.
Peggy Baker, a Mitzvah Day volunteer, said that what made the event particularly special was the large number of sixth- and seventh-graders taking part. “The children went to all the different booths to see how they can help out, and I think it gave them some really great ideas for their b’nei mitzva,” Baker said.
Alex Austin, 10, of Colts Neck said he really liked helping to make dog biscuits for the therapy dogs, while his sister, Alyssa, eight, said she liked helping to sew a quilt for the Linus Project, which provides “security through blankets” to children who are ill or traumatized.
Ellen Goldberg, a volunteer at the event and a member of the temple’s “Green Team,” said she was thrilled that the weather held up for the event. “I think God made the weather so great for today, and we just had a whole sense of bringing people together in any way that we can,” she said.
Fair organizer Judy Raybon said the goal behind Mitzvah Day was “to connect people and get them involved in service activities.” Her hope, she said, was that the event would lead to more fulfilling experiences in the future. “If you have something passionate and you like what you’re doing, you connect with it more,” Raybon said. “And once you start volunteering, you see that it’s really quite addicting.”