It’s a Sunday morning, the day before Martin Luther King Day and I sit reflecting on the volunteer experience that our JFCS staff had this past Friday. For the past 5 years we have taken the Friday before the Federal holiday of MLK Day (which we give off to our employees) to create our own day of service. Each year, an enthusiastic committee researches non-profit organizations in need of volunteers and then gives everyone an opportunity to sign up for the organization they feel most passionately about. Over the years, organizations have included Ronald McDonald House, MANNA, Jewish Relief Agency, JFCS’ Our Closet In Yout Neighborhood, the Natural Occurring Retirement Community @ JFCS, LaMancha Animal Rescue, and so many more. JFCS staff then go to the various sites wearing their JFCS t-shirts or sweatshirts and pins in celebration of MLK. For me, it has always been one of the highlights of my leadership experience and the pride felt by all participating runs deep.
Our collective volunteer venture is both educational and experiential. Last week, I volunteered at the Jewish Relief Agency. It’s an organization I have known about for my entire career, and one which JFCS works with each and every day to feed people, and yet I had never served there in a volunteer capacity before. Joined by 15 other JFCS colleagues we opened boxes of food and then packaged the food to be delivered to those in need. The operation at JRA was incredible — a well-oiled machine made up of people taping boxes, opening food, and then packaging it to go out to the community. Not only was it an opportunity to reflect on the good work of JRA but also to talk about the good feeling that each of us felt being a part of something bigger. Many spoke of other volunteer experiences that they’ve shared with their families and how much their children enjoy these experiences. I learned so much about the lives of my staff. Not only did Friday deepen our relationships, it created a new level of connection so vital to our work together. The spirit of MLK was shining through that morning and it was palpable.
In this day and age, of hybrid work where we mostly see each other through a Zoom screen, finding ways to connect in meaningful ways is critically important to deepening the bond between each employee and the organization’s mission. Individuals who work for non-profits usually choose that work because the organization’s cause resonates with their core values. The power behind a day of service honoring Martin Luther King Jr. is that it enables employees to live their core values in connection with the organization where they have chosen to work. So many from the JFCS team told me that our participation in MLK Day is a source of pride for them and only deepens the value of our organization. Can it get any better than that?