The following essay on community service was written by Austin Shatz, a middle schooler, enrolled in City Congregation’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah program. Students spend a year and a half researching their heritage, values and beliefs, and write on a Jewish subject of their choice, their major project; they also perform 13 hours of community service, and write about it. An example of this component can be seen below. The process improves both the student’s writing and critical thinking skills, as well as their self confidence and overall maturity.
As part of my Bar Mitzvah, I participated in service projects with the goal to make a difference in people’s lives. During the two acts of community service that I participated in, I feel I was able to accomplish that goal. The first charitable organization that I participated in was called “Operation Chicken Soup” and the second was with “Project Morry”, an organization that runs a summer camp for underprivileged kids. I chose these organizations because cooking and camp are big parts of my life that I wanted to share with others.
I expected that “Operation Chicken Soup” was going to be cooking chicken soup for homeless people. I was partially correct. It was in fact cooking for needy people but we didn’t really cook chicken soup. Instead, a group of us including my sister Carly, my friends Andre and Nico, and I, made a salad, an entrée and a dessert for under privileged people. After we cooked the food at the JCC, it was then delivered to a senior home nearby. Though I was slightly disappointed that I didn’t get to meet the people I was cooking for, I still took satisfaction from the experience. This was my first time volunteering for a charity on my own, with out my parents. “Operation Chicken Soup” is a fun way for kids to cook for a great cause.
A few months later, I volunteered for “Project Morry” on three different occasions. The children who are part of “Project Morry”, have the opportunity to go to a summer camp in upstate New York and during the school year they go to the office in Elmsford where they do school work and spend time together. At the offices, the kids also get support from counselors and mentors to make sure they stay on track in their lives.
Before my first session, my expectation was that the kids would be there when I went and I would directly help some of them. However, my help was indirect. When I arrived, I met Ian Schwartz, the media outreach coordinator. He was super nice and we got right down to business. Although it was just the two of us, because it was a weekend, I had an amazing time, learned a lot about the program and got a lot of important work done.
During that first session, I helped clean the storage room and I built some shelves to store supplies on. It was cool to build something from scratch. The second time I went, I worked with other kids volunteering to build utility carts and to stuff boxes and envelopes. The last time I went I was supposed to help people sign up for a walk-a-thon but due to a last minute scheduling issue I went to the office again and labeled the stuffed envelopes from the prior week. Julie and Adam Paget, I labeled your envelope!
“Project Morry” is different from the camps many of us here know and attend because the campers are under privileged. “Project Morry” was created in 1995 to fulfill the dream of Morry Stein, the Director of Camp Echo Lake who passed away in 1994, which was to make sure every kid could go to sleep away camp.
The work I did will help the campers because it a) creates space for more supplies and b) acknowledges the people that have donated to “Project Morry” and encourages them to donate again.
I greatly enjoyed volunteering at “Project Morry” because camp is an amazing part of my life and I too wish every kid could go to camp and have the same camp experience that I have. I plan to donate a portion of my Bar Mitzvah money to Project Morry as well as collect school supplies to donate. I will also continue to do volunteer work for them in the future, hopefully more directly with the children. I found working at “Project Morry” very rewarding because it allowed me to help kids have a better childhood experience.