DISCOVER THE POWER OF GIVING BACK

BY DENISE DEITCHMAN
AJT CONTRIBUTOR

In 2005, my husband and I relocated to Atlanta from New York. After working for a large advertising agency in New York, I was faced with new opportunities in Atlanta. I decided to leave the corporate world in hopes of finding a job that would be more personally rewarding. I found it with JF&CS.

While I always enjoyed getting involved in community service projects, I never dreamed I could make a career out of helping others find their passion and getting connected. Working for JF&CS for the past nine years has given me the chance to serve others in their quest to make a difference in the community.

Every day, I get to meet with people who are interested in making a meaningful contribution to our community and hope to do so through JF&CS. My role is to provide them with information and resources to help them in their quest to make a difference. Whether in a group orientation or an individual meeting, my goal is to make sure people have a solid understanding of our entire organization and the many options for getting involved.

Volunteers really are the heart and soul of JF&CS. They are utilized in incredible ways in order to ensure that our clients receive the best care. Programs like Connections, which match volunteers with survivors of the Holocaust, or Socially PACT, which is a peer support group for young adults on the autism spectrum, provide meaningful ways for volunteers to connect. For those who want to help people find jobs, we offer services like mock interviewing and resume reviewing to prepare job seekers for an upcoming interview.

Since starting here, I have seen the changing faces of our volunteers. Many more “young” people have a stronger desire to get involved. Whether they were looking for a way to meet people or just finding an outlet to give back, young adults have found a variety of ways to get involved even if they don’t have time to commit to something on an ongoing basis. JF&CS developed Mitzvah Day as a way for young professionals to connect to a meaningful community service project and to make a difference in just a few hours. Mitzvah Day has grown to accommodate more than 200 volunteers, providing an average of 600 hours of community service in one afternoon. In fact, many of the nominees for the Atlanta Jewish Times’ “40 Under 40” have been involved with Mitzvah Day over the years. It’s wonderful to know these volunteers continue to do great work for Atlanta’s Jewish community. This year, Mitzvah Day will be held September 21, and projects are in the works now.

JF&CS also created a leadership development series to cultivate volunteers and future leaders. The Kay Family Tools for Leaders program was designed to educate volunteers about our programs, service recipients and mission, which takes a hands-on, creative approach to learning, both personally and professionally. Graduates of the series go on to many great leadership roles within the organization. Of our current Board of Directors, 50 percent have participated in the program in recent years. The series begins in January.

Thinking about our future, not just for JF&CS but for the community as a whole, I get excited and have great hopes. The amazing energy and enthusiasm of today’s young volunteers — tomorrow’s leaders — and the importance they place on giving back gives me great confidence about the direction we’re headed. If you have any doubts about the power and impact a volunteer can make just remember this anonymous quote: “Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they are priceless.”

Editor’s note: For more information about JF&CS’ Mitzvah Day visit www.MitzvahDayATL.org. If you are interested in nominating yourself or someone else for The Kay Family Tools for Leaders program, please send an email to volunteer@jfcs-atlanta. org.