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Mitzvah Mania Volunteers Digging in and Going Green

September 18, 2008 By:
Amy Purdy
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Mitzvah Mania volunteers will be clearing invasive plants from Poquessing Watershed Park in Northeast Philadelphia to make it more accessible to seniors and all neighborhood residents during the second annual day of social action on Sunday, Nov. 2.

Mitzvah Mania 2008 is going green with the Fairmount Park Project! On Sunday, November 2, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., thousands of Jewish community volunteers will take part in the second annual Mitzvah Mania sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

Fairmount Park is partnering with Mitzvah Mania volunteers who will spruce up Poquessing Watershed Park and make it more accessible to seniors and all neighborhood residents. Throughout the day, volunteers will work on social action projects like this one, that address Federation's priorities of ensuring that the elderly continue to live in safety and security and maintain their connection with the community. While many Mitzvah Mania '08 projects will take place in Northeast Philadelphia, synagogues and Jewish community groups are also hosting projects in neighborhoods throughout the five-county area.

"Mitzvah Mania offers people of all ages a myriad of ways to volunteer their talents, time and passion to ensure that seniors at risk can live with dignity," explains Ira M. Schwartz, Federation CEO.

A mitzvah is a commandment, a good deed that brings the individual closer to God and community. 150 Federation volunteers will work with the Fairmount Park staff to preserve the environment, a mitzvah that is rooted in the biblical injunction bal tashchit, not to destroy trees. Poquessing Park, has long been a "hidden treasure" at Academy and Torrey Roads. With help from the Mitzvah Mania volunteers, it will be restored as a natural community park. Federation will dedicate a bench in honor of Mitzvah Mania and Israel's 60th anniversary in an area of the park that will be used by JCCs Klein Branch for outdoor programs for seniors.

"This is a wonderful volunteer activity for families with children 14 years and older," explains Jackie Needleman, who is event co-chair with Lauren Aronson. "It's hands-on, you learn about the local environment, you get dirty and you see the results of your labor." Teams of volunteers led by park specialists will work in two shifts -- from 9 a.m. to noon, and noon to 3 p.m. -- to clear invasive growth, make mulch for use on walkways and around trees and plant native plants.

Lauren Aronson's volunteer experience with the leadership development program that cleaned up the home of an elderly Jewish woman in South Philadelphia during last year's Mitzvah Mania made her passionate about being more involved this year. "I saw how much joy we brought to one person," commented Aronson, "I am now excited to help preserve a wonderful Philadelphia Park that can be enjoyed by many people today and in future generations."

Needleman and Aronson agree that "What's so great about this Mitzvah Mania project is that through the work of our hands we connect not only to our Philadelphia Jewish community, but to something even larger -- our environment."

Mitzvah Mania chairs Peggy and Joe Carver, Beth and Jerry Frezel and Marjorie and Jeffrey Honickman believe that volunteers will experience a cohesive sense of community as thousands of participants of all ages converge for one day, in one neighborhood to perform acts of tzedakah, Hebrew for loving kindness and tikkun olam, repair of the world.

In addition to the Fairmount Park project, Mitzvah Mania volunteers will prepare emergency food packages for persons at-risk, visit with seniors who live in Federation Housing apartments, repair and winterize seniors' homes, beautify the Myer and Rosaline Feinstein Campus, paint a mural and much more.

Mitzvah Mania 2008 sponsors are the Jewish Exponent, KYW News Radio, Jewish Federation Real Estate Group, Canada Dry Delaware Valley, Peggy and Joe Carver, and Beth and Jerry Frezel.

To register for a three-hour shift in Poquessing Park, and for a list of all Mitzvah Mania projects, including those hosted by synagogues and Jewish community organizations, visit the Web site at www.jewishphilly.org/mitzvahmania or call the Mitzvah Mania hotline at 215-832-0564. 

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