Mitzvah Heroes: Cheryl Friedenberg, 46, and Valerie Franklin, 48, Montco women whose “Mitzvah Heroes R Us” concept inspired their creation of the Mitzvah Bowl (www.mitzvahbowl.com ), a one-stop shopping source for helping out. They help organizations by attracting prospective mitzvah heroes to their site, who, in turn, choose a cause to which they commit their time and effort.
The organizations represent a panoply of possibilities, from Alex’s Lemonade Stand to Back on My Feet to PeacePlayers International to the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation.
What They Do for Love: “Initially our goal was to help kids find mitzvah projects with which they would be excited to volunteer,” Friedenberg notes of her clearinghouse for Bar/Bat Mitzvah hopefuls that was created three years ago. “Social media has taken our site to a whole new level. Students all over the country are using our site to find out what others are doing for their mitzvah projects, which inspires them to create their own.”
Not a One-Time Thing: The women extend their mitzvot heroism in other ways as well. Friedenberg says she is involved with the Soup Squad at her congregation, Beth Or, and she helps deliver home-cooked meals for the needy as part of the Klein JCC Home Meal Delivery program. Franklin is active with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and also cooks for Beth Or's Soup Squad, among many other activities. Since its creation in 2010, the site has grown, now listing some 125 nonprofits. The founders want the volunteers performing mitzvot in it for the long haul: “We want tweens and teens to experience a true mitzvah project by becoming involved with the nonprofits or its recipients,” Franklin says. They are looking for participants who “have the potential to grasp onto something that’s more than just a temporary good deed.” Friedenberg says, "My favorite mitzvah projects are the ones which bring kids out of their comfort zones and give them an experience of a lifetime.” She cites as an example a Bat Mitzvah girl who trained weekly with Special Olympic basketball participants. "The adults practiced every week, and as the mother of the girl once described to us, ‘ She showed up to practice and her face lit up every single time.’ “
Good for Them: It all started as a way to help their own kids develop unique mitzvah projects and evolved into a program in which the founders’ found their own mitzvot is helping others find theirs.
And it has hit home: “My 14-year-old daughter has volunteered for a therapeutic horseback riding program for three years. She started it as her mitzvah project and has continued to volunteer three hours every weekend," Friedenberg says, adding that both her daughters have helped her deliver meals to the JCC Klein program and participate in Cradles to Crayons. Now, she says, "my 11-year-old has been intently searching on the mitzvahbowl.com for her mitzvah project!”