By Julie Holdaway
Doing something – physically making a difference – is one of the first steps to building community.
At a holiday party last week, I was invited by the Merage Jewish Community Center’s volunteer group, JCC Cares, to “Be a Hero,” and swab a cheek for the national donor marrow registry.
How brilliant to take just a few minutes at a party to give me a present, the opportunity to make a difference.
"Community" used to be simply defined by geography or heritage. Modern factors, including technology, have broadened this perspective. In the nonprofit world, we are seeing communities develop around the opportunity to simply get involved and do something.
For nonprofits, the opportunity to be hands-on significantly increases impact — in donations, outreach and advocacy. Participation has been a driving force behind top nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity, Race for the Cure and up-and-comers like Change.org and Dosomething.org.
For two years, OC-based McKenna Claire Foundation has used lemonade stands to build community. Kids from Huntington Beach to the Hamptons to Hawaii, gather their friends and build lemonade stands. In addition to collecting a few dollars, the kids’ efforts to increase awareness of pediatric brain cancer research is invaluable.
Likewise, Rabbis David Young and Stephen Einstein of Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Fountain Valley joined a team of 36 rabbis around the country in an effort to “Shave for the Brave” supporting St. Baldrick’s Foundation and the fight against cancer.
According to organizer Rabbi Rebecca Schorr, the effort is simply “an attempt to do something… to make certain that no parent will have to tell his or her child that there is no more hope.” Imagine the number of times each rabbi will explain his (or her) bald head. The advocacy and support in the act of 36 passionate volunteers is awe-inspiring.
These contemporary traditions are examples of ‘community’ as it exists in the 21st century. They are defined not by place or even by shared interests, but rather by shared action.