“As a Jewish youth event, a critical part of our mission is to engage participants in hands-on community service projects.”
That is the description that precedes a schedule in the guide to the JCC Maccabi games detailing the various services projects young athletes had to work on during their time between competing in sporting events.
One such project occurred on Tuesday, Aug. 12 at Cherry Hill High School East when track and table tennis competitors worked with the Burlington County affiliate of Habitat for Humanity to create welcome home posters for habitat to display in newly built homes.
Sprawled out on the floor in the cafeteria of the school were dozens of kids from different states and countries as they used brushes and paint to diligently craft signs for future homeowners.
Caroline Malia, resource development manager for the Burlington County affiliate of Habitat for Humanity, said the project helped the kids give back to the community and also allowed Habitat to introduce itself to a younger generation.
“We like to do things like this to get the community involved as well just overall exposure for Habitat, and this is a great outlet because it’s such a great program for these kids to get to meet each other and get to learn more about other people’s communities.”
Malia said once Habitat finishes a home, the organization holds a key ceremony when the homeowners move in, during which the posters would be displayed.
“We hold up welcome home posters and stuff and they get to keep it, and it’s sort of like a token of their experience with habitat,” Malia said. “The kids are going to write in all the different languages or a greeting from their country.”
Melissa Blau, a volunteer through the Katz Jewish Community Center, said Habitat was a great cause for the kids to become involved with during the games because so many of them could be from places where they might not know about Habitat and its work.
“A lot of these kids are from different states, different countries, so they might not know what Habitat for Humanity does, so they’re going to talk about what they do for the community,” Blau said.
Blau’s husband works for a children’s museum that often works with Habitat, and through him, she was able to bring the two groups together.
“I just think that they’re a great organization,” Blau said. “What they do for communities is awesome. We’re just trying to give these kids something each day to see how important community involvement is and volunteers, and I just thought this is a great organization to share with them.”
One young athlete from South Jersey at the event helping make posters was track participant Samuel Filler, a Moorestown resident and rising sophomore at Moorestown High School.
Filler said Habitat was a great organization because it gives people a chance.
“I think it’s great and I think it helps the community for people who can’t afford housing,” Filler said. “I think it’s awesome because it gives people a chance, and not everybody gets chances.”
Filler also believed the idea of making welcome posters for new homeowners would let new owners know they have support.
“It shows them that people support them, and when people see that they’re supported, it makes them feel good,” Filler said.