Volunteer army fills the festive staffing gap


Hundreds of community members are demonstrating the true festive spirit by volunteering over the holiday period.

Jewish Volunteering Network director Leonie Lewis said JVN usually experienced a surge of inquiries in December and this year had been no exception.

A special newsletter had been sent out highlighting volunteering opportunities over Christmas and New Year.

"I think the Jewish community generally recognises it is two weeks of time out that they can contribute to the wider community," she said. "And it is a one off, so you don't have to commit beyond it."

The Tikun charity appealed for volunteers via the JVN newsletter for its annual Light up a Life support campaign, through which Jewish volunteers help to maintain essential services, allowing regular staff to take time off.

Think of the non-Jews working for Jewish organisations

Over 340 people have already registered to provide transport for emergency service workers and to help out at Norwood, Jami and Jewish Care facilities.

Tikun's Kaela Starkman said: "Think about the non-Jews working in Jewish organisations. They deserve the time off to celebrate Christmas with their family. We can help by filling the gap."

Light up a Life runs from December 23 to January 2 and the programme could accommodate another 300 volunteers.

As part of Together in Barnet, a winter night shelter project run by a partnership of churches and shuls, Finchley Reform Synagogue will open its doors to the homeless from December 24-27, offering three meals a day and overnight shelter for 17 people. Over 70 volunteers from the Alyth, New North London, Finchley Progressive, Sha'arei Tsedek, Barnet United and host congregation will provide food, entertainment and even a Christmas tree for their guests.

Also in north London, JW3 is offering a three-course dinner for members of the local community who have nowhere to go, or are looking for company on Christmas Day. Twelve volunteers will cook and serve.

Debbie Usiskin from North London Hospice has recruited eight volunteers via JVN to drive staff when there is no public transport. Of the similar number who signed up last year, two have trained to become regular volunteers.

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