Temple Beth Emet’s upcoming annual “Mitzvah Day” event next month marks a decade of good deeds for the Cooper City Reform congregation, which each year organizes more than 1,300 volunteers to participate in a day of simultaneous service projects targeting more than 40 local and international causes with links to the tri-county area.
“Big Mama” Essie Reed will be the keynote speaker at the March 14th event. Reed is well known and universally beloved across South Florida for making her modest home on Fort Lauderdale’s west side a haven for at-risk children in need of temporary shelter. “Big Mama” and her humanitarian efforts are featured frequently on local Fox affiliate WSVN Channel 7 News, adding to her local celebrity.
Big Mama will share her philosophy of child rearing when she addresses Mitzvah Day participants to kick off the event at 10 a.m. “I show my kids what love, caring and self-reliance are,” Reed explains. “I tell them whatever problems they have, I’m here for them. Many of them have never experienced this kind of support.”
Rabbi Bennett Greenspon, spiritual leader of Temple Beth Emet, says Big Mama’s philosophy dovetails beautifully with that of Mitzvah Day. “When we help others, we come closer to God,” Greenspon says. “Big Mama is a living example of that, as is each person who participates in our Mitzvah Day projects.”
Big Mama’s charitable organization, which benefits kids from all kinds of backgrounds, all races, and all ethnic groups, will be among the 40 projects undertaken at the event. Volunteers will be creating Easter baskets that will be distributed to the kids and families that Reed’s organization serves.
Another high-profile late entry among the Mitzvah Day projects will benefit a Haiti Disaster Relief Fund established by Miami Children’s Hospital. “Our temple family responded quickly right after the earthquake in Haiti,” says Mitzvah Day coordinator and Temple Youth Director Rayna Engle. “We already are collecting food and clothes.”
Other projects new to the Mitzvah Day roster this year include Life Alliance Organ Recovery Agency, Starlight Foundation, and Shabbat Memorial Dog Rescue.
Projects repeated from years past include Broward Pace Center for Girls, an intervention and prevention program for at-risk girls in Broward county; American Cancer Research Society, for which volunteers will decorate “luminaria bags” to be distributed at an upcoming Relay for Life cancer survivor walkathon; Women in Distress, for which volunteers will provide food baskets; Federation Gardens and Memorial Manor nursing homes, for which volunteers will deliver flowers and visit with residents; Kids in Distress, in which participants will fill bags of activities to be delivered to at-risk kids served by the organization; W.E.C.A.R.E. emergency food pantry, which invites volunteers to assist in stocking shelves and sorting donated food items; Jackson Pediatric Center, with project participants preparing craft projects to be distributed to the hospital’s young patients, and many more.
Temple Beth Emet’s Mitzvah Day requires “more than 50 volunteers working for more than a year to coordinate, and continues to expand each year,” Engle says, adding that “volunteers pre-register for this event, and yet we still get people on the day of the event signing up to join us.”
“In these times of economic challenges for many of us, I am especially proud to see our congregation step up as strong as ever, committed to helping those who are less fortunate,” says TBE president Harold Gubnitsky. “Mitzvah Day at Beth Emet is one of my favorite days of the year, because it truly exemplifies the day-to-day spirit of the temple family giving back to our community and to those who are in need.”
The Cooper City Temple serves more than 650 families. Volunteers come from the Temple rolls, and members of the community at large are also invited to participate. Any high school student seeking community service hours is encouraged to sign up. Participants of all religions are welcome.
This year, TBE’s 10th Annual Mitzvah Day is Sunday, March 14th. The day begins with check-in and breakfast on the Temple grounds from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. An opening ceremony will be conducted at 10:00 a.m., with a keynote address by local philanthropist “Big Mama” Essie Reed, as well as remarks by Rabbi Bennett Greenspon, spiritual leader of Temple Beth Emet, and other dignitaries. Projects begin at 10:20 a.m. and continue “for as long as it takes for each to be completed!” adds Zohar Casden, Director of Congregation Relations at the Temple.
Prospective volunteers are asked to register in advance to participate. The Temple is at 4807 S. Flamingo Rd. in Cooper City. For information, call the Temple at 954-680-1882, or visit the temple’s website at www.templebethemet.org.