The arrival of late spring means it’s time for one of the most beloved traditions on JCCA’s Pleasantville campus, the annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner. The campus is blessed by a uniquely robust and committed volunteer community. Over 800 volunteers visit every month to ride bikes, play basketball, help with homework, and so much more. Our volunteers consistently go above and beyond for campus youth, and it’s only right that we make one night a year all about them. 

Residents, volunteers, and staff filled a festively decorated PCS dining hall, the room undeniably exuding warmth and affection. Sandi Rosenthal, head of JCCA’s Volunteer Department, took the stage to welcome everyone and marvel at the scope and depth of volunteer activities. 

“There are the Lunch Bunch volunteers who bring food and joy; mentors who show residents what it means to have a person who is there for them and them alone; teen and tween volunteers who give JCCA youth the opportunity to just be kids; pet handlers give the kids the chance to experience the unconditional love of a dog; volunteers in the Cakes for Kids program who provide a birthday cake for every child on their birthday, and baked goods for every holiday and for no reason other than to say ‘I am thinking of you.’” 

Following Sandi was JCCA’s CEO Ron Richter. “You show our residents that they matter,” Richter remarked. “You show them that there are people out there who care, who will show up consistently with love, friendship, and support. Given some of the experiences they are recovering from, that is a powerful and necessary message.” 

Volunteer Chris Hufferdine spoke to the experience of finding such a meaningful and rewarding piece of his life. “I’m very fortunate that JCCA found me, and that I found JCCA,” he said. “Every time I pull up to those gates I feel an emotional pull to be here.” 

Perhaps the true highlight of the night were the many residents who took the stage to express their heartfelt and abiding gratitude for the volunteers. “They hold a special place in our hearts because they add excitement and warmth to our lives,” said one young woman. “In moments when boredom or bad ideas threaten to take over, the volunteers step in to offer a distraction: events to attend, yummy food to eat.” 

Another resident shared how interacting with volunteers helped her realize that her voice mattered. “I feel like in my childhood I haven’t been heard,” she recounted. “When I came to JCCA and met some of the volunteers, I felt like ‘OK, I’ve found people who can hear me out.’ I wasn’t judged. They understood where I was coming from. It’s a blessing to have them in our lives.” 

Sandi closed with some timeless wisdom from Aristotle, who said that the essence of life is to serve others and do good. “You do good every day,” she said to the volunteers. “Thank you for repairing the world, child by child.”