By Yelin Jung
For the Mitzpeh
More than 125 students spent their Sunday helping their local community, participating in Maryland Hillel’s Good Deeds Day April 2.
Good Deeds Day is an international day of service that was started in 2007 by businesswoman and philanthropist Shari Arison. Maryland Hillel partnered with the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington for this event. The National Hillel Basketball Tournament joined this year’s efforts, as the tournament was scheduled for the same weekend.
“Our goals are to connect with the local community, do community service and aid those in need,” Hillel director of engagement and social justice Talia Orencel said.
Hillel provided six on-campus and two off-campus programs. NHBT men’s and women’s championship games marked the kickoff of the event with a barbecue at Ritchie Coliseum. In addition to enjoying the games, students could donate clothes, write a card for Syrian refugees and participate in a cheek swab.
Cheek swabbing is a way to find matches for blood cancer patients who are looking for donors, Ben Bryer, a volunteer and sophomore community health major, said. Gift of Life, a marrow and blood stem cell registry, collects the Human Leukocyte Antigens of every student who takes the cheek swab into its database to seek donors, he said.
“They can save the life,” Bryer said.
Freshman business major Yonina Keschner said she took the test because the simple and easy process makes a big impact.
“It’s nice at college,” Keschner said. “I think a lot of people do good in general, but it’s good to separate the day.”
Sororities and fraternities actively participated in Good Deeds Day, Orencel said. Alpha Epsilon Phi hosted an activity to make goody bags for children with cancer who attend Horizon Day Camp.
Members of Zeta Beta Tau gathered to assemble hygiene packs for homeless people in the community. The hygiene kits include essential products such as soap, shampoo and encouraging letters from the members.
“The community gives so much to us, and here in College Park, we feel welcome and comfortable in this community,” said Benjamin Tanner, a sophomore aerospace engineer major and ZBT member.
“It’s a responsibility,” he said. “We have an obligation to give back for those who are less fortunate in our community.”
On campus, students also raised funds with the Pesach Poverty Fund for poverty in Israel and led a project with Jewish Group Home Residents for an animal shelter.
Two organizations, Yachad and A Wider Circle, headed off-campus programs with student volunteers. Yahad, Hillel’s local community partner, helps rebuild and fix homes for homeless people. A Wider Circle, a non-profit organization located in Silver Spring, Maryland, collects household items and gives them to homeless people . Off-campus activities began early in the morning, in order to provide transportation for volunteers.
Hillel works with the same community organizations every year, but also tries to find new partners to create new projects, Orencel said.
Senior family science major Miriam Pomerantz, who is a member of Good Deeds Day’s executive board, participated as a volunteer in previous years and decided to get involved in the event again.
“I wanted to get involved to help greater Jewish community,” she said.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article said Gift of Life searches DNA for donor matches, but it actually looks at Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA).