Originally created 05/20/00

Interfaith workers to serve



Three congregations will lock arms Sunday to serve the Augusta-area community for the second annual Interfaith Mitzvah Day.

About 250 volunteers from Congregation Children of Israel, Episcopal Church of Our Savior in Martinez and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Augusta will use the day for baking, bike repair, gardening, painting and carpeting.

They will also turn in clothing, toys, cereal box tops, luggage, canned goods and school supplies they have collected to benefit area social service agencies and ministries.

The efforts will benefit the Augusta Rescue Mission, Augusta Suits You, Augusta Urban Ministries, Friendship Community Center, Girls Inc., Golden Harvest Food Bank, L.O.T.S. Ministry, Luggage for Life, Meadowbrook Elementary School and the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital on Harper Street.

Our Savior will offer a morning service for youth from the three congregations before they join other volunteers at the work sites.

At Friendship Community Center on Central Avenue, workers will paint, lay carpeting, landscape and install blinds. The center provides activities and socialization for adults with emotional or mental disabilities.

At Girls Inc. on Watkins Street, mitzvah volunteers will also paint, plant a butterfly garden and build an arbor, picnic tables and cabinets to store games, puzzles and supplies. They will also sew curtains for all the windows, said Lynn Rome, a coordinator and member of the Jewish congregation. "Everything will be done on the site that day except for the arbor."

Girls Inc. is a national nonprofit youth organization that offers educational programs, tutoring and summer camps.

Workers will repair bikes at Augusta Urban Ministries on Hale Street, which provides transitional housing and operates a furniture bank, the Community Kids Connection and the Pre-school Plus Program.

After lunch at Congregation Children of Israel, Michael Firmin, executive director of Golden Harvest Food Bank, will speak to the youth about hunger.

All the volunteers will return to the temple about 4 p.m. for a light supper and a service, Mrs. Rome said. "The service will incorporate the idea of mitzvah and people working together from different faiths."

Although churches or temples could perform the same social activities independently, Mitzvah Day demonstrates the shared desire to make a difference in the world, Mrs. Rome said. "We have the same interest in social justice," whether Christian or Jew.

Augusta's Jewish population is small, however, and its young people could feel isolated in the community, Mrs. Rome said. "It is very important to let Christians see the kind of things Jews do."

The service projects have the potential of building understanding and mutual respect for all who contribute resources, energy or sweat, said the Rev. Dan King, Unitarian pastor.

This is the first year has participated, and it is thrilled to be involved "in these terrific little projects," he said. Mitzvah Day is "a community-service project which bridges the faith groups for the benefit of all of Augusta."

Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or vanorton@augustachronicle.com.