At revived ‘Super Sunday,’ volunteers work to boost JFed Annual Campaign

Volunteers make calls during Jewish Federation’s Super Sunday event on Nov. 2 at the Saul Brodsky Jewish Community Library.  Organizers said the event was expected to raise $40,000 for the 2014 Annual Campaign. Photo: Yana Hotter 

By David Baugher, Special to the Jewish Light

With the inflatable goal posts and football-themed tablecloth, it certainly felt like Super Sunday. But there is at least one difference between the fundraising phone-a-thon of 2014 and its earlier predecessors. 

No banks of phones.

Thanks to the rise of mobile technology, most of today’s volunteers solicited donations from their own smartphones.

“It’s a low-key Super Sunday event,” said Andrew Rehfeld, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation, noting that the fundraiser’s nature has changed over the years. “Communities across the country see this. The big Super Sunday events of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s aren’t happening as frequently.”

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Until the tradition was revived last year, they had stopped happening in St. Louis, too. But Rehfeld said the importance of the event hasn’t waned for two reasons: First, because the Federation needs dollars to fund communal agencies and priorities.

“The second reason is that it is a great opportunity to give people a chance to give back with their time and energy and have as many people involved in the campaign as possible,” he said.

This year’s event, held in the Brodsky Library, was expected to raise about $40,000 to conclude fundraising efforts for the 2014 campaign. About 35 volunteers came to ring phones or write letters while noshing on cookies, pasta and other treats.

Debbie Chase, vice-president of development, said that the process is a simple one. Volunteers are quickly trained and given a list of contacts. Some stay the whole time. Others just give an hour or so.

“People come in and out,” she said. “It’s up to everybody how they want to spend their time with us, what they want to contribute and how much time they want to put in.”

Volunteer Jessica Randall, a 17-year-old Shaare Emeth congregant from Chesterfield, was there as part of a contingent from the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization.

“I love helping out for a good cause and getting involved in the community,” said the Parkway Central student.

Amanda Packman of the Young Professionals Division said she was there to help raise money as well as awareness for YPD’s own upcoming fundraising event. There’s no question why she does it.

“It is to have people hear my personal connection to Jewish Federation and to hear their story as well and help them to forge that bond,” she said.

This isn’t Packman’s first time doing this kind of phone-a-thon. She’s a veteran of previous campaigns.

“It is important for people to recognize that these are not telemarketers,” she said. “These are people who took time out of their day as volunteers to make these phone calls.”

Jerry Padawer, 68, said he feels that every member of the Jewish community should volunteer for efforts like this. He vowed to keep to making calls that Sunday “until I get tired of doing it.”

“Federation does so much,” said the Central Reform congregant. “If you think about people who benefit from the food pantry, little old ladies in Russia who otherwise would nearly starve to death if it weren’t for Federation, kids in preschool who wouldn’t have certain educational benefits if it weren’t for Federation and on and on.”

He said he tries to get people to consider the importance of federated giving.

“For some people, it might be having them think about their grandchildren or their potential grandchildren and what they want for them,” he said. “If they are [of a certain] age, what do they want for their parents?

“I hope that the next time there is a phone-a-thon, anybody reading this will say, ‘I can spend an hour doing that,’” he added.

Amy Pakett, director of communications for Federation, said the event was a good way to reach those who can make a difference.

“The Super Sunday model works really well because it connects people to people,” she said. “Donors all give for different reasons. 

“We have people who give because it is a legacy in their family. They give because they want to support a certain program. 

“But there are also those (who give because) they know their dollars are at work or that someone is appreciating the money they give to Federation.”