Day of service brings smiles, appreciation from those helped

By David Baugher, Special to the Jewish Light

The Jewish and Muslim Day of Community Service may be a special event for the volunteers who participate but those on the receiving end are often happy to be a part of the gathering as well.

“Thank you for thinking of us on a day like today when a lot of people are thinking about their own families,” said Doug Drysdale, a Maryland Heights paramedic/firefighter as he received cookies from two Jewish volunteers. “We appreciate the thoughtfulness of going beyond your own families and thinking of us that are here on Christmas Day away from our own home.”

At the nearby Maryland Heights police station, Officer Kaleb Becar was also pleased to get the gift of baked goods. 

“We love to have support from the community,” he said, “especially in the times right now when it seems like we’re getting a lot of negativity and a lot of violence towards police so it is good to know that members of the community do care and support us.”


He said this was his first time working on Dec. 25.

“It is [difficult] but you make it work,” he said. “Luckily, I’m on days so I’ll be out of here by Christmas afternoon.”

On St. Louis’s South Side, Michael Howard, executive director of the Five Star Senior Center, wore a jaunty Santa cap while he awaited the return of 25 volunteer teams bringing food to homebound clients. 

“I pay folks on a daily basis to deliver these meals but to be able to allow them to have Christmas Day with their families and have someone else come in as special volunteers to deliver these is a really nice thing to be able to do,” he said.

He noted that previously he’d had to rely on neighborhood groups or even the police to help out.

“Before I had this group, I was beating the bushes to get volunteers to come in,” he said.

At Central Reform Congregation, Howard Granok, a volunteer with Gateway 180, an emergency housing organization, said the “transition bags” of items for clients of the center would be a big help.

“It is a non-profit organization so it relies really heavily on volunteers to provide supplies,” he said. “It allows them to do some other things they would not normally be able to do by having volunteers provide the bags for them.”

Eileen Cohn, a resident at the Autumn View Gardens assisted living facility on Schuetz Road, was enjoying her afternoon playing bingo with volunteers.

“Every day you make a friendship,” she said. “They are very pleasant people. I know the organization. I’m Jewish myself so I know it is worthwhile.”

In the Delmar Loop, Bridgitte Wilson, lead youth advisor at Epworth Children and Family Services, said everyone was enjoying Christmas dinner provided by the service day volunteers.

“It actually means a lot, especially to the youth because the majority of them would not have a meal today,” she said.

An adolescent client of the center who couldn’t be identified for privacy reasons, pronounced the lunch delicious but she also found it nourishing in another way.

“People really care about you,” said the shy teenager before going back to a spread of fruit, chicken, dressing and mashed potatoes. “Even if you are not related to them, they still care and will do stuff for you.”

Did she have anything else she wanted to tell everyone?

“Merry Christmas,” she said with a smile.