Doing good and having fun doing it


Molly Yeh and Amy Fenster Brown

Editor’s note: Amy Fenster Brown was part of the Light’s 2015 Class of Unsung Heroes because of her outstanding volunteer contributions. Here, she writes about what she knows, though she isn’t one to tout her many achievements.

It’s our favorite time of year here at the Jewish Light with our Unsung Heroes Awards ceremony.  This is a fabulous annual presentation to recognize outstanding local volunteers who live the value of tikkun olam or repairing the world. 

You can read about this year’s Unsung Heroes in this very newspaper, and their work is impressive. They deserve to be sung. These folks stepped up and took on tasks and projects in our community just to be helpful. Mensches. 

Cool things can happen when you give of your time.

Cute story about this one time I volunteered… I met my husband. Both of us were taking part in Jewish Federation of St. Louis’ Young Professional Division. We were young, energetic, and had some time to spare. YPD put on all kinds of great programs — some educational, some social and some volunteering to help around town. One of those programs involved an extra helping of bashert. 

Turns out volunteering lets you learn stuff, hang out with people, and be a do-gooder all at the same time. 

If you’ve ever volunteered, you know this is true. Going to lunch with your friends is fun. Spending time with them while accomplishing a task and helping others is just as fun, and very rewarding. When you consider how social volunteering can be, it might be more appealing to you. 

If you’ve ever volunteered, you have probably met some terrific people along the way. Making new friends, business connections, and getting to know like-minded individuals are definitely bonuses to being a great helper. Teamwork makes the dream work after all. 

Too busy you say? I hear you. We all seem to be meeting ourselves coming and going these days. You can’t do everything.  But I bet you can do something. If you look closely at your calendar, you’ll likely find an hour here or there to volunteer… even making thank-you phone calls from home or ushering at High Holy Day services (you’re going anyway, make yourself useful).

Recently the Jewish Community Center hosted the Jewish Book Festival. It takes dozens of dedicated volunteers to put on this fabulous event. Volunteers were needed to pick up authors at the airport and bring them to the J. 

Next thing you know, I’m driving around Food Network star Molly Yeh, host of “Girl Meets Farm,” and also the most adorable, sweetest person in the history of the world. Our conversation quickly turned to which is logical since she’s an expert at it and I am a fan of eating it. In discussing a recipe, she said, “Can you text that to me?” 

Molly Yeh, who goes on television to advise people on how to cook, asked me, who sits in front of a television to figure out what to cook, for a recipe. I said to her, “Well, since you’re a Food Network star with a show and a restaurant and a few cookbooks, and I am a 52-year-old mom driving a minivan, that makes sense.” As you can see from the photo, Molly and I pretty much now are BFFs.  No offense to my other BFFs. 

There are so many great volunteer opportunities available. The Harvey Kornblum Food Pantry would love to see your pretty face while sorting stock. National Council of Jewish Women needs hundreds of people to put on events such as Back to School! Store, and they would be thrilled to put to you to work. Your house of worship could always use your friendly personality to help with many different tasks. No matter your interest or abilities, you are needed, and wanted, to give of your time and talents. 

You’ve probably attended some sort of programming event at some point in your life, and you’ve probably left with a goody bag. You know who put that thoughtful little gift together? A volunteer. Next time, maybe that mensch could be you.

Columnist Amy Fenster Brown is married to Jeff and has two teenage sons, Davis and Leo. She volunteers for several Jewish not-for-profit groups. Fenster Brown is an Emmy Award-winning TV news writer and counts time with family and friends, talking and eating peanut butter among her hobbies. Contact her at [email protected].