The Evolution of Giving Back: Family Service Day at RSS

By Judy Landis P‘15, ‘20

While one of the newer events at the Rodeph Sholom School, the annual RSS Family Service Day, is already a highly successful staple of the community. This year, Family Service Day is in its sixth year and will be held on Sunday, April 22nd, coinciding with Earth Day. With a variety of projects, the day of service is a way for RSS to support both our school and shul community, as well as the New York City community at large.


RSS Family Service Day was created by the RSS Parents Association and has been chaired by RSS parent Cindy Gavin P’12, ‘21, since its inception in 2013. Cindy recalled, “Our first year was months after Superstorm Sandy.” Veterans of that day may remember a clear sky up above, while on the ground descending on Bayswater Park in Far Rockaway, Queens, to clean and improve areas that had been mauled by the storm.

The event has grown and evolved in many ways since the first one, six years ago. “We wanted, going forward, to design something that we could do rain or shine, and not be an all day event that would make it difficult for many families who have sports or other commitments on Sundays. We made it easy; you just need to commit to two hours,” Cindy said.

Building bikes during Family Service Day 2016

This year, RSS Family Service Day will be held at Congregation Rodeph Sholom and have a variety of different projects for all ages to participate in. These projects will form a “round robin” in which families will rotate from project to project in the Schafler Forum. Participants will have a chance to bake for the CRS Men’s Shelter, pack backpacks with school supplies for the Good+ Foundation, as well as put together bags full of sports gear for the Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation. The final project will help mark Earth Day, which coincides with RSS Family Service Day this year. This special project will be a custom created mural complete with butterflies and nature motifs for the New Jewish Home.

“Everybody gets a chance to work on each of the projects and the groups are arranged to allow for a mixture of ages in each one and each family works together.” Since the first event, the attendance for this event has ranged from 250 to nearly 400 volunteers. The growth of the program proves how important it is to our community to give back to others and support those around us.

Increasing accessibility was key to the event’s other goal, that of community building. “We do fun activities, like hula hoop and lining everyone up in birthday order. “Middle school students are encouraged to be project leaders. The day concludes with a pizza party for all in the Eisner Auditorium.”

Gavin, mom to an alumna and a 5th grader, has been at RSS for 15 years and finds it rewarding to plan events (she also chairs the annual Caregivers Breakfast) that, “see our community coming together for activities that celebrate giving back.”

“Both of my kids have been part of every service day. It’s part of their growing up,” she added.Familly Service Day BannerIf you or your family would like to participate in this year’s RSS Family Service Day, please visit the registration page to sign up.

Want to, but can’t make it this year? Planning for RSS Family Service Day 2019 begins shortly after the conclusion of this year’s event; look for a 2019 date to be announced soon!

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