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Extreme Makeover: J-Serve Edition

Read this story in Fresh Ink for Teens

The April breeze made the temperature cool and perfect for weeding and planting. Two B’nai B’rith girls tended to the flower gardens that lined the front lawn of Hamilton Middle School. They pulled out clumps of weeds and in their place planted beautiful purple and blue flowers.

Inside, students from Hamilton cleaned lockers with wipes and gave their building an interior shine. Looking around, it warmed my heart to see us all coming together for one common purpose: J-Serve. In April more than 100 volunteers from several Memphis BBYO chapters spent a Sunday cleaning and improving the grounds of Hamilton Middle School.

J-Serve, the International Day of Jewish Youth Service, is when tikkun olam and tzedakah (repairing the world and charity) are actualized by 10,000 Jewish teens from across North America, Europe and Israel participating in community service and improvement projects. While the official date of J-Serve was April 28, many communities honored the spirit of the day throughout the month. BBYO teens volunteered with students from Hamilton Middle School in Memphis.

On Sunday, April 14, more than 100 Jewish teens in Memphis participated in our J-Serve project titled, “Extreme Makeover: J-Serve Edition.” Many students from Hamilton Middle School helped as well. (Photo: BBYO teens volunteered with students from Hamilton Middle School in Memphis.)

“J-Serve brought our community together and we made lasting friendships,” said Julia Morrison, a freshman at White Station High School.

The J-Serve planning committee was inspired by the reality television show, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and was committed to making over a local school in need.

“Hamilton had 1,500 students years ago. Now they have less than 300,” said Max Meyer, a sophomore at Memphis University School, and a member of the planning committee. “We knew that they could use our help to get back to their peak and it was a huge help for the school and the community surrounding the school.”

The teen planning committee conferred with adults to plan the activities for the day. Inside the school, Hamilton students and volunteers packed up old schoolbooks and cleaned lockers. In the gym, BBYO teens decorated bulletin boards with inspirational quotes and pictures.

Most of the action took place outside. Volunteers cleared, weeded, raked, planted and tended to flower gardens. A vegetable garden was planted in the back of the school. Volunteers built stone frames and covered seeds with dirt and mulch.

“It’s not only great that we improved and cleaned our community, but it also shows that community service can bring completely different groups to work together as one,” said Ben Greenberg, a sophomore at Houston High School.

After two and a half hours of hard work, the Memphis J-Serve team was tired, but happy. The students, faculty and staff of Hamilton Middle School were so appreciative of their school’s makeover. Hamilton’s principal thanked everyone and showed immense appreciation at the end of the day.

While our project is complete, there are still J-Serve projects underway throughout the world. To find a project near you or to create your own project visit www.jserve.org.

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