Young families at a Playdates with a Purpose event.

The program, from PJ Library of Metro Detroit and Repair the World, gets kids involved in community service.

Featured image courtesy of PJ Library of Metropolitan Detroit

Jewish families in Metro Detroit now have a fun option to introduce their young children to the joys of volunteering, with activities like making cards for seniors or packing warming kits for local shelters.

PJ Library of Metropolitan Detroit and Repair the World Detroit created a program called “Playdates with a Purpose,” which allows children to do social service projects tied to the themes in the Jewish books they’re reading.

Each month, PJ Library brings Judaism into households by sending free high-quality, age-appropriate books to young Jewish families.

“We’re providing them this educational tool wrapped in a high-quality children’s book, but what do you do beyond the book?” asked Becky Melamed, director of PJ Library of Metropolitan Detroit.

This is where Playdates with a Purpose comes into play. It provides children age 2-4 with opportunities to engage in social action. Last year, there were four volunteering options, each corresponding to a theme and Jewish value from a PJ Library book. Families could choose to come to as many as they wanted, and each program gave families a unique opportunity to explore meaningful ways to engage children in service.

Last year, the program brought the children to Fleischman Residence, where the theme was “honoring elders.” The kids made cards, a banner and challot for the senior residents. Another microproject had the theme “kindness to animals.” After reading a PJ Library story, the children baked biscuits for local animal shelters.

“By providing these Playdates with a Purpose, we hope families in our community will seek out and find more ways to do good,” Melamed said.

There are two upcoming Playdates with a Purpose for young families this year. The next happens March 1, when participants will go to Prentis Jewish Apartments and Coville Assisted Living to make mishloach manot (Purim baskets) and spend time with seniors.

On April 19, participants will go to Yad Ezra. The theme will be caring for the environment and our bodies, and the children will create garden markers for Detroit community gardens and Yad Ezra’s Giving Gardens.

“Families can sign up at any time, and they can even drop in if they want to,” Melamed said. “We want to be as open as possible so that any family with young children who wants to can join us.”

To sign up and learn more about Playdates with a Purpose, visit the JFamily Detroit Facebook page and go to their “Events” tab. You can also email Becky Melamed at rmelamed@jccdet.org.

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