Good deeds abound on Mitzvah Day

Some lucky senior will win a flowerpot personally painted by 6-year-old Mia Urban, of Mount Washington.

Mia was among more than 100 volunteers who participated in Mitvzah Day at Bolton Street Synagogue on Sunday — "the first annual," said attorney Claudia Diamond, of Roland Park, who helped to organize Mitzvah Day.

Their goal was to perform mitzvahs, or good deeds.

"To help people," Mia explained as she painted a flowerpot green. The pot was one of many that organizers of Mitzvah Day will give seniors at Keswick Multi-Care Center. Every pot will have a paper white bulb in it.

The flowerpot gifts were one of many on Mitzvah Day, which was sponsored by the Roland Park Interfaith Community.

Volunteer contingents came from Bolton Street Synagogue, in Keswick, Congregation Beit Tikvah, in Roland Park, and the environmental group Blue Water Baltimore.

Other mitzvahs performed included painting and planting at Guilford Elementary School, writing letter of support to the U.S. troops overseas, knitting scarves and hats for the poor and elderly, making decorative frames, building a house for Habitat for Humanity, and working at My Sister's Place, the downtown shelter for homeless women and their children.

Some volunteers baked chocolate chip muffins for the soup kitchen Our Daily Bread, also downtown.

Bolton Street and Beit Tikvah have done mitzvahs before, "but it hadn't been done in one day," said Carrie Wells, a co-organizer of Mitzvah Day.

Having a mitzvah day is important because "sometimes you don't see it when you spread it out over a year," said Wells, of Mount Washington, a data systems manager for the city school system. "You don't see the impact of what you're doing and all the people it takes to put it together."

"I think it's a wonderful notion. It reminds the community of our responsibility to each other and teaches youngsters," said Bolton Street Rabbi Jonathan Panitz of Bolton Street Synagogue, which has a Sunday school.

Salem Reiner, community affairs director at Johns Hopkins University, said he and daughters Eleanor, 10, and Abby, 6, planned to visit seniors at Courtland Gardens Convalescent & Rehab Center in Pikesville, and play video games there.

"We are playing Wii," said Reiner, who had never played.

Abby also found time to draw a flag and paste it to a letter to U.S. troops that she began writing.

"Our hero," she wrote in ornate penmanship.

In a brief service before Mitzvah Day began, Panitz urged volunteers to "please help all those around you — because sometimes they can't help themselves."

Risa Alberts of Pikesville, a Bolton Street member, said it was important that she perform a mitzvah.

"I live a very comfortable life and I feel I don't give back as much as I should," said Alberts, a research coordinator in the urology department at Hopkins..

For Sarah Ribach, 13, of Roland Park, Mitzvah Day was an opportunity to spend time with friends from Bolton Street's teen tutoring program, "and do a good deed, all in one day."

At Guilford Elementary, 4520 York Road, about 25 people spent the morning painting the school's front door, planting mums, weeding, pruning, picking up trash and repainting a school sign in a grassy median strip near the parking lot.

A wheelbarrow arrived, to the delight of co-organizer Jeannette Karpay, an attorney, of Tuscany-Canterbury.

"We're big-time now," Karpay said..

Kris Gitlin of Roland Park assigned herself to pick up trash and do some weeding outside the school.

"Even in a couple of hours, you can make a difference," she said.

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