The holiday season isn’t just a time to give gifts to loved ones, but to help those in need in our community. That’s why we’re partnering with Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) on Project Dreidel, a campaign to bring holiday gifts to local families who can’t afford them.
We talked to Jeff Gabel, an active Big Brother (who’s featured in the Project Dreidel video below!) about the importance of giving back. Despite a busy schedule—he’s the Community Manager for the Young Entrepreneur Council and outside of work hours hosts Kitchen Kibitz pop-up dinners with the some of Boston’s top chefs—he always has time for his Little Brother, Paxton.
What inspired you to become involved in JBBBS?
Mentorship has always been an important value to me, and I’ve been lucky to have some wonderful mentors throughout my life. The concept of being a Big Brother has always intrigued me, perhaps because I’m the youngest child and never had the chance to share what I’ve learned with others. It wasn’t until college, when I joined Greek life, that I really experienced the feeling of family mentorship.
After college, I was searching for a new experience that would allow me to give back to the community in a more direct and personal way, and to reconnect with the feeling of family mentorship I’d had in Greek life. There’s usually a big disconnect when you volunteer between yourself and the recipient, but I wanted to see growth and progress. When I did some research on JBBBS, I was shocked to discover the statistics affecting our own community and to see how many families go without the financial and social resources to provide for their children. I signed up later that day, and shortly after was placed with Paxton. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my post-college life and a truly rewarding experience.
You have a lot on your plate. How do you juggle it all with your Little Brother, Paxton?
Volunteering isn’t like a gym membership – you don’t sign up and say, “I’ll go when I feel like it, and only if I’m in the right mindset.” Making plans as a Big Brother helped me structure my own life as I specifically make time in my schedule for a fun day with Paxton. It was easy to set up and I found it more rewarding after each outing, exploring new parts of the city and doing activities I haven’t done since my own childhood. It’s been just over three years together, and I’ve seen tremendous growth since first meeting the shy 7-year-old who hid behind his grandmother and barely spoke.
JBBBS also gives you all the tools you need to be a successful Big: they offer “Pick of the Month” for fun activities, tickets to professional sports games, and even the occasional outing to pick fruit at a local farm. It’s also opened me up to a new network of other young adult Bigs who are just as passionate about the mission and providing fun outlets for their matches.
Why do you think it’s important for young adults to balance giving back with their social lives and their careers?
As young adults, we have a lot of distractions from work, social life (both online and offline) and obligations to our own families, but I find that giving back to the community really helps bring clarity to your own hectic life. When we’re running around the laser tag arena on a mission or scaling a rock climbing wall together, we’re spending the afternoon doing the things that we love – and I get to teach him values of leadership, perseverance and courage. I’m not thinking about my to-do list, I’m not checking work emails, I’m just having fun. It really puts life in perspective to unplug and get back to the simple pleasures.
You mentioned a financial need in our community. Why do you think it’s important to participate in Project Dreidel?
Project Dreidel is such a wonderful opportunity to support children in need within our own community. By participating, you help make sure their basic needs – like winter coats, snow boots, and grocery store gift cards – are met, and you can fulfill many wishes with the presents they want most. It’s important to make this year a little bit brighter by giving a meaningful gift to a deserving family.
If you’d like to help CJP and JBBBS provide for a family in need, give a gift through Project Dreidel!