For Joe Uddeme, a Pikesville High Alum and member of Jewish Baltimore, being able to give directly to the community is vital.

“If you look around the world, you know that people need help everywhere – in Europe. In Africa. In the United States,” says Joe. “People in our own backyard need help. If we can help those people, it’s my belief that communities will start to prosper and when that happens, things start to grow.”

Joe sees volunteerism as a way to impact a community directly, sometimes in ways that financial contributions cannot. It’s something he has been doing for the past 20 years, and it’s what led him to the Bunches of Lunches Program, a meal delivery program that began as a partnership between Jewish Volunteer Connection (JVC) and Krieger Schechter Day School (KSDS). Today, it now includes Beth El Congregation, which became a partner when the program became community-wide on April 27.

Joe became involved in the program last year when he moved into the new role as parent liaison at KSDS. Since then, he says KSDS and JVC have invited other organizations to partner each month.

“We’ve really seen an increase in engagement,” says Joe. “Last year we had about 70% of engagement of parents who were enrolled in our schools, and now, since the program has gone community-wide, that has gone up to about 80%.”

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The Associated Contributors are writers from The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.