$4.6 million + 1,000 = Super Sunday

On Feb. 13, nearly 1,000 volunteers from the Los Angeles community helped raise more than $4.6 million for the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ annual Super Sunday campaign, working both on the traditional phone-a-thon and, for the first time, simultaneously at community service projects across the city.

The day of combined fundraising and service on “Centennial Super Sunday,” marked Federation’s 100 years in the greater Los Angeles community. The service projects drew volunteers from throughout the region.

“This is an annual event that we’ve been doing for a very long time, and [the funds] will go to the work we do locally and the work we do in Israel,” Jay Sanderson, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, said in an interview outside the phone-bank room at the Federation offices while wearing the day’s giveaway T-shirt, which read, “Today, I helped the world.”

Some of the volunteers were veterans of the effort, including Julie Platt, a longtime volunteer with The Federation, who spent hours making calls.

“I was born with a pledge card in my hand,” Platt said.

City officials, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Assemblyman Mike Feuer and L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz, dropped by to help. Indeed, a few tables away from Platt, Villaraigosa called people who had given large sums to The Federation in previous years, clearly enjoying himself while telling them that it was the mayor calling and asking for donations.

“I’ve been supporting The Federation and all its good work here in Los Angeles among Jews, among the broader L.A. community and Israel, since 1994,” Villaraigosa said. “I come almost every year, and I get on the phone.”

A second phone-a-thon also took place at the Jewish Federation Valley Alliance in West Hills.

Sherry Barone, an engineer from Marina del Rey, was volunteering on the phone-a-than for the first time, and she stressed the need to “reach out to our local community.”

There were 12 community service opportunities involving Federation-sponsored programs, such as KOREH L.A. and Project Chicken Soup. 

Jonathan and Elise Hay had moved to Los Angeles recently from the East Coast and said that spending the day helping paint a fence and tend a garden at Richland Avenue Elementary School, near Barrington Avenue and Olympic Boulevard, was an opportunity to meet other people in their community.

We “usually do Sunday chores,” Jonathan Hay added. Today we wanted to “do something for others.”

Debi Huang, mother of a Richland Avenue Elementary School first-grader, hadn’t heard of The Federation at all; she learned through the school about the opportunity to help out for the day.

Huang, who blogs about the environment, spent her day in the school’s large garden — some of the garden’s food is donated to the Westside Food Bank — clearing out brush to make room for a wildflower garden and preparing a pumpkin patch for a bounty next Halloween.

In addition to the gardening work, more than 30 volunteers helped paint and put together a mosaic at the school’s entrances.

“It’s totally changed the look of the campus,” Principal Karina Salazar said toward the end of the day. Richland Avenue is one of the nearly 100 schools that participates in The Federation’s KOREH L.A. visits.

Volunteers also helped out at Project Chicken Soup, delivering food to people with AIDS and HIV. In the San Fernando Valley, people helped renovate the Hillel at California State University, Northridge.

At the Westside Jewish Community Center (WJCC), many participated in a partnership involving the center, IKAR and, of course, the Federation. Urban farming company Farmscape helped volunteers plant a garden in the courtyard outside the WJCC.

“I’m sitting at a computer all day long, [and] this is a way to get out,” said Guy Handelman, 27, an assistant film editor who shoveled dirt at the JCC to clear a space for the garden.

Brian Greene, executive director of the Westside JCC, said the food grown in the garden will be donated to food banks and help feed senior citizens living in the residential center at the JCC.

At Federation headquarters, downstairs from the hubbub of the phone-a-thon, families with young children participated in an arts project with a community-oriented scope that extends to Israel. The children finger-painted on fabric that older volunteers will use to make 12 quilts to send to at-risk youth at a school in Jerusalem.

Hagit Arieli-Chai was there, along with her two daughters, ages 7 and 12, and a 12-year-old friend of her daughters. Arieli-Chai said she wanted to do something “age appropriate” with the children, while her daughters’ friend said she wanted to “help Israel … and the community.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky stopped by the phone-a-thon early that morning, and he emphasized the large role the Federation plays in the community.

“This is a particularly difficult year, and many of the agencies that The Federation funds are going to get hit very hard by the state budget cuts,” he said. “So this particular year … Super Sunday means a lot.”