To volunteer 13 hours during the year before your bar or bat mitzvah is a lot of time for any teenager. I mean think about it, that’s an extra 780 minutes you’re not hanging out with your friends and 46,800 seconds that you could be devoting to studying or even sleeping.
But Louisville Collegiate 9th grader Emily Renco, doesn’t look at her volunteer time as time lost. For Renco, giving back to her Jewish community is all she’s known, and those 13 hours? After pledging, she probably surpassed them in her first week. I asked Emily and her mother, Eileen, how many hours Emily has volunteered thus far.
“We can’t even count how many. I mean she’s just always devoting some part of her day to giving back,” Eileen said.
Eighteen years ago, the Marjorie and Robert Kohn Pledge 13 Program began as a way to encourage children to volunteer 13 hours of their time to the community prior to their b’nai mitzvah.
Renco, whose bat mitzvah was just over a year ago, continues to devote most of her time to the Jewish Family & Career Services Food Pantry. It was her grandparents who started the Janet and Sonny Meyer Food Pantry Fund.
“The food pantry is so important because it allows us to help those who may not be as fortunate,” Renco said. “When I see people who come along and volunteer with me, that too, is also very rewarding.”
Eileen Renco said she’s always had Emily volunteering at the food pantry as a way to instill in her that giving back is important. “I’ve always believed that we should give back and I wanted my daughter to see the importance in it as well. From the time she was little, I wanted her know how important the food pantry is.”
At the Food Pantry, Emily Renco sorts, stocks, shops and makes snack bags. She put together Pledge 13 gifts and certificates for all the synagogues, organized spreadsheets and lists for the volunteer department, worked Pizza for the Pantry and volunteered with the Carole & Larry Goldberg Family Mitzvah events helping younger children do crafts and play games.
And somehow, when she isn’t volunteering, she’s super active and plays high level sports. The 14-year-old plays field hockey, lacrosse and swims at Collegiate.
When asked what she would say to her teammates and friends to get them to volunteer with her, she replied ,“Please go out and help people in our community. We don’t want anyone to go hungry,” Renco said.
There are currently about 50 b’nai mitzvah candidates enrolled in the Pledge 13 Program. Children can choose from a suggested list of places to devote their time or do their own. For more information, contact Kim Toebbe at JFCS at 502-452-6341.