I’ve been involved with volunteering since I was a little kid. Well, I am not sure the Cub Scouts was volunteering. I joined because I wanted to copy my "fadder" (that’s what my campmate used to call his dad). I’m an Eagle Scout. He’s not. From Cub Scouts through the Boy Scouts, the emphasis was helping others. We had to do our good turn daily.
I have always given back and been involved as an adult leader. In my teen days, when I was chief of Aquehongian Lodge #112, we had a steady group of adult volunteer leaders. My job was to get more youth involved. One of my favorite leaders used to yell, “We need more youth. We gotta keep this program going!” I miss him. I’m proud to say my meetings usually had about 100 people attending. Most were Scouts.
Many of the best scout leaders are still around. Some left us for the great campsite in the sky. I hope when I get there it looks like Chappy Hill, Ten Mile River Scout Camps.
I had my core group of leaders and volunteers. I appointed them all. One once said, “Yeah you had to be nice to him and have lunch with him at the Tottenville High School Library and rehearse the ceremonies. Then you got any position.” Of course, he is one my closest buddies. Perhaps that was the case. Or perhaps it was not.
I never stopped volunteering. In my frat, Tau Epsilon Phi, I led tons of community service projects on SUNY New Paltz’s campus.
As a trustee of the Ten Mile River Scout Camps’ Museum committee, I handled their PR and edited our newsletter, “Smoke Signals.” Many of the committee members watched me grow up. Some of them met me when I was 12.
Several years ago, I went to an event hosted by ELEM-Entry NY. I spoke to one of the best people in that group, Nirel Levi. I asked how I could get involved and she told me to come to the next meeting. I went and never looked back. I’ve coordinated ELEM's community dinners, art events, galas and a host of other things. The events are fun. But the real fun is helping the youth. About six years ago, I had my best Thanksgiving. I was in Tel Aviv. I went to a small park adjacent to 9 Reshit Chochma Street in Tel Aviv. An ELEM/Youth in Distress in Israel Outreach van with social workers and volunteers pulled up. This team works with the "Someone to Run With" program for youth who are at greatest risk. They put out suitcases loaded with clothes that youth could take. A handful of teens who apparently lived on the street walked into the park and were greeted with hugs from the ELEM volunteers.
As for us volunteers, we are the ones who will arrive hours before the event and stay hours later. We may be hoarse at the end of the night from selling raffle tickets or making hours of calls to motivate others to get involved. But we are the ones who have the most fun. So join the party. You won’t be let down.
If we only had more help, we could double the number of kids that are helped. Just think of how many more Eagle Scouts could soar? Or how many troubled, isolated and homeless Israeli kids could have a better life.
Mitchell Slepian in front of Outreach Van in Tel Aviv
Mitchell Slepian, front row left Camp Chappegat, Ten Mile River Scout Camps staff)
Mitchell Slepian, left making banner with Tau Epsilon Phi, Tau Eta Epsilon Chapter
Mitchell Slepian, tending the fire at ELEM President Lenore Ruben's house during ELEM-Entry NY retreat