Prom night

Prom night

Kristen Keller and her daughter, Avi, greet a Charles Morris resident during the Senior Prom there on the Day of Good Deeds. (Photo by Sam Oshlag)
Kristen Keller and her daughter, Avi, greet a Charles Morris resident during the Senior Prom there on the Day of Good Deeds. (Photo by Sam Oshlag)

Virginia Zern’s “Senior Prom” had all the staples: food, karaoke, balloons and streamers. For the Charles M. Morris Nursing Center resident, today was a change of pace.

“I go with the flow,” Zern said, smiling.

Charles Morris was able to host its senior prom due to the help of those participating in the Day of Good Deeds, an international day of volunteering, Sunday, March 9.

The day originated in Israel in 2007, and this marks the second year that Pittsburgh has participated after representatives from Israel reached out to the Jewish Federation Volunteer Center in 2013.

Last year, 400,000 people worldwide volunteered, and this year that number was expected to increase to more than 500,000 good-deed doers doing approximately one and a half million hours of community service.

Judi Kanal, chair of the Jewish Federation Volunteer Center, anticipated around 500 volunteers from Pittsburgh to complete 1,500 hours of work, a comparable total to 2013’s final numbers.

“It’s great because it’s an international thing today, so it’s great for the Pittsburgh community to be a part of this,” Volunteer Center intern Alexis Miller said before she began her first event. “It’s a great community activity to do today.”

The Senior Prom was one of five events held Sunday. Others included knitting blankets and “chemo caps” at the Jewish Community Center of the South Hills for Children’s Hospital patients; packing snacks and making meals for the Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry and after-school programs at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill; donating blood to the Central Blood Bank and items to Global Links at Shaare Torah Congregation and a book drive at Hillel Academy.

These five events were selected because they each represented a Jewish value, according to Kanal.

There were fewer events this year, she said, because too many were tried last year and some were left undermanned.

“Last year we had many different sites over the city,” Kanal said. “There were two people here and three people there. … It’s a different kind of opportunity [this year]. There’s a tremendous amount of energy and excitement generated from that many people working together.”

With the more focused and streamlined approach, the day’s events seemed to be successful. At the Senior Prom, Good Deeds Day co-chair Robin Gordon said she was proud of the work the group of volunteers was able to do.

“It’s a special day,” Gordon said. “It’s nice to see them so happy.”

Kanal said days like this are important to the community as a whole.

“All volunteering is important. All time that anybody has that they can give out to others is crucial for the sake of the community,” Kanal said. “But when you get a group of people together like this, and they are all working together for a single cause, the ripple effect I feel is so much greater. It’s like dropping a huge stone into a pond versus a pebble.”

(Alexander Stumpf can be reached at