WASHINGTON (JTA) — Bailey Dinman was surprised when she learned that homelessness was a struggle for many in the affluent Washington, D.C., suburb where she lives.
“I was shocked by the statistics,” said Dinman, 16. “In ninth grade, through my Hebrew school, I started volunteering at a shelter very close to my home.”
According to the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless, on any given day in the Maryland county, 1,250 people experience homelessness, including 325 children.
Dinman sorted donated clothing and baby-sat for children whose parents were attending job seminars.
“Whatever they needed me to do, if I could help in some way, I did,” she said.
In April, as the social action vice president for her region’s BBYO youth group chapter, Dinman organized Good Deeds Day, a day of community service project in which nearly 200 teens participated.
The teens chose from among five service options, including weeding and picking up trash in parks; organizing a “senior prom” for the elderly; giving manicures to residents at a women’s shelter; and making sandwiches for the homeless.
Afterward, the teens gathered to talk about their experiences and discuss next steps for volunteering.
“It was very eye-opening for a lot of the teens to realize what they can do [to help others] in their own neighborhood,” Dinman said.
A rising senior at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Md., she is working this summer as a lifeguard before leaving for a three-week BBYO program in Israel .
For her work organizing Good Deeds Day, Dinman was recently awarded the Vivian and Morton Rabineau Teen Volunteer Award by the JCC of Greater Washington.
JTA spoke to Dinman recently about who has inspired her, why Hanukkah is her favorite Jewish holiday and her advice for other teens planning community service projects.
JTA: Who or what have been the biggest influences in your life?
Dinman: My mom is a two-time breast cancer survivor. Her strength and her determination and her will have really inspired me to make her proud. She’s also made me very conscious of my own future with the disease.
Can you share with us a meaningful Jewish experience that you’ve had?
Last summer, I was very fortunate to attend BBYO’s International Kallah. It was all Jewish, all the time, but I walked away with more knowledge about Judaism and many more questions.
What is your favorite Jewish holiday?
I’d have to say Hanukkah. My family comes together and it’s very low-key. We don’t get a lot of presents, but the meaning [of the holiday] is understood.
What do you think you want to be doing when “you grow up”?
That’s a good question. As of now, something along the lines of applied mathematics, on the business side.
What kind of things do you like to do for fun?
I play field hockey for my school, so that’s a lot of fun. I hang out with my friends and family, sleeping, social media, everything a teen likes.
What advice would you give to other teens interested in organizing a day of service for their peers?
Don’t be afraid to reach out to all different organizations in the community because you don’t know who’ll say yes. Also, strong promotion and advertising are very important.
The Teen Heroes column is sponsored by the Helen Diller Family Foundation, which is dedicated to celebrating and supporting teens repairing the world. To learn more about the foundation’s $36,000 DillerTeen Tikkun Olam Awards, visit http://dillerteenawards.org. Please tell us about teens who deserve attention by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.