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Happy birthday to the trees


Ronnel Conn

Tu B’Shevat, often called the “birthday of the trees,” is a special time at Westside Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles. More than 600 community members join together each year to celebrate our commitment to nature at our annual Tu B’Shevat Festival.
Planned and organized in partnership with our Preschool Parent Network, the festival includes many child-friendly activities, such as educational carnival games, a petting zoo, art projects, bounce houses and pony rides. To promote a healthier and greener world, the JCC partners with the City of Los Angeles “City Plants” initiative and provides over 200 free trees for those in attendance. Additionally, the JCC works with our local CSA, Good Life Organics, to host a pop-up farmers market.

The festival, which takes place this year on Jan. 31, has been running for more than 15 years and continues to be one of the premier Tu B’Shevat events for preschool-aged children in Los Angeles. The event also serves as the major fundraiser for the preschool. Adults in attendance bid on a variety of items that have been solicited by our preschool community. This year, the festival has a goal of raising $25,000 to support preschool scholarships for families in need. According to Perez, “Everyone’s hard work pays dividends when you see happy families spending the day together at the Center.”

The success of the program is reflected in the overwhelming volunteer support we receive from our preschool community, the dollars we raise to help strengthen our preschool programs and the community we create together.

The making of a successful Tu B’Shevat Festival:

  1. Get Organized – Our preschool Parent Network collaborates with our staff and starts planning the event at the beginning of the school year and meets regularly to keep on task. At our first meeting, we establish our timeline, goals, roles and responsibilities.
  2. Get Everyone Involved – The Parent Network engages our entire preschool community with the planning and implementation of the Tu B’Shevat Festival. From soliciting gifts for the silent auction, to creating game booths, to volunteer the day of the event, and much more.
  3. Be Open to New Ideas – Every year we evaluate the program as a team and figure out ways we can improve the event to make it better.
  4. Always Put Community First – Remember why you are planning your event: To build community. Make sure that everyone attending feels welcome.
  5. Have Fun – Make the planning process fun for everyone involved. Provide food at all meetings, ensure that everyone’s ideas are heard and always be respectful of your volunteers’ time.

Ronnel Conn is assistant executive director at the Westside Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles, California.

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