Looking for a kid-friendly, social-distancing summer activity? How about volunteering from home?

Volunteer in a Box is the brainchild of a Westminster rabbi and his family.

Rivka Brackman builds a teddy bear-making kit at Chabad of Northwest Metro Denver, the synagogue where she grew up. May 27, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Rivka Brackman builds a teddy bear-making kit at Chabad of Northwest Metro Denver, the synagogue where she grew up. May 27, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

KEVIN-lighter

Rivka Brackman’s parents were always helping someone out. As a child, she remembers her mother delivering Shabbat dinner every Friday to a widower who’d recently become a single parent. Then there was the young man who stayed at her home for at least a week while his father was in the hospital; she thought her parents were going to have to adopt him.

Brackman grew up going to a Westminster synagogue. Her dad, Benjy, led a congregation each Saturday in the family’s basement. Community service was part of the family’s daily routine, a practice that stemmed from their devotion.

“Someone needs our help, they need our love, so we’re gong to give it to them,” Brackman said. “It was so obvious.”

A few years ago, Benjy started a summer camp that offered kids community service opportunities when school was out. Camp Kind is going on its sixth year engaging young people from across the metro, but attendance this year will likely drop as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The crisis also sent Rivka home from New York City.

Back under her parents’ roof with a lot of free time, she’s taken on a project that may help spread Camp Kind’s mission as kids stay at home.

Volunteer in a Box offers service opportunities mailed right to people’s homes: kits to make soap, dog toys or teddy bears that are meant to be given away. The “give away” part is on the buyer to figure out, though Benjy said kids can mail their finished products back if they want help with distribution. The boxes range from $17 to $30 on Volunteer in a Box’s website.

“We want to show kids that being kind is cool,” he said. “We always wanted a way to take Camp Kind to more people.”

Rivka Brackman builds a teddy bear-making kit at Chabad of Northwest Metro Denver, the synagogue where she grew up. May 27, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Rivka Brackman builds a teddy bear-making kit at Chabad of Northwest Metro Denver, the synagogue where she grew up. May 27, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Benjy said he’s been thinking about how to get this project started for a few years, but it took a pandemic to get the ball rolling. His kids are all together again, and they’ve begun packing boxes to mail across the nation.

“Everyone’s home. We have a lot of hands on deck here,” he said.

Rivka, who’s 23, said she’s already learned a lot by launching the venture. She was working as a teacher before she came back to Colorado, so she loves that she can still shape kids’ minds from the synagogue where she grew up. In each box, she includes notes of encouragement.

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted,” one reads.

“It’s been a learning experience,” she said, “really fulfilling and cool.”

Rivka Brackman stands in the basement at Chabad of Northwest Metro Denver, the Westminster synagogue where she grew up. May 27, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Rivka Brackman stands in the basement at Chabad of Northwest Metro Denver, the Westminster synagogue where she grew up. May 27, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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