One day, a pre-K student stopped in the office of Mandel ECE Center Director Kim Garra’s office. The child proudly showed the challah she had just made with the volunteer “Granny Group.” Then she animatedly detailed the process— rolling the dough, braiding it, adding colorful sprinkles to the top.
“Don’t you just love those grannies?” the child exclaimed.
“It was such a testament to why the Granny Group is here with us,” says Garra. “They not only bring additional Jewish content to our program, but also offer love, kindness, and respect to our children and their teachers.”
The Granny Group leads activities tied to Jewish holidays and themes nine times a year at the Mandel ECE Center. The group is comprised of students’ grandmothers (and grandpas, great-grandmas, aunts and uncles, too!)
Sheri Glauberman started the group when she had two grandchildren, assembling others, who like her had the time to volunteer. “We wanted to enrich the preschool experience,” she says.
They planned out projects involving Jewish food, craft and ritual. To support the group’s efforts, they applied for and were awarded a grant from the Jewish Women's Endowment Fund the Jewish Community Board of Akron.
“We address all the holidays and months that don’t have a holiday, we take a theme, like tzedekah,” Glauberman says. “There’s always some kind of educational component to it— through singing, dancing or storytelling. We do activities like making hamatashen or crafting shofars.”
“The ‘grannies’ have provided wonderful Jewish experiences for our children through music and hands-on activities each month,” says Garra. “The creations made together with the Granny Group go home with the children along with reading materials for our families to better explain Jewish culture and values.”
The group’s involvement has generated myriad benefits— for the children and by extension, their families. And for the Granny Group volunteers. “It’s really good for the grandmothers,” says Faye Regal, a great aunt who volunteers. “Who wouldn’t want to be involved with these kids?”
If the Mandel ECE Center needs additional help, beyond scheduled granny group days, “the volunteers are really thrilled to help,” explains Glauberman.
The Granny Group has extended the intergenerational and community benefits of their involvement by collaborating with the synagogues, The Lippman School and JFS. Lippman students now assist the Mandel ECE children and the grannies, when the Granny Group is there. It’s truly a community effort.
“It’s a wonderful thing to do mitzvoth with Lippman,” says Glauberman. “Those kids are fantastic!”
While the Granny Group has a good number of volunteers, they are always looking for more people to be involved.
“I think it’s important to get people involved—in some way, shape or form,” notes Regal.