Town Talk Features

Reaching Out: Karen Silverman of NCJW

meet volunteer karen silverman of chesterfield
national council of jewish women:
 to advance social and economic justice for all women, children and families

What made you interested in this particular cause? Friends told me about NCJW, and I wanted to have a way to connect with people my age outside just social reasons. I wanted to help people as well. As I became more involved, I saw that the Back to School Store was one of the strongest programs, and I felt an immediate connection to it more than anything. I’m an art teacher in the Parkway School District, and I’ve always been interested in the emotional and physical well-being of my students. When I see that they are happy, I know they are more motivated to do their best, and they’re going to be happier if they feel confident and have what they need for school. Our store gives students not only comfortable clothes to wear, school supplies, winter coats, shoes and more, it also gives them self-confidence. They feel good walking into school on the first day.

How long have you been a volunteer?
17 years

What kind of volunteer work are you involved with?
I’ve co-chaired the Back to School Store for the past eight years. All of the hard work of shopping, organizing and setting up is worth it when I see how excited the kids are, and I couldn’t do my part of the job without so many volunteers on the day the store is open. Eleven years ago, I accepted a nomination to the board of directors, and this upcoming year will be my first on the executive board. It’s wonderful to be involved with a group of people who have similar values. We can work for a common cause and enjoy each other’s company while helping others. So many of the women on the board are wonderful leaders and role models. I feel like I learn so much from my peers at monthly board meetings, and I’m very lucky to have found NCJW and to be able to surround myself with wonderful, inspirational women. I am also NCJW’s representative for the Jewish and Muslim Day of Service, which is every year on Christmas. In today’s world, it’s even more important to learn about people of different faiths and see that we have things in common. I love that the Back to School Store and Jewish and Muslim Day of Service give me the opportunity to involve my sons as well. They get a variety of community service experiences, and I hopefully am instilling in them a passion for making a difference in other people’s lives.

If you could do anything for the organization, what would it be?
I would want to give NCJW a larger space to store more supplies for the Back to School Store, and a bigger space to call our own for the day it’s open. We’ve also created Kids Community Closet as an outgrowth of the store. We maintain closets of supplies and clothing at the schools for students who may need something. I would love to supply closets to more schools because there are so many kids who need items on a regular basis.

in the words of the national council on jewish women: 
“Karen Silverman is an exceptional volunteer because of the passion, dedication and creativity she brings to her work. She truly cares about people and making a difference in their lives. She is a leader and role model for NCJW, as well as other community organizations.”

Photo: Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton Photography