Volunteering through the Generations

Written by Shlomit Ovadia of JCC Denver

For people like Robin Engleberg, community is more than just extracurricular. It’s an opportunity to continue the Jewish lifecycle and empower families and traditions to transcend time and place in meaningful ways.  

Robin recalls how her JCC Denver volunteer journey began in 1982. Her eldest child was enrolled in JCC Denver’s Early Learning School (ELS) and Robin decided to sign up for several different roles. 

“I thought you were supposed to sign up for everything, so I did,” Robin says, recollecting the hilarity of her response. 

Over the course of the nine years it took for all three of her children to go through the ELS system, Robin was busy leading other volunteers in numerous fundraisers and organizing activities. 

“ELS connects parents during a time when their kids are the most important things in their lives. You get to share that with other people who are also experiencing…all the joys and terrors and stress of being a [new] parent,” which leads to parents forming long-lasting and deep friendships with one another. 

Robin JCC preschool 1995

“ELS teachers were so competent at enriching children’s lives and teaching them things that often feel scary for new parents,” like how to swim or understand Jewish history like Hanukkah in a kid-friendly way. 

Robin’s children, now 43, 45, and 48, are a testament to this longevity, having remained friends with the kids they went to preschool with, and shared milestone moments attending Camp Shai and Ranch Camp, working as camp counselors, and more. It’s safe to say, “they were deeply imbedded.” 

Inspired by her volunteer work, Robin joined JCC Denver’s Board of Directors in 1984, where she served for eleven years. Yet, Robin didn’t stop there. She also became a JCC Denver employee, working as the Director of Youth and Family Services for ten years. Together with her team in 1998, Robin developed JCC Denver’s Jewish Baby University program, formally known as Shalom Baby. 

When prompted as to why she has stayed involved for so long, Robin says “it has to do with being immersed in a Jewish environment and having your kids be immersed in a Jewish environment.”  

“All the time in my Jewish life, I see people who went through Jewish Baby University and their kids are now very much formed adults. It is an innovative and impactful program.” 

Currently serving as a vital JCC Denver volunteer, Robin’s wish is to continue helping create community and connection among young families as their children progress onto other JCC programs, and for those same families to “form strong bonds with each other just the way I did, and so my focus is on the kids,” Robin explains, adding her soft spot for Ranch Camp. 

Over two decades later and now retired, Robin still feels at home and quite comfortable whenever she walks into the JCC for our monthly volunteer luncheons, feeling that “it’s uplifting to see when it is so busy and happening.” 

With everything going on in the world, Robin believes “it’s absolutely a time for us to come together and I don’t see how we can move forward any other way. Society needs community to flourish. Community can bring out the best in people.” 

We are always seeking volunteers. Looking to make an impact? Email us to join our Development volunteer committee today!