“Getting away” seems to be the phrase most used to describe summer breaks–headed to summer camps or family vacation with National Lampoon style road trips or marathon-ing TV shows critical to the back to school experience (have you not watched all of Orange is the New Black?  Maybe it’s just me).  This year though, The Network and JCRC’s ReachOut! offered opportunities to dive into Boston and get to know this amazing city in new ways through the Summer of Service program.

The Charles River is an amazingly quiet oasis surrounded by bustling suburbs and highways.  I’d always driven right past it, but with the Summer of Service, I joined up with more than 30 other volunteers to roll up our sleeves to help in the battle against invasive weeds.  Unbeknownst to me, water chestnuts have taken over parts of the river in recent years with dense growth that becomes almost like a floating mat that blocks light and decreases oxygen.  These are so not the kind you’d find in your Chinese food. 

Armed with gloves and laundry baskets to hold the pesky vegetation, we pulled more than 6,300 pounds of the weed in one afternoon.  With each acre potentially turning into 100 acres the next year, ReachOut!’s efforts over the past 3 years have played a big part in slowing the infestation. Fighting to pull the long roots out, getting a little muddy, seeing the giant mounds of weeds on the barges grow during the day, and chatting with fellow volunteers—it was a lot of fun!  Check out the photo album here if you find yourself doubting. 

Sitting in the boats and looking up at the highways I find myself stuck in traffic in often, it was amazing how a few dozen feet difference can completely change your perspective.    Instead of being worried about the meeting I might miss if that jerk on the cell phone cuts me off, I was able to appreciate a bit of what Boston must have been like before the highways took over.  If only I could still commute by boat!

Working with partners at young adult organizations across Jewish Boston, there were opportunities to work with fellow volunteers and communities we often don’t take the time to interact with, from the food insecure to the elderly to people with disabilities.  Each week of the Summer of Service offered a chance learn more about how we each see the city we share.

Unlike summer camp that has to end in August—the great people and opportunities for Summer of Service keep on rolling with our upcoming party to launch the next cycle ReachOut! cycle.  Stay tuned for more details!

Leah Robins is a member of the ReachOut! Steering Committee and has been a site captain for two cycles. She works as a legislative aide at the State House and fancies herself the leader of the pockets for women’s clothing movement.

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