Founder of Mitzvah Day says we need to make time for the elderly

The saying goes that time is money, but Laura Marks, founder and chairwoman of Mitzvah Day, insists that giving up a day to help others cannot be matched.

The mother-of-three always gave money to charity, but one moment in life changed her views.

In 2005, she set up Mitzvah Day, a national day of giving which focuses on people volunteering their time to help the community.

Mrs Marks, who lives in Primrose Hill, began her career as the director of an advertising agency and her work took her to America, where she lived for three years. It was there she came across her first Mitzvah Day, where groups all across the country gave up their time for a good cause.

It was when visiting an old people’s home in Korea Town, Los Angeles, on that day that the importance of giving time and the amazing impact it could have really hit her.

Mrs Marks said: “It was me, my husband and four other families and tambourines and cakes, which we bought to this lonely home.

“Everyone started singing and dancing and, all of a sudden, I realised we’re getting through to these old people, just by coming along and dancing and singing with them.

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“It made me realise that we don’t do enough to make a difference in people’s lives.”

She added: “Living in north west London, we don’t have poverty – it’s not a poor area, but what we are poor in is time,”

Four years later, Mitzvah Day UK was born.

Mrs Marks started work on the project full time and it has since spread nationwide and become part of a larger campaign called A Year of Service, which encourages faith communities to each lead a day of charitable work.

“All religious groups have good works at the heart of them,” said Mrs Marks. “What we’re doing is harnessing the good work that’s going on, and building on it, with all faith groups coming together.”

She added: “We can and should give away money, but if we want to challenge ourselves, we should also give away our day.”

Mrs Marks has recently become vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which works to promote Jewish life in the community and abroad.

She urged others to get involved with Mitzvah Day on November 18 by taking part in the Ham&High Challenge, which asks readers to visit every older people’s home in the area.

All you need is a group of friends, colleagues or family members to join in. To sign up, call 020 7433 5160 or email We can match you with a retirement home or you can state a preference.