The Longest Day is an event to raise funds and awareness for the Alzheimer’s Association. This unique event is held annually, on or near, the summer solstice. The longest day of the year was chosen to honor those living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers, for whom every day is the longest day. This past year I fished all day on The Longest Day in celebration of my Grandpa Harry who battled Alzheimer’s during the last years of his life. Fishing is something he taught me and an activity I enjoyed sharing with him. This is my exact replica of the events with complete precision. I’d tell you to close your eyes so you can feel like you were there, but it might be tough to continue reading…
11:26 AM – You finally depart for the lake. Behind schedule as usual.
I’m certain I stiff armed a clown at some point and grabbed a Frisbee just before contact with my patrons.
After almost 5 months on the road without seeing my family, the last place you would think we would meet is in a parking lot all wearing orange shirts to stand out from the crowd as ushers at a parade. That is exactly how it happened though. This would be the first day we would all volunteer together, and I was excited for the experience. It should be noted that my Mom and brother are very active volunteers at the Humane Society and the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis, so they have volunteered together often. Any other times I can remember were as Cub Scouts or in school. This would certainly be the first time when we were all adults (or as much of an adult as one can be while living out of his car…). Continue reading “The Indy 500 Parade Ushers in Sections 29 & 30: Same Orange Shirt, Same Last Name”→
“Oh yeah that will fit” – every Goodwill Columbus team member describing any situation that involves trying to fit one more thing in to a space that you can’t imagine it fitting in.
As the doors closed on the semi-truck we had just filled with donations, I started kicking myself for not grabbing a picture of the truck. I often end up so engulfed in the event that I forget to take a picture, since me describing how full the truck was to you the loyal reader simply wouldn’t do it justice. Moments later another car pulled around the corner…with a couch and a table. Despite saying we wouldn’t take any more donations, sometimes it is just hard to say no. So as they asked if we could take it, the Goodwill team said yes. They would make it fit. They would find a way. And I would get one more shot at that picture of the now even a little more full semi-truck. Continue reading “Playing Semi-Truck Tetris with Goodwill Columbus”→
As the most recent Run to #ENDALZ runner was headed our way, there was something entirely different about how he was embracing the crowd. Don’t get me wrong, the high fives were invigorating, but I was ready to step up my game. Most of the team runners lit up when they saw the purple people ahead. Some would stop to hug a family member or two, but the rest of us would greet them with high fives as they charged on for the remaining 10 miles. This runner (Jeff as I would learn later) was stopping for a LOT of hugs. As he approached, I told my new Keurig friends that I was going for it. I had so much energy watching so many people putting everything they had into this race. I went Continue reading “At the Boston Marathon 25,383rd can be just as impressive as 1st”→
“Have you ever volunteered with us in the past? Have you ever worked in a library before? Shelved books before?” – Dennis
“No…no…no.” – Me
“Are you familiar with how the system works?” – Dennis (face showing he is getting a little concerned)
“I have read a few books and been in a library before…” – Me (sarcastic smile that drew a laugh)
How hard could it be? You pick up the book and put it in the right place. Those were my thoughts going into shelving books with Books for America. Books for America is a non-profit organization that donates new and used books and other forms of educational media to disadvantaged organizations and schools. They have now awarded grants of 1 million books to schools, shelters, and many other educational programs and organizations. I was working Continue reading “Books for America strives to put the power of reading in the hands of everyone”→
Physiological needs are the basic human needs that should be met first. They include food, water, breathing, sleep, and shelter from the elements. Some might phrase shelter from the elements as warmth. There are a lot of volunteer opportunities geared towards meeting the food and water portion of these physiological needs, but on a Saturday in Raleigh I worked with an organization that was geared towards helping individuals meet their basic need for shelter from the elements. More specifically…warmth.
I often try to keep an open mind going in to my volunteer events and enjoy hearing about the organization directly from the people involved, so I had just a general idea of what we would be doing when I pulled up. As soon as I pulled on to the property where we would be working, I noticed Continue reading “From Forest to Furnace with Warmth for Wake”→
As you probably figured out, I fell behind my 3 hours every weekend pace in Georgia as I bounced around to different cities and focused on visiting friends and seeing the sights. I knew I would have a few weeks in Raleigh where I knew fewer people and could spend some more time focusing on my community service goal. To catch up this past Saturday, I attended two community service events. The two events were just a little different in nature… Continue reading “From rows of veggies to rows of undies…community service can take many forms”→
On Thursday, I was in a laundromat for the first time. One word you may be using to describe me: spoiled. Over the years, I have always been lucky enough to live in a place that has a washer and dryer. The “chore” of doing laundry is one that I often put off for as long as possible, but it has never been because I simply didn’t have the money to do the laundry or because I felt that was something I could skimp on to save some extra cash.
As part of this journey, I will look to put myself in places I have never been and experience situations that are unfamiliar to me. Thursday was a great opportunity to do both of these. My first experience in a laundromat was eye-opening, entertaining and enjoyable.
This was the final step towards my goal of completing 12 hours of community service in Orlando. I found out about the opportunity through Volunteer Match. The site is a great way to find new and exciting opportunities to volunteer in your own community. After a few emails with Brianna (the incredible leader of the Movement), I was locked in to join the Street Team Movement on Thursday morning. Armed with good intentions and an open mind, I showed up at the laundromat a little before the 8:45 AM suggested arrival time. I walked in and sat down. The one patron in the laundromat asked if Bri (Briana’s more common name as I would find out later) was going to be there today. Either it was the fact that I had no laundry in tow or the fact that I looked out of place, but he knew I was there with Street Team Movement. I knew the name from the email, so I gave a quick yes.
Bri would walk in a little later with Big Show carrying a well-organized box of supplies. I immediately realized my vision of just throwing quarters in machines was well off. They had this operation down to a tee. Bri was the fearless leader (she gives 30 hours a week to the movement on top of her job!) of the team of 3 others, a volunteering photographer (pictures to update website), and me on this day. This was operated like a true business. An individual had to make an appointment with the Team for Tuesday evening or Thursday morning. Although there was a grace period of 15 minutes, they had to make their appointment to get their laundry done that day.
When the individuals showed up with their laundry they were logged into a binder with separated tabs for the different days and a history of all records. I was quickly reminded of previous treasurer days when Bri explained how important it was that every quarter used was recorded. After checking in with Carrol, their name was put on a dry erase placard(s). Two was the maximum number of loads the individual could do. Marie then took the name and searched for an open washer to clothespin the name to the swinging door. She also provided the individual with laundry detergent. The Street Team Movement even has their own Laundry Detergent! Big Show was the money man and had the bag of quarters. He helped the individual set the time, temperature, etc. to get the load started. He shouted back across the room to Carrol who recorded the amount of money used for that individual. This was carefully recorded in the binder. A similar process took place on the move from the washer to the dryer. Everything was down to a science and there could be no open washer/dryer time in order for the Team to keep all of the appointments.
After learning the process, I hopped in wherever I could. With a limited number of washers/dryers, my main goal was to make sure there were no open machines. When a washer was done, I found the correct individual and helped them move to an open dryer. Bri was free to go grab coffee for the individuals doing laundry as they waited for it to finish or waited for their turn on a machine. This was much appreciated by all and one man even shared a packet of hot chocolate that he had in his backpack. As I looked around, I soaked it all in. Everyone knew Bri and most of the other volunteers. The interactions were that of friends. There was joking and laughing. Birthday wishes were given to one lady who happened to be celebrating her birthday. She also deflected attention to another lady who had celebrated her birthday the day before. This was more than just laundry. I was witnessing interactions among a community. I was affectionately referred to as the “New Guy” on multiple occasions. That is pretty close to acceptance…right? Regardless, I felt accepted and enjoyed my experience. Laundry will never be the same for me again.
UPDATE: This was a recount of my first experience with the Street Team Movement, but I returned the following week. My second Thursday back with the Street Team Movement allowed me to connect more with Carrol and Big Show as they shared stories and advice. I was in charge of the markers and monitoring the machines with Marie and Bri not able to make it in.
“If it starts going to fast or you get behind, just hit the red button.” -Ang
Who knew making lunch could be so fun? You would think the more lunches you have to make, the less fun it would be, but over the past two days I have helped make upwards of 4,000 breakfasts and lunches as part of my goal to complete 12 hours of community service each month in the city that I visit. This is only a small segment of the amount of meals the Second Harvest Food Bank has helped provide since 1983.
I found the opportunity by searching for local soup kitchens and landed on the Second Harvest Food Bank website. They made it very easy to sign up for a shift and show up to volunteer. I volunteered in the Meals for Good section of the Food Bank. “Meals for Good is a service that provides freshly prepared meals to early childcare centers, children’s after school programs, group homes, senior feeding programs, and private and charter schools.” On Monday when I came in, I was one of just a few volunteers…I had to scrape my car that morning (in Orlando!) and the consensus was that the cold weather kept some of the other volunteers away (apologies to the parts of the country that actually couldn’t get out of the driveway on Monday…). This provided me a great opportunity to fill a variety of roles and meet some of the people that work in the Food Bank and learn their story. I have met some amazing people over the two days of work.
My first day, I was placed on a shift under Ang. She put me right into the action. When you have a volunteer for just 3 hours, you have to get them up to speed quickly. She quoted my long arms as the reason to place me in the role of placing the cups in the machine to be filled first. Easy enough I thought. Nope. Within a few minutes I was hitting the “Red Button of Defeat” as I called it. This was a way to stop the production when I got behind. During that first experience, I was consistently hitting the “Red Button of Defeat.” I wondered how I could keep up with this and wished it would move just a little slower, but I was determined. It quickly turned into a game for me….and I’d have to say I got much better.
When I arrived the second day, there were many more volunteers and it looked like it was going to be a productive day. I knew exactly where I wanted to work though. Luckily, Ang saw the progress and welcomed me back to her team the second day in the same role. My second day on the job, I only hit the “Red Button of Defeat” because I was behind a couple of times. It was my long arms that initially earned me a spot filling the sealing machine, but this was not enough. It took careful precision and the avoidance of any mistakes. Dropping a cup was costly. Ang made sure everyone was put in a position to succeed and she would not hesitate to move you, so I was proud to keep my position as the machine filler.
Although I turned the job into a game and received a lot of enjoyment from doing this, the real enjoyment was from the people I met working. I probably learned the most about Zola, notably because as she would admit, she did most of the talking. Whatever you do, don’t let her drive through the mountains as she will not exceed 34 MPH and may have a few tears on the way. Her family has 5 generations living! She cares a great deal about her daughters and her son. She certainly spoils her grandkids as any good grandma would do.
Just as I was, Shannon was a little quieter than Zola. She was more than happy to poke some fun around and I was happy to poke fun right back. She even helped me with suggestions for my workout plan as we somehow landed on the topic of lanky tall guys…wonder how that happened. She could immediately place any song on the radio to a movie and I think I was about 0 for 5 before she decided I was probably never going to get one right.
Ang was the leader of the area where I worked most of the time. She was as hard working as they come and she was very good at her job. Her efficiency was second to none. She truly enjoyed the task of filling all the meals each day and made my volunteering very enjoyable. Ang was always quick to share compliments across her team and constantly focused on others. I learned about her youngest son who is playing both sides of the ball in football and wants to be a quarterback. After telling me this, she said “see Matt I do know about sports” as we had talked briefly about my job and my love of sports earlier.
Could not have asked for a better experience for 6 of my 12 Orlando community service hours! You should know that for my final action as a volunteer on Tuesday, we ran the cantaloupe in the pyramids pictured. I did not hit the Red Button of Defeat once in this string of 450+ cups in under 12 minutes!