Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Season of Service, Summer of Spark: Volunteering

Today I accomplished my goal of volunteering 200 hours! As this was already a modified goal- originally, I aimed for 100 hours for 2012 but I had met that by the end of May- I’m feeling quite triumphant.

Of course, I have my favorite organizations which I’ll probably support for life- Friends of the Multnomah County Library, Write Around Portland, The Children's Book Bank, Wordstock, and Multnomah County Library.

I also have some I like enough to go a somewhat regular basis- American Red Cross, Oregon Food Bank, and Schoolhouse Supplies- and places I’ve been meaning to visit again- Potluck in the Park and Kateri Park.

And, I’ve been checking out ones I’ve never done before and always wanted to try- Blanchet House of Hospitality and Loaves & Fishes- with plenty more to look forward to- Jean's Place and SCRAP!

One of the best things about volunteering has been meeting new people. Whether they’re just volunteering “just because” or for school/community service, it’s great to see them helping others and being part of something bigger and greater than themselves.

Recently, I met a family who travel to different states every summer and volunteer at each one. I talked to a guy who was volunteering for every day this month.

There have also been volunteers who’ve turned to bloggers and I want to share their sites with you.

Nature of A Servant- http://www.natureofaservant.com/ - I only met Andee once at the Children’s Book Bank but I’ve become one of her blog’s biggest fan. Her goal is to volunteer at least once every week this year! It’s been fun to read where she turns out next!

Give Our Time- http://giveourtime.com/ - Eric and I were both in the same Hands On TeamWorks team earlier this summer. He writes about how we can give our time to “become the people we really want to be.” What I like about his blog is that he shares so many ways- both big and small- that we can make a difference.

The Dana Project- http://katesdanaproject.blogspot.com/ - Kate was another TeamWorks participant. Her fairly new blog, in her own words, “is an experiment in generosity. I am volunteering 10% of my waking hours for one year (July 1st 2012-July 1st 2013). That’s 1.6 hours a day, 11.2 hours a week, 48 hours a month, and 585 hours over the course of the year.” Of course, I wish her the best!

I would appreciate it if you check out the organizations and blogs mentioned in this post. I would love to hear your own volunteering story!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Season of Service, Summer of Spark: TeamWorks

As part of my Season of Service, Summer of Spark, I signed up for a Hands On TeamWorks program. We recently wrapped up our final project and I wanted to reflect on this wonderfully unique and fulfilling experience.

Sunflowers (and a jumbo lollipop) at Zenger Farm

What is it? From Hands On’s website, “TeamWorks… offers [a team consisting of around 10-12] volunteers the opportunity to make a slightly longer-term commitment to volunteering… [working] together on a series of projects over a period of a couple months, allowing them to get to know one another and gain a deeper understanding of community issues.”

I’ve always been fascinated about what TeamWorks does but was also intimidated by the time commitment it seemed to require from people. So, it’s funny how things work out- how I suddenly had a lot of time to spare!

What was I expecting when I signed up? I wanted to challenge myself. Usually, my volunteering involved being indoors and focusing on literacy. Seeing all the different places, projects and organizations we’d be partnering up with offered a good balance of trying new things and still be within walking distance from my comfort zone.

Also, this TeamWorks’ particular goal of “Exploring Healthy Connected Neighborhoods“ was a concept that interested me. And I wanted to learn more about how this was happening all around me. It was cool that Dannon, our team leader, was able to time this TeamWorks as the city released the Portland Plan, an ambitious strategic approach to address and solve some of Portland’s most pressing challenges.

I met these expectations and got so much more out of it.

Our TeamWorks first met in Portsmouth- a neighborhood that was being dubbed as being “in transition-” which seemed like the perfect way to describe our group. We were all coming from different backgrounds- age, education, level of familiarity with Portland, jobs- but we all had the same volunteer spirit and wanted to connect with others and our city.
I loved getting to explore new neighborhoods and seeing how communities were coming together. We got a tour of Village Market, a corner store providing healthy options for the residents of North Portland. We manned an arts and crafts table at Café Au Play the same day it was holding its weekly Market- a far cry from when the space was being occupied by a convenience store involved in illegal operations.

I loved getting to meet new people. We went to City Hall and talked with Lisa Libby (Planning and Sustainability Director) about the Portland Plan. She was really friendly and knowledgeable. I highly encourage people to check out the Portland Plan if you want your mind blown at the scope of this project and to see what’s possible if we all work together.

I loved getting to do new things. Who knew I’d enjoy marking storm drains in the Fremont neighborhood?

I didn’t like my trash duty during the Sundown at EcoTrust concert even if I was in the shade. It was cool though that Portland throws these wonderful free events for people and is able to teach them a thing or two about sustainable living issues.

I didn’t like getting bitten by mosquitoes at Oaks BottomWildlife Refuge as we pulled invasive ivy and blackberries. But, the fact that in the city there’s this whole expanse of nature was kind of mind-boggling.

Even if I sound like I complain a lot (which I don’t, by the way), there were always upsides to everything we did.

During our potluck dinner at Zenger Farm after picking weeds from blueberry patches, I told them I was surprised that I actually liked them, that I wouldn’t mind hanging out with them in the future.

I’m even entertaining the idea of creating my own TeamWorks next year.

TeamWorks may have ended but I feel this was just the starting point for many of us. I’m sure (hopefully) I’ll cross paths with many of these people again!

The awesome TeamWorks team's first day together! (Photo courtesy of fellow TeamWorks member, Eric)

To read more about our volunteering, please visit Eric's blog "Give Our Time."