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."