Prelude: Brittany Tuggle

Ever since I was a child, I was taught that giving to others was the right thing to do. Now that I am older, I know it’s much deeper than that. It’s about sharing your time with someone and making a difference.

If you know me, you know I am a very emotional person. I never take anything for granted. Over the years, people gave their time to help me when they didn’t have to, they wanted to. Why wouldn’t I want to do the same for someone else? I honestly believe what you put out in the world comes back in some way.

When I found out about Volunteer Odyssey, I knew it was something I had to experience. Recently, I have been entertaining the idea of starting my own nonprofit organization one day. This was a great way to work around the city while getting inspiration. I also wanted to see if I could do it. I am the queen of saying, “I just don’t have the time to do that.” I challenged myself to free an entire week to help others. When I think about it, it wasn’t that hard. I committed to something, and I am going to do it.

Booker T. Washington said, “Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.” Keeping that in mind, enjoy my Volunteer Odyssey. Share in my happiness. I hope this inspires you in some way.


Week 5, Day 3: Samantha Hicks at Memphis Botanic Garden

IMAG1415Day three of my adventure was at the Memphis Botanic Garden. It was a beautiful day and the perfect weather for outdoor activities. When I arrived at the garden, I noticed that there were several school buses there. I assumed the Botanic Garden must be a hip place IMAG1420for elementary school field trips. After checking in with the staff, I found out that they were having their annual World of Plants festival. During this festival, 2nd through 6th grade students travel through the gardens to several different “countries”. At each station they learn a little about how the plants from that country influence the culture there. Students work on crafts, taste food, and learn lots about each country. The festival lasts for two weeks and the Botanic Gardens expect that they will host approximately 9,000 students during this time!IMAG1417

I was assigned to help out Taylor at the Netherlands. Here, students learned about how the individuals from this country make wooden shoes from Tulip Poplar trees (which just so happens to be the TN state tree). Students colored mini wooden shoes and attached magnets to the backs so they could display them at home. I had the opportunity to talk with hundreds of students throughout the day. They all raved about how they loved the festival. One student even said to me, “this is the best field trip ever”! It took most groups approximately one and a half to two hours to visit every country, and at the end of the day they had a large bag of goodies to take home with them.

IMAG1419One employee explained to me that they are usually very busy during the spring season because of the festivals and school groups that come in for field trips. They welcome the IMAG1418help from anyone who wants to volunteer. They also have a harvest festival in the fall, which I hear is equally as fun! I had a wonderful time today working with both the awesome employees, and the students outside in the beautiful weather!


Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job opportunity where I can apply my social work skills and improve our community. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way.

Week 5, Day 2: Samantha Hicks at Church Health Center

Day two of my journey with Volunteer Odyssey was at Church Health Center. I had heard of it before, however not being from the area I’ve always assumed that it was simply small medical clinic run by a local church; boy was I wrong! When I first drove into the facility, my first thought was that I was at the wrong place. I’d been imagining a small brick building, much like a doctor’s office. In reality, the Church Health Center facility that I had the privilege of volunteering in today is a large, two story building with lots of windows and natural light.

During the summer months every year, the health center hosts a weekly farmers market in their courtyard. It is open not only to the members of the center, but also to the general public. They can shop for locally grown produce, homemade bread, along with all sorts of other local goodies. The day that I was volunteering at the center, also happened to be the kickoff day for this year’s market.IMAG1405On this particular day, there happened to be a couple of health food vendors in attendance which was perfect for me considering I have a thing for food trucks as it is! This being said, naturally, I had to try something. I decided on a green smoothie from the “smoothie lady” and it was amazing! The farmers market is open every Tuesday during the summer months, so you have plenty of opportunities to stop by and shop around, and be sure to grab a green smoothie during your visit!

IMAG1407After finishing my smoothie, I went inside and got to work as I had been assigned to help in the nutrition center. They were hosting a luncheon for a local church group that was interested in learning more about the services that the Nutrition center has available. You may be wondering the same thing, right? I know I was. They offer a variety of different programs, with the most popular being their cooking demonstration classes. IMAG1409These demonstrations are held several times a week, and are aimed at teaching the participants recipes that are not only healthy, but also cost effective and can be easily incorporated into their weekly routines. Carolyn, who leads the demonstrations, explained to me that her goal is to keep an entire meal; dessert included believe it or not, under 600 calories! On this particular day, the meal that was demonstrated and then served to everyone in attendance totaled only 523 calories. I could not believe it! Trust me when I say, we weren’t simply serving a “deck of cards” sized piece of dried out chicken alongside a cup of green beans, which by the way is how my personal version of a healthy meal usually ends up. IMAG1408 Instead the menu consisted of a spring salad with a vinaigrette dressing, orange glazed chicken, healthy, and might I add delicious, fried rice, steamed broccoli, and then for the finale, drum roll please…..banana raspberry squares! IMAG1406Each and every part of the meal was amazing, while the demonstration was also extremely informative. All classes are offered to members of the center, however some classes are open to the public as well. You can stop by and see Carolyn anytime to get a schedule of all the classes.

Carolyn and her staff are teaching participants easy and economical ways to cook in a healthy manner. These small changes are something that can make a huge impact on the health of a community as a whole. Not to mention all of the other programs the center offers; yoga classes, a full gym, and a therapeutic swimming pool, just to name a few. This organization is doing amazing things to help the members of our local community become healthier as a whole. It is such a privilege that these services are available to everyone, including families who might not be able to pay for a gym membership at a local athletic club. If you are in the area I strongly suggest you take a minute to swing by and check out the Church Health Center. It will be well worth your time to take a look around and see the amazing things they have available.

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job opportunity where I can apply my social work skills and improve our community. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way:

Want to know more about Samantha? Check out her bio:


Week 5, Day 1: Samantha Hicks at SRVS

samrobertHello all! Let me start this week off with a confession. This is my first time blogging! I am a religious follower of tons of blogs and the writers are always so amazing that I feel like I am sitting down having tea with them, not sitting behind a computer screen on the other side of the country. I have been sitting in front of my computer while the television babysits my three year old for the last hour ( I know, mother of the year award material, for sure) trying to figure out how to make this next week interesting for everyone. I have had all kinds of wild delusions this past weekend while anticipating my blog writing. I have imagined adding “Samantha Hicks – Blogger Extraordinaire” to my resume and having the following conversation with a new friend at the play ground: New friend: “So what do you do for a living?” Me: “Oh nothing much. I blog. I’m a blogger.” Needless to say, these things are not really going to happen. So, I hope you all can bear with me throughout this week. I will try to make it as interesting as possible. My goal is for everyone to feel as though they are walking alongside me through my experience in volunteering over the next week. Let’s get started, shall we?

It’s Monday morning and I wake up extra early to make sure I arrive on time at SRVS (pronounced serves). I was especially nervous this morning because I was going to be working with a population I have had no experience with. After an amazing morning I now know I had absolutely no reason to be nervous. Let me tell you more about it. I walked into the lobby and was immediately struck by how beautiful the facilities were. The entire building was impeccably clean and was furnished with comfy, modern furniture and accessories. What a wonderful place for both the staff and the individuals receiving services to be able to spend their days. I also received a tour of the learning center facilities, where I was going to be spending my day. The area consisted of two main hallways that were broken up into several small classrooms. The participants spend their mornings working at their own pace on Montessori style activities. I know a little bit about the Montessori style teaching approach with children but had never heard of it being incorporated with adults with developmental disabilities. I found out from the curriculum director that SRVS is the first agency to offer this service to this particular population. What a wonderful idea! Montessori is all about working with each individual at their own level. Although the classrooms are generally grouped by ability level, each individual is unique, and has specific areas they enjoy working with. Being in the Montessori classroom enables them to work at their own pace on whatever activity they enjoy.samrichard2

The activities vary from math and science projects to activities that promote daily living skills such as pouring and scooping. Okay, enough of my Montessori spill! I can’t help it. I think it is an amazing approach to learning, and I’m so excited that the people who are served by SRVS are able to benefit from it!

I spent most of my time here working one on one with individuals in the classroom setting. Everyone was so interactive and seemed genuinely thrilled to welcome a new face into their classroom. The teachers appeared to have a wonderful relationship with each and every one of their students. They were all very kind and patient. It would be a lie to say that this is an easy population to work with. It comes with many challenges and the staff at SRVS all seemed to truly love being there and love all of the people that they work with.


In addition to the main classrooms the facility also offers several special activities, such as an amazing music room! The large room was filled with bongo drums, keyboards, and lots of other instruments. From talking with the individuals at SRVS it was clear that they all loved and looked forward to having music time. They also have an apartment model where participants can practice life skills such as ironing, making a bed, and sweeping. This particular day, the class I was working with was going to have a special treat in the afternoon. They were going on an outing to a movie theater. Most of the individuals look forward to going out to do things such as going to the movies and going bowling. However, there was one individual who did not want to go to the movies. The staff made special arrangements so that he could stay at the facility and practice music with another class. This is a wonderful example of how they accommodate to the needs and desires of everyone they serve. They recognize that they are working with adults who have their own individual personalities and treat them as such. I can imagine that it is sometimes hard to remember you are working with adults when working with the developmental disabled population. This does not happen at SRVS. The individuals are treated with dignity and respect. Overall, I had a wonderful time today! I look forward to returning to help out in the near future!

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job opportunity where I can apply my social work skills and improve our community. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way:

Want to know more about Samantha? Check out her bio:



Prelude: Samantha Hicks

For the last few years my life has been packed full of potty training, princesses, and playing pretend. I am lucky enough to have had the amazing opportunity of being a stay at home mom for the past three years. It has been an incredible experience, and I have relished in every moment of it. Aside from being a full time mother, staying at home with my daughter has also enabled me to complete a Master’s Degree in Social Work through The University of Tennessee’s distance learning program.

Nearing the end of my last semester of graduate school I decided that it was time to trade my mom jeans for dress slacks and begin my search for what they call a “real job”. After all, I couldn’t possibly believe that spending the next fifteen years at home playing dress up and having tea parties was actually an option. Could I? Either way, today I am nearing the two month mark and have applied for seventy-five, plus, jobs. I am quite new to the Memphis area and have decided that networking in the private/ non-profit sector may be beneficial in my search. What better way to accomplish this than by volunteering? It is a win-win for everyone involved, and furthermore I will have the opportunity to meet lots of new and exciting people to whom I can lend a couple of helping hands along the way. So, wish me luck! I am jumping into this experience head first, on a mission to help change lives and hopefully have mine changed along the way as well

Epilogue: Atina Rizk


Many carry heavy burdens, but helping lighten the load makes you stronger.

Many carry heavy burdens, but helping lighten the load always makes you stronger.

Seduced by flashing lights and bustling crowds, I have always wanted to move away to a bigger city. Skyscrapers and taxi cabs make me smile. This is how I have felt since I was a young girl. But volunteering in Memphis has caused me to fall in love with this city and makes me want to stay right here for a long time to come.

It’s exciting to live here where there is such a large community of people trying to help their fellow Memphians. During my week with Volunteer Odyssey, I got to help the elderly, the immobile, the homeless and alone, adults with special needs, school-age children with their homework, people struggling to be and stay healthy, those who have lost their sight, and parents just trying to keep their families together. The number of hours I spent volunteering pales in comparison to those put in every day by the other volunteers I met.

This community is full of volunteers, people who show up monthly, weekly, or even daily, year in and year out (some readers at WYPL have been there for more than a decade), to combat whatever plagues us. One could look at all the need and become overwhelmed or give up, but the people of Memphis don’t. As silly as it may sound to some, we really do grit. We really do grind.

I cannot say enough how much I loved this experience. I plan on continuing my involvement with several of the organizations that I visited. How could I not after compulsively visiting the ReStore so many times in one week? After hanging out with the Dorothy Day House residents and becoming honest-to-goodness friends with one of the moms? After seeing Clifton smile with pride while showing me SRVS? After tasting the delights of the Church Health Center kitchen?

Stand out. Give back.

Stand out. Give back.

I may even convince my family to get more involved in our community as well. Mom showed interest in the St. Mary’s Church Soup Kitchen, and Dad wants to volunteer at SRVS. They can tell that I am happier volunteering. I always want to make a difference. Volunteers make me smile. I want to have a positive impact on the world, and while perhaps that means I’ll have to leave for a bigger city somewhere, I know that I won’t find a better one anywhere.