Pedaling Disciplists

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“We are going to bike around Midtown with a backpack full of burritos and hand them out to people on the streets who might be hungry.”

This was the prediction I gave my friend Katie about our night with the Urban Bicycle Food Ministry, and they turned out to be more or less correct. And while this is the basic premise of UBFM, it gives much more than food, it also gives hope and friendship.

There is something special about bike culture that is very approachable, and it applied to us being new to the group, and to the people we served. We spent some time talking and snacking before packing backpacks with burritos, water, granola bars, fruit snacks, and even some Halloween candy (a HUGE hit). Everyone was excited to begin their night as we assembled in the front yard and broke into teams, with each team preparing to take a different route. Katie and I joined Frank and Will, who are seasoned volunteers at UBFM.

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Frank helping me pack up my backpack before the ride. Best advice I got all night: don’t make your backpack too heavy!

My group took the “Madison route.” We trekked about 12 miles, but the emotional journey was much longer. Frank knew of many spots where we might encounter people who had nowhere to stay for the night, but were out on the streets. As we rode, I thought about what these people must experience on a daily basis. Tonight the weather was great, but I know that’s not always the case.

My friend Katie and I before we took off.

My friend Katie and I before we took off. She’s a good sport to have joined me. =]

We met many people out as we were biking. Some politely refused our offerings, but others were grateful to lighten our backpacks. Everyone was nice and wished us safe travels. One man told us it was his birthday. We wished him a happy one and gave him some candy. I was grateful I was able to share his birthday with him, even if briefly, and maybe make it little brighter.

Later we met a man, who said he was apartment hunting. Frank asked him if a bike would make this process easier. The man’s face lit up with a smile when Frank promised to return in a day or two with a new bike. I hope he finds a new place soon.

That is the kind of giving that UBFM concerns itself with, small gifts that make a big difference. One fellow bicyclist referred to our gang as “pedaling disciplists,” and I think this name fits perfectly.

By Dorothy Svgdik

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a community outreach or partnerships position at a non-profit organization in Memphis. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or dsvgdik@gmail.com.
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Head Start on Service

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Today my Volunteer Odyssey brought me to Porter-Leath’s expansive campus on Manassas Street. I met with my contact Angela in the main building, a beautiful three-story red brick structure that was an orphanage in the 1880s. It was built with funds raised to combat the Yellow Fever Epidemic, and has retained many of its original fixtures. After a brief tour of the administrative building, I was brought to the home of the Early Head Start program on site.

Early Head Start provides intervention and child development services to pregnant women and children from birth to age three.  The center has dedicated teachers that guide children through meals, planned activities, and free play every morning and afternoon. This week, the center celebrated Fall Week by making autumn themed arts and crafts like finger-painted pumpkins, and coordinated days to wear fall colors. Today’s color was yellow, and it was a sight to see all of the yellow-clad little ones!

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Some of the lovely Fall Fest themed hall decorations at Porter-Leath!

I aided the site manager in refreshing some of the more worn-out signs along the main hallway, and then visited each classroom to help with administrative duties. After making a few copies, I got to have a little fun. I played the bongos with one little boy and then had a few dizzying rounds of Ring-around-the-rosy with a precious little girl. The kids showed me a pumpkin their teachers carved the week before. Some kids were not the biggest fans of the pumpkin, forcing the teachers to reassure the more skeptical kids of the pumpkin’s character and intentions. Spending time in the classrooms reminded me of a daycare center I worked in during high school. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed working and playing with kids!

More amazing hall decorations at Porter-Leath - Pinterest approved!

More amazing hall decorations at Porter-Leath – Pinterest approved!

When the class went outside, I helped another volunteer (and aspiring social worker) facilitate a game of “Pin the smile on the pumpkin” for classes coming in from outside playtime. The kids had a great time taking turns decorating the pumpkin. They planted more smiles on their own faces than the pumpkin!

Being at Early Head Start reminded me of the joy and fulfillment working with children brings me. Porter-Leath is an amazing organization, evidenced by the positive space the Early Head Start program provides for kids to learn and play.

 

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a community outreach or partnerships position at a non-profit organization in Memphis. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or dsvgdik@gmail.com.
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The Best Kept Secret in Memphis

Behind the scenes packaging food parcels at the Catholic Charities of West Tennessee Fig Tree Food Pantry

“You never know, you may be the one bright thing that they see today. So be friendly!”

That advice came from Melinda, a volunteer I met at the Fig Tree Food Pantry. We were stationed in the front of the building, receiving clients and processing referrals from MIFA, Friends for Life, and the Med. It was emotional for me to be able to physically hand over food to each client. I took Melinda’s advice to heart and saw the difference that a smile accompanying the food gifts can make!

Standing up front preparing to hand out food parcels at the Fig Tree Food Pantry (with a smile!)

Standing up front preparing to hand out food parcels at the Fig Tree Food Pantry (with a smile!)

Melinda’s advice trickled through a day of many firsts for me: my first day of my Volunteer Odyssey, my first blog post of my volunteer week, and hopefully the first of many days helping at this food pantry. I had never visited a food pantry before, let alone offered to volunteer at one. I felt welcome and at ease from the moment I stepped out of my car until the time I left the Food Pantry (a half hour after I originally intended!).

I learned about the food pantry from the dedicated volunteers that showed me the ropes. The Fig Tree Food Panty is only one of the services offered by the Catholic Charities of West Tennessee. They also operate a clothing closet and a veterans’ initiative called St. Sebastian’s. The Food Pantry purchases food items such as canned fruits and veggies, bags of rice and beans, boxes of cereal, various meat, and even cake and cookie mixes from the Mid-South Food Bank, and then these items are put into bags organized by family size. Most boxes were designed for families of four or five.

After my initial stint at the front with Melinda, I moved to the back where I met Gloria and Mary, two other volunteers. From them I learned what goes in each food parcel, and the correct pronunciation of Quinoa. With all of the cans and boxes I hauled, I definitely gained some muscle today!

Packing up a box a the Fig Tree Food Pantry with the help of Ms. Gloria and Ms. Mary - so much fun!

Packing up a box at the Fig Tree Food Pantry with the help of Ms. Gloria and Ms. Mary – so much fun!

A committed circle of volunteers runs the Food Pantry; and it is astounding what this small group of people makes happen. The partnership the Food Bank and the Food Pantry have is a prime example of the type of community partnerships that I am interested in building and facilitating, and I am inspired by the effectiveness and cooperation of all these disparate organizations that work to successfully aid the hungry citizens of Memphis. Ms. Gloria called the Food Pantry one of the best-kept secrets in Memphis.

She may be right, but I hope the secret gets out soon.

 

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a community outreach or partnerships position at a non-profit organization in Memphis. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or dsvgdik@gmail.com.
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Prelude: Dorothy Svgdik

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As I sit here thinking about my Volunteer Odyssey, I feel as though I am mentally packing my bags and preparing to depart for some exotic location. While physically I may not be headed far from home, emotionally I feel that I will spend a week being transplanted into different worlds of service. I couldn’t be more excited! It will truly be an adventure not only into my community but into my own passions and goals. I can’t begin to fathom all that I will learn during my odyssey, but I do know that I am thrilled to begin it. Volunteering has never been one-sided for me, and I’ve been lucky enough to have been moved in indescribable ways through service. With this in mind, I am spending the time leading up to my week preparing myself to welcome this challenge with an open mind and heart, and see where the road I am on will take me!

However, the nervous anticipation that accompanies most journeys is also present. The excited restlessness that wonders: “What if I can’t speak the language well enough?” or “What if I get lost in an unfamiliar place?” except now I am wondering “How do I take this week and make the most of it?” I hope to embrace the unfamiliar and grow from it. In broadening my horizons personally and professionally, I know that I will find meaning and success in my journey!

I also can’t help but think about how grateful I am to have this opportunity and to be a part of Volunteer Odyssey, how important it is serve others. I look forward to making new connections with people employed at non-profits in the city, as well as the communities they serve. Volunteer Odyssey will allow me to help others, and in turn help myself. Hopefully, by the end of this week, I’ll have gained some insight into my skills, passions, and how to best apply them to a career where I can spend my time and energy improving the lives of others. I hope that you all will join me on my Volunteer Odyssey!

Dorothy is looking for a community outreach or partnerships position at a non-profit organization in Memphis that will allow her to connect with varied and diverse groups of people to make a difference.

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a community outreach or partnerships position at a non-profit organization in Memphis. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: mailto:jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or dsvgdik@gmail.com.
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Man’s Best Friends

Man’s Best Friends

By: Max Groce

I have been a pet owner all my life and I’m definitely a dog person.  We’ve always had rescues of some kind, so when I was told that I would be working at the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County I was very excited. I arrived at around two o’clock at their building out in Shelby farms. When I drove up I was surprised how modern and nice the building looked. I went in trough the intake office where they take pets in. I talked to one of the staff and she led me to Katie who was my coordinator for that day. Katie then gave me a quick orientation on what the Human Society is all about.

Katie informed me how they get mistaken all the time for being Memphis Animal Control which they are not at all. They do some intakes of animals from them but that is about the only business they have with them. She then proceeds to tell me about how it all kind of works. The Humane Shelter only takes in pets that are in life threating condition. She says it’s hard because they have to turn a lot of people away but it’s a must because of their lack of space. She tells me it’s getting harder for most shelters all over Memphis because of the overpopulation. That’s why the recently started project stop, which is a low income qualifying spay and neuter and program, where you can come get your pets spay and neutered and shots as well for the lowest cost in the city. This is what I worked on most of the time I was there.

The one and only Posey

The one and only Posey

Katie then introduced me to Matt; he set me up in an office and I started my work. He started me doing call backs for voice mails left at their office for program stop. I had to call them back verify the information put into an excel format that was already set up and then handle the client. I got at this for about 2 and half hours and it’s actually kind of enjoyable. You feel like you’re actually doing something because you’re talking to people and making sure there still interested and semi getting them set up to help their pets. To make it even better the front office where I was located they had two dogs up there, Posey who was an older fluffy dog who was just as relaxed as she could be. There was also a puppy named Nightwing who I was close to adopting if didn’t already have two monster dogs at home.

Manning the phones

Manning the phones

After I got done doing that Katie came and snatched me up to take me outside to do profiles on some of the new dogs that had arrived.  This was one of my favorite parts and I think it’s everybody’s favorite part who works there. We went out to the dog playgrounds, “which there were several” and the designated dog walkers would bring out different dogs and I would play with them. To be honest, I wasn’t too good at making profiles because I was too distracted by playing with some of the dogs, all of them which were awesome. You could definitely notice how each of them had different personalities.  I think my favorite was a three legged pit-bull named Honey-boo. She wasn’t a year old and she was the most playful and sweet dog I had met that day for sure. I would say that’s one of the greatest benefits of volunteering there, which is an honest appreciation for the work that this organization does. It’s incredibly rewarding to take an animal that had been injured and abused, whether it’s chemical burns or bum leg, and then nurse it back to health where they can experience happiness and joy again. To be given a chance to witness this great organization was and awesome experience in itself.

The best part of my whole day

The best part of my whole day

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as a business analyst. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: mailto:jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

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The Measure of Your Work

The Measure of Your Work.

By: Max Groce

To be honest, when I was told that I would be volunteering at the food bank I automatically assumed that it was the Memphis Food Bank.  A lot of people make this association when they hear the Mid-South Food Bank but from what I learned today I was very much mistaken. The Mid-South Food Bank doesn’t just serve the hungry in Memphis; it serves 31 counties in three states. This is not just food pantries either, this includes soup kitchens, shelters, youth and senior programs, rehabilitation and residential centers.

Good People

Good People

I drove to their center on South Dudley Street in the morning; I arrived and was quickly ushered into the boardroom with Ms. Paula and some volunteers from Kellogg’s that were going to be working with me today. Paula quickly filled me in on the history of the Mid-South food bank about how they fed close to 186,500 people last year and how they rely on volunteers for pretty much all the work that is done from the center that we were at.  We walked out into the hallway where we stand waiting for her to start our tour.  I notice a woman facing a huge window in a make shift office out of file cabinets, I ask Paula are most of the people that work here volunteers and she said yes. She tells me that volunteers often offer their special services like the lady by the window who was obviously doing some sort of data base retrieval and scheduling.  She takes through a white door and then when on the main floor of a large warehouse, surrounded by large pallets of food. While she’s taking us through the warehouse, there are people working all around us on forklifts pulling orders for the day. I think about how these orders that they are pulling are going all over the mid-south to feed the hungry.

Dr.Fry getting it done

Dr.Fry getting it done

Paula tells us when you think of food banks you think mostly about nonperishable foods, but the fact that I didn’t know is the Mid-South food bank is one of the only places that can accept fresh produce and meat due to their large refrigerators and freezers. We make it past the ware house to an area that looks like a grocery store and the other volunteers and I start sorting through large crates of food that is called salvage.  I start sorting out cake and hamburger helper while I laugh with the other volunteers about how they’re disappointed that there are not a lot of Kellogg’s products to sort. We put them into carts and then begin to take them and put them on the shelves and slowly try to straighten up the aisles. I do this for about two and half hours and then the Kellogg volunteers leave and I’m not far behind them.

The Food Bank Warehouse

The Food Bank Warehouse

I consider myself a pretty skilled individual, anything you ask me to do I can pretty much do. That’s from helping you paint walls to searching large data bases using semi complex computer programs. But today I learned that its they don’t always need the complex skills, sometimes the most helpful things that you can do is the simplest things, like simply sorting out food for the hungry and putting in on shelves. Paula tells me that this part is almost completely done by volunteers and It makes me reflect on truly every little thing that you do when you volunteer truly does help. I’d like to end this blog with a quote that Paula puts at the end of her emails and that is, “The heart of a volunteer is not measured by size, but by the depth of the commitment to make a difference in the lives of others.”

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as a business analyst. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: mailto:jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

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If you like our work, please consider making a contribution to keep it going.

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