Home Is Where the Heart Is

photo 3

Day 6. I have driven past The Dorothy Day House of Hospitality numerous times and never even knew it existed. The sign-less large gray house sits on Poplar Avenue with no indication of the wonderful organization that functions inside.

Dorothy Day was an activist for people acquiring jobs and places to stay that were safe. In the 1930s, Dorothy and Peter Maurin started the Catholic Workers Movement in New York

Volunteers of all ages join for Sunday prayer.

Volunteers of all ages join for Sunday prayer.

City to help the overwhelming homeless population secure safety with shelter, food, and clothing. More than 250 Dorothy Day Houses exist in the US today, and each is based on the needs of its respective area. For example, a particular House may cater specifically to immigrants or those living with alcoholism. The Memphis mission is “Keeping Homeless Families Together.” In Memphis, if a family has no home, but has a job, the city will pay a security deposit and one month’s rent. However, if a family is homeless but does not have a job, they will be sent to a shelter. The men reside at the Union Mission, and the women sleep at the Salvation Army. If space allows, small boys are allowed to stay at the Salvation Army, but the shelter is usually full, causing families to be separated. When this happens, the boys most likely end up in foster care and away from their mothers’ arms.

Having opened in May 2006 in Memphis, The Dorothy Day House of Hospitality has served 31 families with no more than three families living in the house at one time. The families go through extensive interviews, drug testing, background checks, etc., and the House provides anything residents need to get back on their feet as long as they are working hard toward independence. It provides clothes, transportation, GED test registration fees, and counseling, to name a few services. Unfortunately, around 150 families are homeless each night, and the Dorothy Day House must turn away 8-10 families per week. The smaller amount of families lets the organization really work with each resident on a daily basis to set, focus on and reach their goals.

Walking in, I was greeted by Sister Maureen, the executive director, who gave me a

The amazing stovetop warming a pot of coffee.

The amazing stovetop warming a pot of coffee.

historical overview of The Dorothy Day House and then invited me to join everyone in Sunday prayer. In addition to the six residents of the house, a board member, her young daughter, and a leader in the ministry all congregated in the spacious and comfy living room decorated with a deep couch and several oversized armchairs to give thanks and pray for hope. It’s no surprise Sister Maureen’s favorite Dorothy Day quote is “Put a pot of coffee and a pot of soup on the stove, open the door, and God will take care of the rest” because as soon as prayer ended, we all gathered for much appreciated coffee and delicious homemade desserts.

As soon as I saw the kitchen, I was instantly amazed. It was the most well-equipped cooking

Enjoying delicious homemade cake.

Enjoying delicious homemade cake.

space I had ever seen: double ovens, two Sub-Zero refrigerators, and an eight-burner stovetop! The dining room had a gorgeous, brown table surrounded by around eight plush, matching chairs as well as a massive white-stone fireplace. There was also a playroom that doubled as an office, which was fully adorned with children’s toys such as a cooking station and contained two computers hooked up to the Internet for researching potential jobs. A handicap accessible bathroom connected to the playroom. The residents sleep upstairs, where there is a total of three bedrooms and three full bathrooms.

During my visit, there were two families staying in the house. One young mother, who was about to take her GED exam, had two small boys between ages 1 and 3. These boys were

If one came to sit in my lap, the other wasn't far behind.

If one came to sit in my lap, the other wasn’t far behind.

hands-down the most adorable children and were so excited to see pictures of themselves and even my dog, Schnauzie. The younger brother loved playing his tiny piano and loudly giggled each time he created music of any sort. The laughter of a baby is one of the most joyous sounds in this world! The older brother had so much energy and would dart from room to room, conversing with anyone who would listen. The other family consisted of a 14 year old son, 20 year old daughter, and a mother, who had one on the way (due on Wednesday!). The daughter had just passed her CPR certification and had two job interviews last week. I was able to connect with the 14 year old as we spoke about high school, track, and iPhones. I really had a great time speaking and interacting with these wonderful people while in the House, and I hope I am able to become more involved in helping this magnificent organization thrive.

While I did not learn why these particular families needed to stay in The Dorothy Day House, Sister Maureen gave me a few reasons why families have come here in the past. One mother was in an accident that totaled her car. Sadly, this prevented her from traveling, and she lost her job as a result. Another family had jobs, but did not make enough money to rent an apartment. They did all that they could to make ends meet and that still wasn’t enough. Lastly, generational poverty can be a huge hindrance. Can you imagine what success would look like if you had never personally witnessed it?

The Dorothy Day House of Hospitality is a hidden gem in Memphis. It only receives funding

So full of life!

So full of life!

through private donations including monetary as well as furniture. There are other ways to help though through volunteer programs including but not limited to providing meals for the families, registering personal Kroger cards, various types of manual labor, and hosting childcare. To find out more about The Dorothy Day of Hospitality, visit www.DorothyDayMemphis.org. The organization is even being featured in The Bridge, a newspaper written by those affected by homelessness. I plan to purchase mine for $1 at The Memphis Farmer’s Market on Saturday! Additionally, The Memphis Rotary Club is hosting a Rotary Bicycle Ride benefiting The Dorothy Day House on April 26, 2014 at Overton Park. You have the option to ride 50 miles, 30 miles, participate in a fun walk/run/ride, or just come to cheer people on. To register for this fantastic event, visit www.rotaryfamilyride.com.

Six days down – only one more to go! Stay tuned for Day 7!

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job in writing, event planning, communications, or teaching. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or aesamsell@gmail.com.

—————————————————————————————————————————————

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

Want the insider story and more pictures? Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Epilogue: Alexandra Samsell

photo 3 (2)

Where do I even begin? My Volunteer Odyssey experience brought out so many different photo 3 (2)emotions in me, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Throughout this entire experience, I kept thinking of one word for how I felt: overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed by the kindness of everyone I encountered and their willingness to help me in any way they could. I was overwhelmed by the beautiful missions and mass of information I learned about each organization. I was overwhelmed by the whole volunteer process.

I had naively gone into Volunteer Odyssey thinking I could still fill up my social calendar and be raring to go for anything that spontaneously came up. This was simply not the case. Even though I enjoy writing and was familiar with short turnaround times from my graduate school days, I had not exercised that part of my brain that rigorously in a while. To be completely honest, I was exhausted by the end of my volunteer week, but it was worth it!

The word “grateful” kept popping up in throughout my blog posts because that’s how I feel. Being somewhat new to Memphis, I wasn’t sure where to start to become more knowledgeable and involved in the non-profit community. Volunteer Odyssey provided the framework for me to build a network, and I can’t express how thankful I am to have been able to participate in the program. I was inspired by the seven organizations I visited, not only by the passionate staff of each, but also by the people who benefit from the organizations’ work. I urge everyone to volunteer at various non-profits in their communities, especially the ones they know little or nothing about because it might be motivating to think about people of different backgrounds in a new way.

I would like to thank two very special people who have been extremely involved during my journey. Leah Fitzpatrick, my blog editor, has helped me to become a better writer. She advised me on grammar, formatting, and content suggestions for each of my pieces. Her guidance was invaluable, and I am appreciative to have learned such critical writing skills I can take with me wherever I go in life. Thanks for the thorough feedback, Leah!

Second, I’d like to thank Sarah Petschonek, who created the Volunteer Odyssey program. She is an incredible woman who supported me every step of the way. She stayed “on call” during my entire week of volunteering to address any questions or concerns I had, and also introduced me to people who weren’t part of my Odyssey. She set up great openings for me to network with so many wonderful people in our community. You are a rockstar!

photo 1 (2)If I could, I would participate in Volunteer Odyssey every week! It was a life-changing experience and I have met and even become friends with numerous connections from my journey. I am eager to continue to support the places I visited and have continued to volunteer after my designated week. I am excited for all of the new opportunities I now have because of my participation in Volunteer Odyssey and I’m ready put my new skills to work! Thank you for sharing this adventure with me – I hope you enjoyed reading about it!

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job in writing, event planning, communications, or teaching. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or aesamsell@gmail.com.

—————————————————————————————————————————————

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

Want the insider story and more pictures? Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

From Little Seedlings, Mighty Oaks Grow

Ready for action!

Day 5. In high school, I got up before the sun rose to compete in crew regattas. Waking up this morning took me back to that time, when I had the privilege of experiencing the world

Ready for action!

Ready for action!

before it succumbs to the hustle and bustle of life while feeling a silent electricity in the atmosphere knowing I’m about to unite with open nature. Today those memories stirred in my mind as I participated in the Wolf River Conservancy’s 9th Annual Tree Planting at Shelby Farms Park. It was hard to believe this is the first week of spring as the day proved extremely cold and windy, and even though the sun decided to sleep in, we lucked out with dry skies. Despite the weather, more than 200 volunteers of all ages signed up for this philanthropy, and no one was afraid to get a little dirty. Picture this: toddlers playing in giant dirt hills while elementary school-aged children enthusiastically ran potted seedlings to their designated homes.

About 7,000 trees and shrubberies were planted this morning, and my table was in charge of

John and I potting the pin oaks.

John and I potting the pin oaks.

the pin oak trees. My job entailed putting a seedling in a plastic plant pot while my partner and fellow volunteer, John Huggins, covered it up with dirt just up until it hit the collar. I packed the dirt down so it would be firm when it rained, and then the tree was ready to be placed in the specified pin oak area. Collectively, we must have planted at least a hundred pin oaks. Every time our pile of seedlings thinned out and we thought we were on the brink of finishing, someone would appear with another bag of fresh seedlings to pack. I swear for each pin oak removed from the pile, five more showed up in its place – it was hilarious!

The Wolf River Conservancy had a very efficient assembly line happening. There were people on the enormous mounds of dirt who shoveled it into buckets for runners to deliver to the tables where we potted the plants. The runners also collected all of the empty dirt buckets to be filled up again. For the majority of the event, my table consisted of a family of four, John,

Volunteers working hard.

Volunteers working hard.

and me. We talked the entire time, and I really enjoyed working with these people. It was a bonding experience. I wore thin, pink gardening gloves I won from a trivia game, and my hands became wet and freezing because they were not protected from the moist, cool soil. John was so kind and brought me a hot cup of coffee that seemed to magically bring me back to life! In addition to coffee, the conservancy also provided water, fruit, granola bars, turkey roll ups, and chocolates, and needless to say, the volunteers were very appreciative. Keith Cole, the executive director, and Mayor Luttrell, the mayor of Shelby County, both made inspiring speeches about the Wolf River Conservancy and our big-hearted members of the community committed to preserving the river.

The mission states, “The Wolf River Conservancy is dedicated to the protection and

Shelby Farms Park was so spacious and calming.

Shelby Farms Park was so spacious and calming.

enhancement of the Wolf River watershed as a sustainable natural resource.” When a gravel mine was going to be built along the river in 1985, volunteers prevented the mine from proceeding and thus founded the non-profit organization to further protect the river and the area’s respective wildlife. John told me he and a friend counted almost 300 deer the other night!  He is a member of the conservancy and enjoys all of the benefits it offers, especially kayaking on the water. There are so many fabulous activities, programs, and ways to get involved. You can choose from various plans and an individual membership is only $35/year! To learn more about Wolf River Conservancy the programs it offers, visit www.wolfriver.org.

It was so nice to be outside connecting with nature. As soon as I arrived at Shelby Farms Park, I immediately felt a sense of calmness washing over me. I truly relish being out in the open air and I do not believe I take advantage of what this organization has to offer. I enjoyed getting in touch with my nature spirit today – it most certainly won’t be the last time! Stay tuned for Day 6!

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job in writing, event planning, communications, or teaching. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or aesamsell@gmail.com.

—————————————————————————————————————————————

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

Want the insider story and more pictures? Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Mm..Mm..Gumbo

I received my own desk and computer to work.

Day 4. Porter-Leath was originally created to help parentless children sustain life in Memphis when war and disease became widespread in the 1800s. It has since transformed from an orphanage to an organization that aids more than 10,000 at-risk families and children each year in becoming healthier physically, intellectually, developmentally, and socially. Now, Porter-Leath offers a plethora of programs for people of all ages to engage in, and each one is specifically tailored to the unique needs of the community. To learn more about the programs and events Porter-Leath has to offer, visit www.porterleath.org.

This was my first odyssey where I knew the person I would be volunteering with beforehand!

Alexandra & Angela getting ready for Rajun Cajun!

Alexandra & Angela getting ready for Rajun Cajun!

I had met Angela Meekins through the Junior League of Memphis’s Leaders Evolving and Developing (LEAD) course in 2013, and it was so fun to reconnect with her now. As the development coordinator, Angela is in charge of Porter-Leath’s social media accounts as well as planning and executing fundraising events. Since event planning and writing/educating are on my TOP five skills and interests list, I felt Angela was the perfect person to shadow.

Luckily, I was able to help with Porter-Leath’s two huge events: Mumbo Gumbo on March 30and the 22nd City Auto Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival on April 27. At Mumbo Gumbo, registered teams come together to cook and compete to see who makes the best gumbo in the area, with the winner securing a spot in the Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival Gumbo Contest. Speaking of the contest, The Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival is a delicious event in downtown Memphis that includes some 18,000 pounds of crawfish, live music, various food vendors, and a gumbo competition. Visit the Porter-Leath website for more details on these awesome experiences! Back to my

I received my own desk and computer to work.

I received my own desk and computer to work.

odyssey…I updated and reformatted the Mumbo Gumbo Final Team Lists while Angela called all of the head cooks to confirm any last-minute specifics. I even used a paper cutter for the first time on the judging criteria slips and packed up all of the materials needed for Sunday’s festivities (Angela was ecstatic when I found the 4 ounce gumbo cups hiding in the kitchen). The experience basically included of the organizational details I crave, which meant I was in heaven! Angela then taught me some strategic and brilliant tips and tricks about how to more effectively use social media for an organization versus an individual. For example, Facebook accounts for individuals cannot schedule future posts, but business accounts provide that feature. Afterward, she let me pick Porter-Leath’s #funfactfriday post: Did you know 93 percent of Americans have eaten pizza this month?

Before I left, Angela gave me an informative tour of Porter-Leath. I kept referring to it as an old college campus because it had gorgeous brick walkways, a gazebo, and old buildings – some with beautiful red brick and one that resembled a fairytale cottage. It sits on nine acres,

Decor at the Early Head Start Program

Decor at the Early Head Start Program

so there was plenty of fresh air to breathe in while in route to our many destinations. Porter-Leath holds an “open-door” policy and it was interesting to walk around while every office door was open, welcoming any curious visitors. Angela was able to take me to the building where “Early Head Start” goes on, a program for children under the age of 4 to stay for at least six hours a day. The facilitators work with parents to identify and meet any developmental and health needs of the children. Most of the children had already gone home, but we were able to witness a few rascals running around on the playground. They were undeniably adorable. The last stop we made was “Sarah’s House”, where homeless teenagers under age 18 can be sheltered. We only briefly peeked into the cafeteria before leaving to give the residents their privacy.

I had such a great time with Angela and Porter-Leath that they invited me to come back next week! I really connected with their mission and learned critical development and marketing skills. Stay tuned for Day 5!

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job in writing, event planning, communications, or teaching. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or aesamsell@gmail.com.

—————————————————————————————————————————————

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

Want the insider story and more pictures? Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Knowledge Is Power

Alexandra reminiscing about teaching

Day 3. I had no idea what to expect driving up to the Refugee Empowerment Program since I had never interacted with refugees before. My experience tonight was different from the

Alexandra reminiscing about teaching

Alexandra reminiscing about teaching

previous two odysseys because I was able to directly interact with the members of the program. After I walked through the door, I was immediately surrounded by a ton of loud and talkative children and teenagers, both participants and volunteers alike. I was very impressed to learn that hundreds of people volunteer with REP each year! Soon enough, I was sent upstairs to the Level I Adult ESL night class. Because of the rain and evening time, there were only three refugees in attendance, but I felt that was a great number because it gave the volunteers more time with each student. The small, carpeted classroom was decorated similarly to a kindergarten class with brightly animated posters of the alphabet, shapes, and colors. It wasn’t until I saw the simple worksheet explaining the letter “J” did I realize that these people did not have even a basic understanding of the English language. They came to a foreign country seeking asylum without knowing the native dialect and my heart immediately went out to them. I imagined myself moving to a country with a foreign language and not being able to effectively communicate with the locals. It would be extremely frustrating to say the very least.

Liz Jarvis, REP's Youth Outreach Specialist

Liz Jarvis, REP’s Youth Outreach Specialist

When the class started, we each stood up and stated our names and countries of origin. We then reviewed the sounds of 20 previously learned alphabet letters and tried to think of words that started with each letter. That’s when it hit me. This wasn’t like my high school French class at all. I was taught French in my native language, while the participants in this class are being taught in the same language they are trying to learn! It was fun at times to see how explaining the meanings of words turned into a game of charades. (As we get older, our education absorption slows down and we may lose vital learning tools such as our hearing.) I was so impressed and proud of how determined these three people were to obtain a solid grasp of English.

We also studied the most commonly used colors and shapes such as “red” and “triangle.” Do you remember drawing a heart for the first time? I was able to witness that tonight. My favorite part of the class was the one on one tutoring session. There were three volunteers in attendance so we were able to personally work with each student to teach them how to read words starting with the letter “J”. I had previously taught at the collegiate level, but this experience was completely different. I felt so privileged to help my partner read “Jack and Jen jump and jog.” After finishing a few more sentences, she portrayed a sense of accomplishment by smiling victoriously and I was so happy to be able to share that with her.

In 2002, a Sudanese refugee realized that other refugees in her community were having similar struggles as she was adjusting to American culture, so she decided to take matters into her own hands by starting a program to help 12 refugee children finish their homework. The program soon became the Refugee Empowerment Program (REP) and has helped more

Learning to write the letter "J"

Learning to write the letter “J”

than 400 refugees of diverse backgrounds and nationalities of all ages become better acclimated to the United States of America. After evaluating the needs and concerns of the participants, REP offers them three outstanding programs, beginning with an after-school program that helps tutor students in any areas they may be struggling and also offers computer and internet access. The Summer Enrichment Program sharpens students’ math and English skills for eight weeks during the summer while school is out. Lastly, REP offers adult ESL classes twice daily, four times a week. There are three different levels for the English language course and also a pre-GED course is offered. In 2007, REP also became part of the Memphis Leadership Foundation and now offers leadership programs as well.

After volunteering at REP, I realized how much I take for granted in life. Being surrounded by people who were starting over from scratch much later in their lives, I can’t help but feel a mix of emotions from sadness to inspiration and hope. These people are so amazing, and even though we are teaching them the elemental aspects of our language, we can all definitely learn a thing or two from them. To learn more about the Refugee Empowerment Program, visit www.repmemphis.org. Stay tuned for Day 4!

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job in writing, event planning, communications, or teaching. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or aesamsell@gmail.com.

—————————————————————————————————————————————

If you like our work, please make a donation to keep it going!

Want the insider story and more pictures? Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

 

Challenge Accepted!

Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament

Day 2. Off to The Memphis Challenge! Founded in 1989 by Joseph R. “Pitt” Hyde, The Memphis Challenge, Inc. is an organization that helps guide minority high-school juniors and seniors all the way through college graduation in hopes they will return back to Memphis as local community leaders. Not just anyone is accepted though! The applicants must have excellent grades, show leadership skills, and have a letter of recommendation. Once accepted, the fellows participate in a slew of personal and professional development workshops such as ACT prep, public speaking, and financial literacy.

As I looked at all of the composite pictures from each Memphis Challenge graduating class, I

I was in charge of the registration table.

I was in charge of the registration table.

noticed that not only did each of the members attend a phenomenal college, but most of them received numerous scholarships. It doesn’t stop there though – Memphis Challenge stays graduates throughout their college experiences, as well as afterward, to assist them in obtaining jobs or internships in the community.  What a fantastic program this is, and Hyde couldn’t have summed up the need for it any better when he once remarked, “Our young people are our future, and we must encourage them to return to Memphis after college.” Memphis Challenge’s success rates are phenomenal because 97% of the 836 cumulative members have graduated from college, 400 have completed local internships, and 250 fellows now reside and work in Memphis.

Due to the location of The Memphis Challenge downtown in the Emerge Memphis building, I was able to enjoy a charming stroll from my house since it was such a beautiful day. I met with Cassandra Webster, the executive director, and Cynthia Daniels, the director of programs, both of whom were two of the nicest and loveliest ladies I had ever met. Cassandra and Cynthia told me all about the organization’s history as well as the exciting new programs they are implementing. The 9/10 Movement will allow high school freshmen and sophomores to learn the necessary academic and leadership skills to grow into Memphis Challenge fellows (they will still have to apply to the junior and senior program). Memphis Challenge is also offering a Summer Online Learning Experience (SOLE) from June 9- August 1, 2014, giving students in grades 3 -12 the opportunity to master math skills from the comfort of their own computers at their own pace. Can I please sign up for this?

Cassandra, Alexandra, and Leanne (from left to right)

Cassandra, Alexandra, and Leanne (from left to right)

I was lucky enough to get a better grasp of The Memphis Challenge when I attended the organization’s first Power Lunch series in its four-part season. This Power Lunch featured Leanne Scull (senior vice president of investments at Raymond James), who spoke on the following topic: What is your Financial Well-Being? It was a wonderfully informative presentation touching on financial planning for the future. The delicious lunch was catered by Wrapzody Gourmet Wrapz, a local restaurant. There were so many great professionals from different backgrounds and work experiences, making it an opportune occasion to network. The icebreakers started off with great energy from people as they high-fived each other and ended up with a “rock, paper, scissors” tournament (I lost in the first round!). To learn more about the programs The Memphis Challenge has to offer, visit www.memphischallenge.org. You can register for the Power Lunches there as well.

The experience I had at The Memphis Challenge was a great one, as I now realize the

Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament

Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament

importance of the invaluable programs it offers. The Memphis Challenge truly is a treasure in the community, and with its phenomenal success rates, I hope more community members take advantage of what this organization has to offer! Stay tuned for Day 3!

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job in writing, event planning, communications, or teaching. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or aesamsell@gmail.com.

—————————————————————————————————————————————

If you like our work, please make a donation to keep it going!

Want the insider story and more pictures? Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Live from the LPBC Radio Show

Jeremy, Sally, Alexandra, Pete, & Dwayne (from left to right)

Day 1. I feel like there should be some sort of dramatic “Law and Order” music playing right now. This morning I shadowed Jeremy Park – an important mover and shaker you should know if you don’t already. He is the vice president of communications for Lipscomb & Pitts Insurance, a member of its LLC, president of the Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club and hosts both the LPBC Radio Show (Saturdays 1-2 p.m. on News Radio 600 WREC) and television show, “The Spark” (the third Thursday of each month at 9 p.m. on WKNO-TV). Additionally, Jeremy writes the “Giving Back” column that appears each Sunday in The Commercial Appeal. The LPBC is an organization which hosts more than 150 free events throughout the course of the year to bring businesses together through community engagement. If you would like to learn more about the Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club, visit www.thelpbc.com.

I was lucky enough to shadow Jeremy on a day when he was recording his radio show with

Jeremy, Sally, Alexandra, Pete, & Dwayne (from left to right)

Jeremy, Sally, Alexandra, Pete, & Dwayne (from left to right)

three very special guests: Peter Tosches, the senior vice president of corporate communications for ServiceMaster; Sally Heinz, the executive director of Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA); and Dwayne Spencer, the executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis. Needless to say, I was amongst a great wealth of knowledgeable and service-minded people in the Memphis area.

First up was Pete Tosches from ServiceMaster – the umbrella company that owns

Peter Tosches, ServiceMaster

Peter Tosches, ServiceMaster

Terminix, Merry Maids, American Home Shield, ServiceMaster Clean, Furniture Medic, and AmeriSpec Inspection Services. It’s not a coincidence that “service” is the first word in the company name, according to Pete, who explained that service is embedded in the heritage of ServiceMaster and courses through all of its entities. Also a big philanthropist in the community, ServiceMaster often allows its employees to volunteer on company time. For example, every Tuesday Pete has a team that delivers Meals on Wheels while also engaging in a staff meeting during their car ride together.  Additionally, ServiceMaster is a huge advocate of Habitat for Humanity and remains one of the top builders and sponsors in Memphis! Pete explained that building a home together puts everyone on the same level and it’s a great teambuilding activity. You can learn more about what ServiceMaster has to offer at www.servicemaster.com.

Sally Heinz took the microphone next to represent MIFA, an organization founded by various religious leaders to help the community come together immediately following

Sally Heinz, MIFA

Sally Heinz, MIFA

Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. MIFA’s main programs focus on helping both families in crisis and the elderly gain independence through numerous programs.  MIFA distributes 1,200 meals every weekday for “Meals on Wheels,” and during the delivery of these meals, both the recipient and volunteer have a chance to connect by sharing stories and life experiences. Other programs include helping teenagers prepare for college, advocating for rights on behalf of nursing home residents, and making homes handicap accessible. MIFA even has a program where Memphis residents can add $1 to their monthly MLGW energy bills to be donated to MIFA. To learn more about MIFA and all of its programs, check out www.mifa.org.

Last but certainly not least, Dwayne Spencer from Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis

Dwayne Spencer, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis

Dwayne Spencer, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis

was highlighted on the show. The organization Dwayne spearheads was originally founded to solve a housing crisis in rural Georgia by helping families in need of housing receive a newly built home to call their own. Habitat for Humanity walks these individuals through the entire homebuilding process from outreach to education and maintenance. This program actually saves the community costs, and it’s important to note that Habitat for Humanity will not build without a sponsorship. Furthermore, Habitat for Humanity operates a thrift store on Winchester Road called ReStore, which keeps furniture and goods out of landfills. The store relies heavily on volunteers for the daily operations. To find out more, go to www.memphishabitat.com and keep in mind that this past Saturday, March 28th was Executive Build Day where local executives were encouraged to come out and work together on a building project. Habitat for Humanity is always looking for volunteers and no construction experience is necessary!

Though I wasn’t in the hot seat, I felt like I was in an episode of “Frasier” while in the radio booth. Jeremy had a producer in the next room who recorded the interviews, which I enjoyed experiencing live because of the energy that emanated from the dialogues. How lucky am I to witness these conversations and meet some pretty fantastic members of the community at the same time!?

After the radio show, Jeremy and I went to lunch, during which he offered me priceless advice on how to set myself apart from the competition in the job market and create a stellar professional reputation. He provided brutally honest feedback on my resume, for which I am truly grateful. He also kindly gave me a copy of his book, Giving Back with Purpose: Fueling Growth through Community Involvement.

My first day of Volunteer Odyssey was a huge success – stay tuned for Day 2!

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job in writing, event planning, communications, or teaching. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or aesamsell@gmail.com.

—————————————————————————————————————————————

If you like our work, please make a donation to keep it going!

Want the insider story and more pictures? Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————