I always forget how hard moving somewhere new is until I move somewhere new. I arrived to Memphis in late April and have experienced a whirlwind of emotions and experiences since then. While finding the closest grocery store remains easy enough, it’s surrounding myself with that strong, supportive community that I find most challenging.
One of the best ways to find that community, at least in my opinion, is by seeking out volunteer opportunities. A community’s backbone is often made up of nonprofits and their dedicated teams of staff, volunteers, and donors–the people that reach out to those in need and say, “Hey, we’re right here with you.”
Nonprofits are a bit like Cinderella’s glass slipper though. Which one is right for my interests, my skills, and me? Luckily Sarah, founder of Volunteer Odyssey, was my fairy godmother and determined to help me find that perfect nonprofit fit.
It’s been nearly a week since my Volunteer Odyssey experience ended, but already I see the little changes that the organizations have made in my life. On Saturdays, I now find myself waking up early to visit with Gale and Nancy at the Memphis Farmers Market. After watching the dedicated riders of Urban Bicycle Food Ministry easily navigate the dark city streets while I tried to figure out if Main ran north and south or east and west, I threw my car keys on top of the fridge and have biked (almost) everywhere since then. Shame is a mighty strong influencer, my friends.
My Volunteer Odyssey week not only introduced me to awesome nonprofits and people, it also reminded me of the importance of action, which brings me to a powerful ad that made the Internet rounds recently: “Liking” isn’t helping. Social media is one of the nonprofit world’s most powerful tools. Just look at Volunteer Odyssey. But I think it can also be one of its biggest weaknesses. Clicking the “like” button is the first step, but too often, it’s also the last step.
Volunteer Odyssey encourages us to take that first step, and then a second, and a third, and then…those steps never stop, whether it’s volunteering or donating or even coming on board as a staff member. My week with Volunteer Odyssey may have ended, but I know its impact on my life, as well as the Memphis community, will continue.