Epilogue: Kat Franchino

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.

20140619_Photos_For_Vol_Odyssey_Epilogue_01Life doesn’t have a roadmap? Oh sakes alive!

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.

Week 19, Day 7: URBAN Development

Amidst the Harleys and Yamahas of Memphis’ Bike On Beale Street is another type of bike. Every Wednesday for more than a year, a dedicated team of Urban Bicycle Food Ministry bicyclists can be found weaving in and out of the crowds, distributing freshly wrapped burritos, socks, toiletries, and other small items to anyone in need of basic necessities.

10308743_10154260833065643_3320547078415393963_nUFBM volunteer Dave handing out burritos and water.

Once run out of Tommy Clark’s Midtown house, the Urban Bicycle Food Ministry now claims a little slice of kitchen space in a downtown church, and it was here that I found myself on my last Volunteer Odyssey day.

When Sarah, founder and executive director of Volunteer Odyssey, first interviewed me about my interests, I casually mentioned biking. I like biking. I used to do it a lot more before I got a car and laziness overtook me. Do you know what’s an easy way to get from A to B? A car. Moving to Memphis seemed like a good time to kick (or at least diminish) my car-diction, and what better way to do it than meeting up with the Urban Bicycle Food Ministry (UBFM)?

(I totally stuffed my bike in the car and drove to the church, by the way.)

Volunteer Odyssey’s intern, Mira, joined me at the church and, after introducing ourselves to the other volunteers, we set to work making burritos. With three years of experience professionally making burritos at my very glamorous college cafeteria, I was fairly confident I had burritos under control.  Alas, I hadn’t counted on having to stir one million trillion pounds of beans, rice, and meat. As noted in an earlier post, I have no arm strength. After huffing and puffing for a few minutes, I generously offered a nearby volunteer, Elizabeth, a chance to stir. Elizabeth does things like run half marathons and, if I had to guess, she’s probably done a triathlon or two. I figured she could handle it.

10426688_706765762718201_2874415498400874823_nSo this was more stirring than anticipated.

The UBFM has a smooth flowing burrito-rolling system and, after Elizabeth finished stirring the burrito fixings, a dedicated team of volunteers set to work filling, cheesing, rolling, and wrapping hundreds of delicious burritos. Like the nonprofits where I volunteered at earlier in the week, the UBFM volunteer team is a family with plenty of jokes, support, and a little sass when needed.

Once the burritos were wrapped, Mira waved goodbye just as Sarah rolled up.

10390971_706763089385135_7757405327270208544_nKat and Mira displaying their burrito handiwork.

Sarah kindly invited me to be a part of her route (“Downtown”), where I was quickly introduced to Dave, Lauren, and Lyle. Elizabeth also joined us, and soon we were loading our backpacks with burritos and stocking Dave’s bicycle trailer with candy, water, socks, and toiletries.

10392312_706762942718483_408896874662808411_nStuffing backpacks with burritos.

With bike lights flashing, we pulled onto the dark street and began our trip through downtown. People know to expect the UBFM team. One lady saw us coming, waved, and followed us a few blocks to a park to collect her burritos. While the team recognized some burrito regulars, others were new. Regardless, each person got a couple of burritos, a few minutes of conversation, and, if they wanted, the opportunity to share prayer requests.

10421178_10154260833675643_6844892537203802461_nLauren, Kat and Sarah riding the Downtown Route.

As a volunteer and former volunteer coordinator, I’m used to the paperwork, volunteer badges, and schedules that typically come along with these opportunities. The UBFM is a little different. A very grassroots effort, the UBFM operates on a serve-as-you-feel-called basis. Volunteers roll up on bikes or in cars. They stay for a half hour or they stay for four. Like other nonprofit volunteers though, they are cheerful and generous, willing to lend their hands to the task.

10409691_706763172718460_5327331755823119001_nVolunteers Elizabeth, Kat, Brent, and Chris

I drove home that night, bike tucked in the trunk, feeling energized in that way only night bike riding and interaction with good people can leave you feeling. Maybe next week I’ll leave the car behind.

Thank you for reading! Like what you read? Kat Franchino is a freelance writer and an avid blogger. She will happily take on any writing challenges. Contact her at katfranchino@yahoo.com or jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

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Week 19, Day 6: SRVS-ing the Memphis Community

Day 6 started at 10 a.m., which allowed me to sleep in a little later. I don’t know why I feel the need for more sleep. As of late, three-hour naps have sneakily worked themselves into my daily routine. That aside, I headed out to explore my sixth nonprofit to explore, SRVS–an agency that offers programs and assistance to disabled men and women, no matter the severity of the disability.

I arrived at SRVS and met with Lindsay Weaver. Lindsay is the SRVS volunteer and activities coordinator. She’s also a Volunteer Odyssey alumna, which helped her score her current job. Once again, volunteerism proves to help awesome people net awesome opportunities!

The day I volunteered was a quiet day at the SRVS community, and I spent most of my time observing a couple of classrooms and being a lunch buddy. SRVS clients are divided up into classrooms under the guidance of a SRVS staff member or two. Each group spends their days doing different activities, learning new skills, and eating lunch together. Having participated in Volunteer Odyssey, Lindsay knows both the importance and the challenges of getting photos, so she offered to help out by taking all the photos. Thanks Lindsay!

For the first part of the day, I hung out with Tony and Ralph as they worked on color-sorting skills. The classrooms look similar to ones food at schools with tables and chairs, fun games, and color posters.

DSC_3906Tony and Kat color-categorizing some colorful plastic insects.

I had arrived close to lunchtime, and soon Lindsay whisked me off to the dining hall, where the first group of classrooms ate. The dining hall reminded me much of a typical school cafeteria –lunch boxes out, teachers monitoring the aisles, and plenty of jokes and laughter.

During lunch, I had the privilege of meeting Adrian, a longtime SRVS staff member and all-around good guy. While Adrian has held a variety of direct and indirect service positions, he currently works directly with clients, and anyone watching him can tell not only how much he enjoys his job, but how much the SRVS clients and staff enjoy his presence.

After lunch, I visited a second classroom where SRVS staff member Annette led students to a model apartment setup where the group practiced making a bed, folding clothes, and ironing before she quizzed them with flashcards of typical household items. My volunteer time at SRVS came to an end, and I left the model apartment to chat with Lindsay about my experiences.

While programs are in place to help disabled children attend public school, more are needed for when these same students graduate and are left without that support system. SRVS allows people with disabilities a myriad of opportunities by teaching life skills, providing community, and, at times, job placement. SRVS is one of the most comprehensive programs of its kind and I’m excited to watch it continue its good work!

Thank you for reading! Like what you read? Kat Franchino is a freelance writer and an avid blogger. She will happily take on any writing challenges. Contact her at katfranchino@yahoo.com or jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

 

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Week 19, Day 5: There’s No Place Like Home (A Glimpse At Dorothy’s House)

I first heard about Dorothy Day from my friend Eric. At the time, we were both volunteering with a nonprofit to host non-denominational worship services at Glacier National Park. Eric was a hitchhiking, train-jumping, crusty punk kid with a lot of tattoos and even more stories. He was a terrific storyteller and terribly unimpressed with my music choices. Somewhere along his travels, he wound up volunteering and living at a Dorothy Day House. I want to say in North Carolina.

62718896Kat and Eric at Glacier National Park.

I haven’t seen Eric in years, but I think of him and his stories frequently. Opening my Volunteer Odyssey schedule and discovering the Memphis Dorothy Day House for Day 5 was a huge treat. There are approximately 250 Dorothy Day Houses in the United States. One of the most interesting things about the Dorothy Day Houses is that each house is run independently from one another, so focuses are different.

The Memphis house is for homeless families. It is unmarked, blending in easily with other residential homes in the area. Based on my other posts that hint at my navigational struggles, it probably comes as no surprise that I blew right past it.

I think it can be incredibly hard to define what a homeless shelter is or isn’t. Through the years, I’ve seen a church, an old health care center, a rumored-brothel-turned-convent and a former Masonic lodge all serve as shelters. Now, though, I’ve seen a shelter that looks exactly like a house. Everything about the Dorothy Day House is welcoming -the plush couches, the long dining room table, and the piano in the front hall. It’s a house you want to be in.20140608_Dorothy_Day_House_02The Dorothy Day House living room.

Volunteer Odyssey alumni have done a terrific job sharing the Dorothy Day House’s mission in their blog posts, so in an effort to save time and not be too terribly repetitive, I’ll simply share a few of its highlights with some nifty bullet points.

  • About 150 homeless families in Memphis at any given time. This number does not reflect families living with friends/family or in motel rooms.
  • In Memphis, women and children accepted at one shelter; men at another. Teenage boys are not accepted at either and may be put into foster care until families are more stable.
  • Dorothy Day House works to keep families together while providing a home-like atmosphere. Up to three families can stay at the house, which has three bedrooms and a very home-like atmosphere.

I joined a mother-son volunteering duo and hung out for a 10-minute prayer service with two families staying at the house, a board member, and Sister Maureen. Sister Maureen is one of the people responsible for starting up the Dorothy Day House nearly a decade ago to keep homeless families intact in the Memphis community.

May I pause here to say that I love Catholic sisters? In Kansas, I used to hang out at a sustainable farm run by the Dominican Sisters of Peace. They had a herd of alpacas and taught classes on how to spin alpaca fiber.

20130914_heartland_farm_04Sister Terry of Heartland Farm in Kansas.

I’ve lost a lot of card games to Catholic sisters three times my age and clearly three times my wit. Last December, I wound up quitting my job to live with Peruvian Catholic sisters in their convents.

20140124_nuns_playing_volleyball_01Madre Lucia supervising an impromptu volleyball game in Peru.

It probably goes without saying that Sister Maureen is stellar, but let me just reiterate: Sister Maureen is stellar. I sort of feel that if there’s a social justice issue going on and something needs to be done about it, just get a Catholic sister like Sister Maureen on board.

Onward.

Prayer was short and sweet–perfect for anyone with kids. Over beautifully decorated cupcakes brought by the lovely volunteer Anne, our group traded book recommendations, shared summer plans, and bantered about the differences and similarities between culture in Northern and Southern states.

The biggest thing I took away from the Dorothy Day House is that it is a community built around family. The feeling of this is a homeless shelter never quite sunk in for me. Rather it felt like, oh look, new friends! Well done, Dorothy Day House, well done.

20140608_Dorothy_Day_House_01Kat and Dorothy Day

Thank you for reading! Like what you read? Kat Franchino is a freelance writer and an avid blogger. She will happily take on any writing challenges. Contact her at katfranchino@yahoo.com or jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

 

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Week 19, Day 4: Volunteer, 100% Certified

Each summer growing up, I volunteered to plant and harvest produce at a community garden. The harvested goods were then donated to local food pantries. Since then, I’ve had a keen interest in gardening and locally grown foods. One of the best ways to learn more about locally grown foods is the farmers market. While laziness keeps me from shopping at them as much as I like to pretend I do, I certainly have a soft spot for farmers markets.

20140607_Farmers_Market_03Fresh, local fruit? Yes, please!     

Call time for the Memphis Farmers Market was at 6:00 am.Never a graceful early riser, I set five alarms and promptly slept through all of them. I awoke in a cold sweat at 5:38 am and booked it downtown.

20140607_Farmers_Market_07The market in the wee morning hours.

It turns out I was the Memphis Farmers Market’s inaugural Volunteer Odyssey volunteer. I donned my yellow volunteer t-shirt that guaranteed I was 100 percent certified and set off for the information booth determined to do Volunteer Odyssey proud!

20140607_Farmers_Market_02Kat trying to do Volunteer Odyssey proud by counting t-shirts! Thank fortune her counting skills are up to par.

 The MFM is hosted out of the Memphis Central Station and volunteers know to expect at least one rumbling train on Saturday mornings. As I waited for instructions, I watched volunteers and vendors transform the station into a lively food market. Containers of color fresh fruits and vegetables appeared on tables, giving the concrete platform a complete makeover.

20140607_Farmers_Market_05

I was assigned to work alongside volunteers Nancy and Gale at the information table that sells MFM merchandise with fun slogans like Vocal and Local! and allows cashless customers to use debit or credit cards to purchase wooden tokens in five dollar increments to use at booths.

20140607_Farmers_Market_08Nancy getting vocal about local food!

One of the neatest things about the MFM is that it also accepts SNAP EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) cards.

The SNAP program (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) provides food assistance to low-income families through means of a debit-like card. Anyone with a SNAP card can take it to the MFM and purchase special SNAP tokens in one dollar increments.

MFM also has an awesome program called Double Greens–additional tokens that SNAP recipients may use on fresh produce. SNAP recipients can receive up to ten dollars’ worth of Double Green tokens absolutely free.

I try to keep a tight budget and still eat healthily, but can’t help feeling horrified whenever I purchase produce and watch my grocery bill soar. Produce never lasts as long as I hope it will. While running a lunch program for low-income kids a few years ago, I became more cognizant of how it can be cheaper in the short run for families to purchase junk food over more expensive, more perishable produce. That’s why I’m excited about the Double Greens program for SNAP recipients. Up to ten dollars worth of free produce? Heck yeah!

20140607_Farmers_Market_04Five-dollar MFM tokens… And they don’t expire!

The market opened and customers streamed in. Soon a bustling line of customers wanting tokens formed at the information table. Gale is a whiz at the electronic card reader and I know my way around with a pen and paper documenting transactions, so we made quite the team.

20140607_Farmers_Market_06Gale operating the credit card reader like a champ.

Then we switched roles. Cold fear gripped me as I swiped the first card and punched in the amount. This is real money! I kept telling myself. Don’t mess up!! Under Gale’s watchful eye, I somehow made it through without over or undercharging anyone.

20140607_Farmers_Market_01A very relieved return to pen and paper. 

Once 10 a.m. rolled around, I took a lap around the market and tried to justify buying every single pastry. I left the MFM feeling excited about its future and my future volunteering with them. A market that promotes locally grown and/or made items and is a resource for lower income families? That’s fantastic!

Thank you for reading! Like what you read? Kat Franchino is a freelance writer and an avid blogger. She will happily take on any writing challenges. Contact her at katfranchino@yahoo.com or jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

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Week 19, Day 3: Helping ReStore The Community

My dream of becoming a human GPS ended suddenly and tragically today and it’s nothing short of a miracle that I made it to and from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore given the number of wrong turns that occurred.

Enough of that.

After apologizing for my tardiness, I met Amy Paul, Habitat for Humanity ReStore volunteer coordinator. Amy actually started out as a Habitat volunteer before stepping on as the volunteer coordinator. Volunteering nets so many opportunities!

Amy gave me a few options on how to start my morning off, which included my guilty pleasure (data entry). I’m not sure if it’s the case over at Habitat, but when I worked as a volunteer coordinator, the “to-do” data entry pile was just a tower threatening to topple and any volunteer who offered to enter was high up on my list of Awesome People.

20140606_Habitat_Restore_04Diligently taking notes in preparation for some data entry!

Data entry ended soon enough, so off to the ReStore I went. Easily overwhelmed by stuff, I try to live a fairly minimalistic lifestyle (inspired, in part, by some of the volunteer experiences I’ve had) and steer clear of shopping malls. Occasionally, though, I find myself browsing the aisles of local thrift stores, with the Habitat ReStore ranking as one of my favorites. In fact, the best (and only) armchair I ever owned came from a Habitat ReStore in Wichita. Go figure.

ReStore proceeds help to cover overhead and staff salaries –two hugely important expenses. This is important because without offices and staff, nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity would struggle to help those in need. And while there are many grants out there to support projects, like building houses, it can be a tremendous challenge to find grants and funds to cover overhead and salary.  By shopping at the ReStore, you’re helping Habitat for Humanity ensure it can continue its focus of helping families in need.

When you walk into the ReStore, you’re immediately greeted by row after row of incredible furniture at incredible prices. Chairs of every color and material stand aside one another, while a nearby shelf threatens to burst with a multitude of plush pillows.  After admiring all the lovely furniture, I received my very own volunteer vest and my next set of instructions. The Habitat staff is organized and had a to-do list printed out and ready to go. Somijah, another volunteer, and I set to work organizing the linens, sheets, pillows, and overly-ruffled bed skirts.

20140606_Habitat_Restore_03Somijah, hard at work organizing the shelves.

 As someone who once spent two years sleeping in a sleeping bag to avoid buying a real bed, I simply cannot understand the purpose of a bedskirt. I hate to inform you, but after attempting to fold a million ruffled bedskirts today, I’m still baffled. In fact, I might be even more baffled.

20140606_Habitat_Restore_02Not a fan, ruffled bedskirt, not a fan.

My volunteering time came to a quick close and I found myself saying goodbye to Somijah and hanging up my volunteer vest. My only regret? Not finding an apartment closer to the ReStore!

20140606_Habitat_Restore_01Sad to hang up my volunteer vest.

 Thank you for reading! Like what you read? Kat Franchino is a freelance writer and an     avid blogger. She will happily take on any writing challenges. Contact her at katfranchino@yahoo.com or jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

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Week 19, Day 2: A SOUP-er Opportunity

Another up and at ‘em day with Volunteer Odyssey! By 7:30 am, I found myself getting a crash course in Soup Kitchen 101 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church Soup Kitchen by the kitchen manager, Ron, his assistant, Martin, and a volunteer, Lynn.

20140605_St_Mary_01Lynn is a champion sandwich maker.

This experience takes me back to Kansas where I worked at an agency that ran three homeless shelters. While most of my work involved coordinating volunteers, organizing fundraisers, and writing grants, I became interested in the shelters’ mission and occasionally stopped by for lunch and conversation.  I have many fond memories of soup lunches there, and looked forward to my time at St. Mary’s.

At St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen, the “soup” part is not in name only. In fact, it might be most known for its homemade soup, which is made daily by Ron and Martin. While some of the kitchen’s ingredients come from the Mid-South Food Bank, many come from donations from individuals, families, and organizations. Every man or woman who comes through the kitchen’s gate receives a cup of soup, two sandwiches, and a snack. Pastries and beverages are also on hand.

20140605_St_Mary_02The Soup Tower grows

While the actual cooking kitchen runs in the next room, the dining room operates out of what was rumored to once have been a loading dock. The narrow room has a row of picnic tables, each covered with plastic tablecloths and vases of fabric flowers. Having been told that the kitchen would be serving around 120 people, I expected it to be a tight squeeze, and was surprised by how efficiently everything ran.

Thursday’s volunteers are stretched a little thin, so my three years of making sandwiches in college served me well as I bagged ham, salami, and bologna sandwiches and chatted with Lynn, who shared a little bit about the kitchen’s history and a little bit about her life.

Next Martin showed me the delicate art of soup ladling and cup stacking. There is something terribly terrifying about stacking cup after cup of hot soup to create Memphis’ very own Leaning Tower of Soup. Martin swore that I’d still be welcomed back even if I did dump all the soup, but I didn’t want to risk it. Luckily, due to Martin’s vigilant eye, the tower never toppled.

20140605_Day2Kat with untoppled soup. Thanks Martin!

Having had a little bit of exposure to homeless programs back in Kansas, I always find it interesting to learn how other programs operate. All programs have similarities, but the large one might be the community that makes these programs tick. A program can have the best rules, mission, and structure, but the real strength behind it is its community bond.

20140605_St_Mary_03Preparing to pray before handing out food.

The soup kitchen’s guests, staff, and volunteers all have different backgrounds, different personalities, and, at times, different beliefs, but six days a week they come together to form this community. I believe that the interactions of its staff, volunteers and guests – the kindness, appreciation, and respect they share with one another – is always what’s going to hold a program together.

Thank you for reading! Like what you read? Kat Franchino is a freelance writer and an avid blogger. She will happily take on any writing challenges. Contact her at katfranchino@yahoo.com or jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

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Week 19, Day 1: FIG-uring It All Out

20140604_Volunteer_Odyssey_Day1_01

As a recent Memphis transplant and life-long volunteer, I figured I’d better start getting acquainted with my new city. I signed up for a Volunteer Odyssey week in hopes of meeting new people, discovering different volunteer opportunities, and, with any luck, learning a few city streets. My ability to navigate ranks right up there with my ability to sail the high seas in that it’s nonexistent. I had hoped that moving to Memphis would force me to turn into a human GPS, but, so far, no dice.

Somehow I pulled out a miracle, took the correct turns, and, at promptly 7:15 am, found myself in the Catholic Charities parking lot being greeted by two volunteers, a 16-passenger van and the ever-present Memphis sun. It turns out that, much like the Memphis heat, Fig Tree Food Pantry volunteers like to get an early start. The food pantry employs just one staff member and relies heavily on a team of well-oiled volunteers who pick up, sort, and distribute much of the pantry’s food.

20140604_Volunteer_Odyssey_Day1_04Al, awake and ready to go!

Joining me at the food pantry was the fabulous Mira Biller, Volunteer Odyssey’s new summer intern. Since Mira and I are both new to Memphis, we befriended one another and quickly bonded over our mutual love of flip phones, volunteerism, and cheap Vietnamese food.

Our first stop was the Mid-South Food Bank to pick up this week’s order. Long-time Fig Tree volunteers Ronny and Al are food bank pros and know exactly what items they have to look for. As they wandered up and down the aisles collecting a few boxes of granola bars here and a couple of cans of beans there, Mira and I followed and created the “What’s-The-Weirdest-Food-Here?” game. I have my money on the container of powdered goat’s milk.

20140604_Volunteer_Odyssey_Day1_03One can of powdered goat’s milk, please!

The Food Bank runs a tight schedule, so soon enough we were whisked back to the pantry to unload the van. Alas, possessing fabulous arm strength is not a skill set of mine.

20140604_Volunteer_Odyssey_Day1_01Minutes later, it was determined that I have no arm strength.

Making up food bags is, however, and so away I went with Ms Gloria to prepare Walking Homeless Bags (small food bags, 18 are handed out daily). Ms Gloria is the food pantry’s sole employee and flat out fabulous. She patiently answered our questions, introduced us to other food pantry volunteers, and shared a little bit about her incredible life story.

If I had to sum up Ms Gloria (and all Fig Tree volunteers for that matter) in a single word and I think that word would be positive! The Catholic Charities staff and its volunteer team are warm, welcoming, and gracious.  The longer Mira and I bagged food, the more apparent it became that Fig Tree volunteers are more than just a team –they’re family. The level of respect they have for each other is immensely apparent as they lend a hand to one another, tell jokes, and celebrate accomplishments and special moments, like birthdays.

20140604_Volunteer_Odyssey_Day1_02Mira, Ms Gloria, and Kat

Not only was today the start of my Volunteer Odyssey week, it happened to be Gloria’s birthday, therefore Mira and I found ourselves initiated into the Fig Tree family with slices of cake and a moving birthday poem written and read by fellow volunteer Melinda, who writes poems for each lucky birthday boy or girl. And before we left, volunteer and self-proclaimed foodie Felix wrote out a two-page list of Memphis restaurant suggestions for us.

While I did not achieve the rank of Master Food Bag Maker, I left the Fig Tree Food Pantry feeling inspired by its incredible team and by this authentic and humbling volunteer experience. Onward!

Thank you for reading! Like what you read? Kat Franchino is a freelance writer and an avid blogger. She will happily take on any writing challenges. Contact her at katfranchino@yahoo.com or jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

 

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