Epilogue

harli

The past week has been a great experience. I have met many people, made friends, and experienced new things in my city like never before. I have visited seven incredible organizations: Church Health, Carpenter Art Garden, Hope House, Memphis Animal Services, Botanic Gardens, Shelby Farms Garden, and Dorothy Day House.

During the week my eyes were opened to so many new things-an art garden for children looking for a creative outlet after school, a home for homeless families, an affordable way to stay fit and healthy, and many other things. I have found compassion, hope, and understanding within new areas of my community. My eyes have also been opened to the many different possibilities that are available for me to serve. Sarah and Caroline created the perfect week for me to feel at home and be able to thrive.

Working with a writing coach to support me and advise me has been incredibly beneficial.  Her teachings will stay with me forever, and will continued to be applied in all my writings. Meeting with the life coach this week was also a great experience for personal growth and understanding.

I would recommend this experience to anyone looking for something new. If they are looking for a way to serve, a way to network, meet new people, new writing skills, or even just for a fun week. This experience is the only one like it in the Memphis area and truly cannot be replicated. I hope my experience will reach someone new and encourage them to pursue the opportunity, as well.

Day 7: Home for the Homeless

Dorothy Day House-Memphis

Today, I visited the Dorothy Day House in Midtown for my final day of volunteering. This small organization is the only one in Memphis that takes homeless families and keeps them together. The house currently can house three families at a time. They are expanding, and in the process of opening 4 more houses! When the new houses are open they will be able to house 15 families.

During my time spent there I talked with the two families currently living at Dorothy Day House. We talked about their jobs, homeschooling, and what they like to do for fun. All the children were running around playing, and smiling ear to ear. It made me incredibly happy to hear their contagious giggles echoing throughout the large house.

Dorothy Day House-Memphis

In the basement of the house they store food, toiletries, and other necessities that can really put a dent in someone’s paycheck. Families that have stayed there in the past are welcome to all the materials whenever they need them. This is such an incredible resource for any family getting back on their feet. They also help families from the past furnish their homes, as well as with job placement.

Memphis has over 130 homeless people on the street every night, and Dorothy Day House is contributing so much to this community with their helping hands. I had such a great time chatting with everyone, and playing with the sweet little ones. I can’t wait to visit one of their new houses within the year!

Day 6: Farm to Fork

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Today, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Shelby Farms, Farm to Fork garden. The garden grows produce, teaches gardening classes, raises chickens, keeps their own bees, and offers a fellows program. They have about 15 garden plots for growing produce, and a ginormous composting area.

Their fellows program usually involves 2 students from the Memphis Area. The studunnamed-2ent-fellows attend the garden, as well as promoting and running the business plan of the operation. The students are in high school and typically from inner city schools from Shelby County. This gives them the opportunity to learn how to grow their own produce, and great leadership skills.

The fellows’ director explained to me the whole operation of how things would be grown throughout the year. This was my first time seeing a produce garden, and given the chance to ask questions about how it’s kept. She told me that they plant seeds twice a year, and they are about to in April. Even though the garden was looking a bit lifeless and empty because of the winter weather, I could envision what it would look like in a few months time.

The produce grown in the garden is sorted in a few ways. Most of the harvest is sold in a food cart that drives around Shelby Farms. The rest of it is given to volunteers as well as the students in the fellows program. The best part of buying from the garden is that everything is organic, and is supporting a local farming operation.

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I was extremely excited to volunteer here mainly because I plan to grow my own produce when I own a home one-day. This whole operation definitely has people in the center of its vision. While they are growing great organic produce, more importantly they are teaching the importance of responsibility in its fellows program. I can’t wait to drive by in the spring and see all the work they have done.

Day 5: Back to My Roots

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I got to spend Friday at the Memphis Botanic Gardens. As a child I visited there frequently, so it was exciting for me to get to support an organization that I have such fond memories of. I remember visiting numerous times there for field trips, and Live at the Garden. They also offer a seasonal farmers market, host parties and events, as well as selling plants and other nature inspired things to visitors.

IMG_1312I spent my time assisting the staff with prepping and preparing educational materials for the week. I started with getting things ready for their S’mores and Stars event that is going on this week. After that I worked on putting together bird callers to be sold in their gift shop, which are basically a wooden and metal device that make a squeak that sounds just like a bird.

Even though today I wasn’t working with sick children, people in need, or homeless dogs, I was contributing my efforts towards an organization that I love. I know that hundreds of children go there and it brings a smile to their faces, just like it did to mine when I was young. The Botanic Gardens offers a space where children can express themselves fully, as well as learn about their earth and come back to their roots.

Day 4: Home for Honey

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I have always loved animals, which made volunteering at Memphis Animal Services especially exciting for me. Upon arriving to the large gated building, I met with the volunteer coordinator. She showed me around the shelter and explained all of the services they offer.

We talked about the importance of adopting, and the lowering rate at which dogs were being euthanized at the shelter. The volunteer coordinator told me that the previous year 22% of dogs were put to sleep, where as this year that number had dropped to 15%, meaning that more dogs were kept alive and adopted than in the past.

I spent most of my day taking photos of dogs to help get them adopted. My main priority was to get the dogs to show me their personality. Some dogs were very affectionate and timid, while others were hyper and curious. Once I found a dog that looked eager for attention, I took them outside to play. Watching the dogs run around made me very happy. While outside, a few wanted to play with toys and others wanted to jump on me and just be petted. Dogs truly are their own individuals, so it was wonderful to interact with many different dog-personalities.

There was one dog in particular whom I really connected with, who in another life should have been named Honey. She clearly hadn’t been fed much before arriving to the sheltIMG_1293er. She looked like she had burns on her body, as if someone had burned her with cigarettes. This broke my heart; because she was easily the sweetest and most affectionate dog I spent time with. Other dogs mainly wanted to run around and play, but she only wanted to jump up in my lap and cuddle after only knowing me for ten minutes.

Some people give the shelter a negative connotation because they euthanize dogs, but people should look at the other side as well. Dogs like Honey who have been mistreated and living in bad situations are given the opportunity for a better life. Without the shelter where would these dogs go? Most would likely end up on the streets to starve or possibly worse.

Memphis Animal Services is teaching the Memphis area the importance of pet adoption. Every year almost 3 million dogs are euthanized, as well as thIMG_1243e other hundreds of thousands that die on the streets. This number would be drastically decreased if more people would consider adopting instead of buying. Other than saving lives, adopting an animal will keep extra money in a family’s pocket. When adopting from the shelter all animals come spayed or neutered, with up to date shots, and the added bonus of micro- chipping.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent volunteering at the shelter. I got to work with dogs one on one, and was given a very personal understanding of why adoption is so crucial. I feel more confident in talking to people about adopting, and hope to see dogs like Honey and others given a chance at a better life, and a forever home. I can’t wait to be back at Memphis Animal Services and hopefully adopt a dog or cat of my own in the future.

Day 3: Hope in Memphis

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Today, I visited the Hope House in Midtown Memphis. Hope House is a preschool, day school, and social services office. The main priority of the organization is assisting families that are HIV positive that are living in poverty. Shelby county schools help partially fund the school and day care, but most of the funding comes from donors.

During my day spent at Hope House I worked with children from 2-4 years old. First, I sat down with a little girl and read books with her, counted plastic bears, and stacked butterflies. All the kids and I later played with lots of toys, told stories, and made silly faces. We also spent a good bit of our day outside playing. I loved running around chasing the kids, and seeing them happy and care free. Their smiles were incredibly genuine and contagious.

unnamedHope house offers a joyful atmosphere where parents can be confidant when dropping of their children. Hope offers play therapy where kids that have been through trauma are able to be helped, which is an amazing endeavor. Everyone working there is very passionate about what they do, and are there to help the kids in any way they can. This organization is a completely free service to their clients that they work with.

Every child there can feel the love that is being given to it, and it is clear why. Hope doesn’t offer just the support given while they are at school, but even when they are home. Children with special needs are often sent home with specialized food to ensure they are kept healthy, as well as bus passes and other benefits for the parents.

Spending my day at Hope House today was an awesome experience. I didn’t know anything like this existed in the Memphis area so it was very exciting to see such a progressive and inviting organization living in the middle of a midtown neighborhood. Being able to connect with the kids and give them one on one attention made me very happy.

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Hope House is a great organization that anyone looking to volunteer should spend time at. The positivity that radiates from the whole staff is so enticing and left me wanting to stay all day. I can’t wait to be back soon with all the kids to laugh, play, and have fun!

Day 2: Valentine’s Creation

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Today, I went to the Carpenter Art Garden located in midtown Memphis. The garden is an amazing non-profit that offers a creative outlet for kids after school. Most of the schools in the surrounding area only offer sports teams and other athletic pursuits, which is what makes Carpenter necessary for kids interested in the arts or creative projects. The center’s main priority is to give children an opportunity to get involved in their community in a positive way. They achieve this by giving the participants hands on activities, and a loving environment where they can flourish.

When I arrived at the center I was given a tour by the director of programs. It starts with a small purple house filled with paintbrushes, construction paper, hundreds of crayons, and any sort of crafting material oIMG_1233ne could desire. To the right of the building is the art garden, which is a beautiful collection of different art projects. A few houses down is their bike shed where young adults can take a 200-hour course in bike mechanics to give them skills for jobs in the area. A little further down the road lie 2 community vegetable gardens, and also an amazing tile mosaic lining what looked like 500 feet of the street.

This afternoon the weather was a fabulous 75 degrees, during this time I assisted the kids with two projects. They had the choice of painting or coloring different projects with heart themes. I sat with boys and girls; I enjoyed talking with them about their favorite music, the best parts of their day, and who would be their valentine this year. One boy named Fred told me that his Valentine this year would be him Mom. It made me happy to see his quick response when I asked. The craft that we were making was originally pieces of paper put together to make a 3D heart, but Fred had his own vision for it. He was so proud of his creation in the end, and seemed ecstatic about giving it to his mom in the near future.

The atmosphere of this place when it’s full of people is very vibrant. All the kids laughing and smiling is extremely contagious. The option for kids to have this amazing outlet is vital in this community. Students in high school that used to come to the center as kids, still visit and hang-out nearby. Everyone in the community appreciates the space, and it only taIMG_1228kes one look around to understand why.

Spending my day at Carpenter Art Center was a rewarding experience. I felt that while spending time with these kids, they were able to look up to me and everyone who is there to support them. Knowing that a place like this exists in Memphis which helps many kids experience a positive and supportive space, makes me happy. Carpenter Art Center is an amazing progressive space, and I hope to see their whole vision to integrate more creative thinking in the community grow for years to come!

Day 1: New Beginnings

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Today, I visited Church Health located on Peabody Avenue in downtown Memphis. I had never heard of this organization which made me excited to learn about them. When I arrived I met with the volunteer coordinator where we talked about our opinions on the current healthcare system and stamped letters to be sent out. She then explained to me that their main priority as an organization is to provide healthcare to people unable to afford it. They also offer other services such as physical therapy, fitness classes, and daycare at affordable prices.

After meeting with the volunteer coordinator at the main office I went to the wellness center which is in a separate building near the main campus. The wellness center is a huge building wherIMG_1218e most of the fitness services reside. It reminded me of a YMCA but a bit more personal. When I arrived I met with the receptionist at the front desk. There I helped to create  new badges for members, make copies, and organize the space.

I spent most of my day with Julia in the child life center with several adorable little ones. We played some games, ate snacks, and I was drooled over. One little girl in particular, named Ruby, had the most contagious smile. She arrived to the daycare center with her little brother, who she was eyeing the whole time. I don’t think he left her sight once. She was incredibly kind to every other child there, offering to share her toys and snacks. Her ecstatic personality easily lit up the whole room. It was very refreshing to see such a nurturing old soul inside of a child. Something that I definitely appreciate.

Right now the whole organization is in the midst of a big move. They are moving to the new one million plus square foot Crosstown Concourse building. They will be amidst many other non-profits and new and upcoming businesses. They have been there for over 20 years, but have luckily found a new space that feels like home. Their old buildings will be given to other non-profits, which will be great for the city to open up new opportunities.

Church Health is an amazing facility, and I’m glad I know about it now. It was amazing to see people excited to have an opportunity to get healthy while participating in their community. I loved spending the day there, and can’t wait to visit again in their new building!

Prologue: Harli Kurdelmeyer

harli

harliDuring the last few months I had been looking for a job in the Memphis area. My cousin Baylee had been helping me a bit, sending me emails with opportunities and such. One day I received an email from her with the subject “Volunteer Odyssey”. After reading into this program I knew that this would be such an amazing opportunity for me to grow as a person, and to start giving back to my community.

I’ve always been a big advocate for serving others. I spent 11 summers at camp where the motto was to always put others before yourself. On a hot day when there was just one bomb pop left and two girls without one, always give it to your cabin mate. This was obviously just a small act, but as a 7-year-old the mindset made such a difference within me. Now at 18 years old I’ve found myself over the last few years wanting to give back to my community and serve others, but unsure of where to start. There were so many issues I knew that I could be contributing to but which one? The homeless, sheltered dogs, children in need, the list goes on. Volunteer Odyssey gave me the chance to do not one of the things on my list, but all of them.

I know that this week is going to push me as a person, and most likely open my eyes to new things but I am so excited to get started. I can’t wait to meet new people, experience new things, and hopefully find somewhere that feels like home and keeps me coming back.