A Sweet Spot

 

Spending my evening surrounded by kids and cookies at the Dorothy Day House was a real treat. I can’t think of a better way to wrap up my week with Volunteer Odyssey. The Dorothy Day house provides temporary housing and support to homeless families in Memphis. Every Sunday night, community volunteers bring baked goods and come together for an hour of reflection and thanks. This weekly event, and organization, two more examples of what a wonderful community Memphis truly is. This particular Sunday evening, multiple families from various organizations brought desserts and shared their evening with the current residents and other volunteers.

Though the dessert event only lasted about an hour, I was so moved by my time at the Dorothy Day House. Families living there as well as other visitors made me feel immediately welcome. As we sat around eating dessert and chatting, kids of all different ages entertained one another. It was a special moment.

Every day my volunteer experiences have been so different, and they have all shown me the value and benefits of serving the Memphis community.

A Garden of Herbs and Love

Volunteering with Thistle & Bee today, I had one of those rare moments where I felt like I was in the exact right place at the exact right time. I feel so fortunate to have connected with this organization. Kudos to Sarah Petschonek who matched us! Thistle & Bee is a non-profit startup that aids survivors of human trafficking through holistic workforce preparedness. As a startup, Thistle & Bee is currently developing their work program for survivors of human trafficking. The organization hires survivors of human trafficking to sell herb and honey products. Eventually their plan is for survivors, in addition to selling the product, to harvest the herbs from gardens and extract the honey from beekeeping. This gives women the opportunity to develop job skills during this pivotal transition in their life. This organization combines all of my passions, outdoor education, female empowerment, social work. I could go on and on, and I am thrilled to get started volunteering with them!

I spent the morning pulling weeds and harvesting mint and bee balm herbs with Eyleen Farmer, the founder, and Kristen Farmer, a member of the strategic planning team. As we kept our hands busy in the garden, we also kept our minds busy by discussing our backgrounds and sharing our ideas of how to best come together to grow Thistle & Bee. I am really excited to continue volunteering with Thistle & Bee as I feel they are at such an exciting point in their development. Every contribution, both of time and money, makes such an impact. With that in mind, I want to share with you all that next Saturday, August 6th, at 10 AM you can volunteer your time with Thistle & Bee. They are hosting an event called the Crumble Rumble where volunteers will be crumbling herbs to create teas and other products to sell. Check out the link below for more information and to sign up!

https://www.facebook.com/events/889659107826782/

As my week with Volunteer Odyssey is wrapping up, I feel so fortunate for this experience. Stay tuned for my last day of volunteering tomorrow!

 

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The Missing Piece of the Puzzle: Behind the Scenes at Shelby Farms

Volunteering today at Shelby Farms Park Conservancy provided me with a new environment in more ways than one. For starters, Shelby Farms was my first opportunity volunteering outside of midtown. While the drive was a little longer this morning, the change of scenery made it worth it. Not only was the scenery different but also the type of work that I did. Other days I have been interacting with people in various types of educational settings. Today, I worked in an office assisting Irene Montanez, Jasmin Mayen, and Natalie Wilson with three mini research projects to help prepare the Park for its upcoming expansion. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the creativity and solitude that I had while doing this work. This was my first experience working “behind the scenes” this week and I loved it.

Prior to this volunteer experience, I had frequently visited Shelby Farms, both in my role as a teacher accompanying my students on a field trip and as a runner using the Park’s many trails. Through all my experiences with Shelby Farms, I have been so impressed by its many programs and spaces. Today was no exception!

Community Members Coming Together

With the youngest daughter, Christevie

For my second stop on my week of volunteering, today I volunteered with World Relief, a refugee resettlement agency. There are many different aspects to this agency’s work. I am so impressed by how they manage it all. Despite language barriers, cultural differences and complex immigration processes, World Relief manages to accommodate their client’s needs effectively and compassionately. I began volunteering with World Relief after Volunteer Odyssey’s VolunCheers Minute Match event in June, so today I was able to really dive into work with refugee clients. I spent the morning assisting clients with intake forms. In the afternoon I switched to my continued volunteering with a family that I have been working with during my earlier volunteer stints.

Through my experience at World Relief, I see that there is great value in connecting newcomers to Memphis with established community members. My relationship with the refugee family gives them someone to reach out to in the community and a friend who speaks their language. I am available to them for questions, to confide in, or to just spend time together. The benefits for me include getting to use my French skills as well as making a lasting connection and learning about another culture. These personal connections are so valuable and rewarding to me. My experience with World Relief affirms that I thrive working with others. I am really enjoying the opportunity to both volunteer and reflect on what the volunteering means to me. I can’t wait to see what else is in store for this week!

With the youngest daughter, Christevie

With the youngest daughter, Christevie

Opening Eyes to the Beauty of Memphis

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I spent the afternoon at Clean Memphis and had an awesome experience! I volunteered with Kristine Pierce, Director of Education. I was unsure of what to expect from the experience but from the minute I walked through the doors of Clean Memphis, I felt welcomed and comfortable amongst the staff. Kristine and I prepped materials for a science lesson. Then we taught the lesson at a local camp. The educational program is one of three programs that Clean Memphis conducts, working to achieve the goal of Memphis Clean by 2019. I really enjoyed talking with Kristine about the importance of creating a cleaner, and in turn, more livable and beautiful city.

At the camp, we played games to broaden the campers’ understanding of ecological systems. For one game, campers were given animal cards, and without looking at their card, guessed which animal they had based on clues. I loved playing such a hands on activity with kids. Clean Memphis does an awesome job providing children with opportunities to engage in their learning. Allowing children to learn through experience and discussion, rather than just textbooks, is so important.

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Volunteering with Clean Memphis brought back some very happy childhood memories. Every summer as a child I took a bus from Philly to Maine to attend a wilderness tripping camp called Kieve-Wavus. It was during those summers that my eyes were opened to the beauty in our world and the importance of keeping it clean. In groups of about 10 girls, we would go on trips hiking and paddling for weeks at a time. It was on these trips that I first understood my personal strength but also my ability to impact the world around me. Our counselors taught us the importance of “leaving no trace” and other ways to reduce our ecological footprint. I went on to work for Kieve-Wavus and loved the experience of challenging young girls to step outside of their comfort zone. It was so rewarding to push kids to both physically challenge themselves by paddling or hiking hundreds of miles as well as to mentally challenge themselves by rethinking how they can shape the future of our world.

Today at Clean Memphis, I had that same rewarding feeling as I did when I worked at Kieve-Wavus. Clean Memphis is making a huge impact on our community. This is definitely work that I could envision myself doing. Stay tuned for my next volunteering adventure!

Empowerment through Art

It was a rainy start to my third day of volunteering. Luckily, I had the perfect rainy day activity scheduled — making art! I spent the morning volunteering in an art class run by the Hart Gallery. Hart Gallery is a nonprofit that offers homeless and non-traditional artists an opportunity to create and sell their artwork. The class was held at the Outreach Housing & Community, which works with homeless and formerly homeless people. Katie, the art teacher with the Hart Gallery, had an abundance of energy, art supplies, and projects. As we set the room up for the art class, she shared with me her passion for this type of therapeutic work.

As class began, I saw how meaningful Katie’s job is and how therapeutic this space is for its participants. As everyone dove into their individual art projects, there was a calming presence in the room. Participants shared stories. Some were as simple as missing the bus that morning and others more complex, delving into the hardships they faced on the streets. While I’ve never been in an art therapy session, the atmosphere in the room made it feel like a safe space to express oneself. I see the value in providing people living in difficult situations with spaces to engage in work they are passionate about and the opportunity to share their compassion for one another. Katie, the Hart Gallery, and the Outreach Housing & Community do wonderful work. I feel so lucky to have joined them today!

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The Secret’s Out

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It was a Friday morning, and the weekend was fast approaching. Tim Flack was looking for volunteer opportunities where he and his 6-year-old daughter, Susanna, could volunteer together. He found the perfect listing on Volunteer Odyssey’s Calendar of Volunteer Opportunities. The event was Tile Making Day hosted by Carpenter Art Garden.

tim pic 2 Tim was excited to find an opportunity to give back that he can include his daughter in because, “Volunteer opportunities like this help us to instill our values of helping others and of being of service in the community along with introducing our kids to the realities of life that many people in our community face each day.” This outing for Tim and Susanna was very different from their usual weekend trip to the zoo, park, or pool because it allowed them to spend time together while also helping others in their city.

By volunteering at places such as the Carpenter Art Garden, Tim says they hope “that they [our children] will grow up to be people who make a difference and who make an impact for good in the world.”

Tim and his daughter greatly enjoyed interacting with the children of the Binghampton area in helping them to build their new mosaic sculpture garden, yet Tim understands most people’s hesitations towards volunteering. Before Tim became a regular volunteer at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, he too was hesitant to make a commitment to volunteer. He explains, “It seemed like I was always reading about someone who was recognized for volunteering for some unbelievable number of hours, and I figured there was no way I had time to take on something like that!”

What Tim came to realize, however, is that there are so many organizations in Memphis that need help even if you only have a few hours to give.  Volunteer Odyssey takes into acctim pic 3ount your schedule, interests, and abilities in order to connect you with your perfect volunteer opportunity. You can have a huge impact with just a few hours, and as Susanna learned, you can have fun at the same time.

Here’s some 6-year old wisdom: Susanna said to her dad,“Daddy, I wasn’t volunteering. I was just having a lot of fun!” The secret’s out: you can volunteer and have fun at the same time.  Tim and Susanna’s experience shows making a difference in the community can be a very enjoyable and rewarding experience because as Tim puts it, “ I can honestly say that there are few things that I have done in my life that have been as rewarding as the time I have spent as a volunteer.”

So what are you waiting for? If you want to become a volunteer at Carpenter Art Garden like Tim and Susanna, take a 90 second tour of the organization.

If you’re looking for something to fit your schedule, check out Volunteer Odyssey’s Calendar of Volunteer Opportunities. Start today!