Epilogue: Samantha Hicks

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At the risk of sounding completely dramatic, I have to admit that my Volunteer Odyssey week is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. When I really think about this fact I am ashamed. I feel awful knowing that volunteering for one simple week has completely surpassed any volunteer work I have done in the past. Sure, I have helped out with events here and there but I have never really devoted much time to the efforts.  Throughout my week I can say with 100% certainty that I gained so much more from the experience than I gave. I have been introduced to and learned about tons of non-profit agencies throughout the city. I have also had the privilege of meeting tons of new people; ranging from fellow volunteers to newspaper reporters. All of these people have taught me invaluable things about living in Memphis.

I have returned to one of my placement sites to volunteer since finishing my odyssey week and I hope to continue helping more of the agencies in the future. One thing that has kept me from volunteering in the past is the thought of dragging my three year old along. I now know that there are tons of opportunities for me and my daughter to volunteer together. My hope is that she grows up with the feeling of awe one gets from volunteering.

If any of you have been following my previous blogs you know that I have been on the hunt for a job recently. I am very, very, very, happy to announce that thanks to Volunteer Odyssey and the direct and indirect networking I did through the program, I received several leads that followed through to job interviews! It gets even BETTER! That doesn’t seem possible, right? Well, you are looking (okay, maybe not actually looking) at one of the new social workers employed by Ave Maria House. In case you are wondering, Ave Maria is a Catholic based nursing home in Bartlett. I won’t tell you too much about it right now….maybe one day you will read about it from a new blogger :) My daughter is especially happy about this as she now gets to go to big girl school. Apparently I am not very fun to stay at home with.

I guess this is farewell for now. Maybe we will meet again one day if I am selected for some kind of “Volunteer Odyssey All-Stars”.

From Volunteer Odyssey:

We LOVED working with Sam and we wish her all the best in her new role. And she’s right – we think you’ll see a lot more of her! Congratulations, Sam!!!

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Week 5, Day 7: Samantha Hicks at The Dorthy Day House of Hospitality

I woke up on day 7 feeling kind of weird knowing it was my last day with the program. I IMAG1433know that this does not have to mean it will be my last time volunteering or anything but Sarah and Volunteer Odyssey made it so easy for me to volunteer. I can only hope I am able to gather enough self-discipline to keep a few hours of volunteering in my weekly routine. The feeling that comes with helping others is wonderful and definitely something I would like to continue. My goal is that when you hear from me again I am able to report that I have continued in what I believe is my duty as a resident of Memphis and am still helping others in the community.

Okay, on to day 7. On this day I spent my evening at the Dorthy Day House of Hospitality. My husband, daughter, and I spent a couple of hours simply visiting with the residents of the house. We stayed for prayer and dessert hour and pretty much talked while the kids played. It honestly felt like we were visiting a friend’s home on a Sunday evening. If you don’t already know, the Dorthy Day House is the only shelter in Memphis that is willing to take in homeless family. All of the other shelters force families to separate. Can you IMAG1437imagine being a single mother of a thirteen year old boy and being forced to separate from him in order to have a place to stay at night? This happens all of the time in our city (as well as other cities). Most shelters simply will not agree to take both males and females in the same facility. The Dorthy Day House is an exception to this rule. This shelter which resides in a beautiful home built in the early 1900’s is equipped to house three families. The home is beautiful and feels exactly as it should, like a home. If you have ever visited a shelter you are aware that although the facility might try to and make the residents stay feel “homey”, it just doesn’t usually happen. After all, how can it feel like home when you have to shower at a scheduled time after waiting in a long line and eat with 100 other people cafeteria style. I have hear many people who have stayed in shelters in other states describe staying in a shelter as being in prison. The residents at the DDH have one large room per family, a large dining room, a great room, a play/computer room, and an amazing kitchen where families are free to cook their family’s favorite meals. The DDH is 100% funded by donations from private donors and is run almost entirely by volunteers. This means that they do not receive finding from and local or state programs and are currently not funded by any grants. It is amazing to think that there are citizens in Memphis that have been gracious enough to provide this programIMAG1436 with so much.

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job opportunity where I can apply my social work skills and improve our community. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com

Want to know more about Samantha? Check out her bio:
http://volunteerodyssey.com/participants/#samantha-hicks

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Week 5, Day 6: Samantha Hicks at The Habitat for Humanity ReStore

Day 6 was a different type of volunteer experience for me. My assigned duties for all of the previous days have been doing something directly with individuals. Today I was at the Habitat Restore working both alone and with another volunteer (Atina, a veteran member of Volunteer Odyssey) on a project that would hopefully help the store to raise more money for Habitat for Humanity.IMAG1429  If you don’t know what the Restore is, here is the run down. Community members and businesses donate unwanted items ranging from clothing to kitchen cabinets to be sold at the store. The money made at the store goes to fund the Memphis area Habitat for Humanity projects. It’s that simple! My job on day 6 was to pick out an object in the store and give it a makeover! The hope is that the store will make more money on the newly remade item than they would have in its previous state.  I chose to work on cute white bench. It was the perfect size for a morning project.  I am very happy with how it turned out considering I used materials found around the selves of the store.  What do you think? Pretty cute if I say so myself!IMG_0118IMAG1431

The day I spent my time at Restore, it was full of volunteers! Everyone was working very hard on jobs ranging from cleaning the furniture on the floor of the store to assembling items in the back. Joe, an employee, explained to me that they have lots of people and groups from the community come to help out.IMAG1427 They also require the homeowners who are receiving services from Habitat for Humanity to work a total of 300 sweat equity hours per adult. Many of these hours are clocked in at the restore. Joe made it clear to me that it would not be possible for the store to run so smoothly without the volunteers. They provide endless man hours that are NOT taken for granted! So, if you want to spend a few hours working with great people (and maybe do a little thrift shopping yourself), contact Restore. They welcome and are grateful for all of their volunteers!

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job opportunity where I can apply my social work skills and improve our community. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com

Want to know more about Samantha? Check out her bio:
http://volunteerodyssey.com/participants/#samantha-hicks

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Week 5, Day 5: Samantha Hicks at MIFA

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photo (7)On day 5 I woke up bright and early and headed to meet Sarah (a fellow volunteer and the founder of Volunteer Odyssey) at MIFA. I actually didn’t know what MIFA stood for until that morning. Thanks to a quick history lesson from Sarah, I now know that MIFA was formed in the late 1960’s when community members band together to find a way to fight poverty and racial division in the Memphis area. MIFA started the meals on wheels program in Memphis in 1974 and has been serving hot meals to citizens 5 days a week ever since. Today the meals on wheels program feeds 1,800 seniors in Memphis! Many of these meals are delivered by volunteers.

Thanks to the very organized and detail oriented staff at MIFA, the process of volunteering was extremely easy.

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Step 1: Walk into MIFA and receive your route assignment

Step 2: Load your car with the coolers marked with your route number (one cooler for hot food and one for cold)

Step 3: Follow the step by step directions on your route sheet in order to get to the first house

Step 4: Give the senior at the home the food and drink

Step 5: Repeat steps 3&4

After you have finished delivering all of your meals, ten in total, you head back to MIFA and return their cooler. That is it!
The entire process only takes about an hour and a half from start to finish and you have done an amazing thing for ten people!

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Everyone on my route was very nice and thankful to be receiving the food. There wasn’t a single individual who wanted to stand and chat with me which was kind of disappointing. You know, since I like to talk and all. But, I can imagine that with some of the routes you might encounter a few individuals who don’t mind or might even be eager to have an early morning, cheery conversation. After all, for some of these people you might be the only person they see all day. Think about that for a second will you? I don’t know about you all but for me that thought helped me to keep a big smile on my face while greeting the recipients. If I was only going to see one person all day I for sure would want it to be a smiling, happy person!

 

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Have I mentioned I “saved” a newborn kitten on my venture with meals on wheels? No? Well, no biggie. I save newborn animals all of the time. Okay, maybe this is the first but I was pretty excited to be able to help the little kitty out. Long story short, the poor thing had fallen out of its kitty house and was lying abandoned on the porch. I simply picked it up and returned it to its mother and siblings. When helping with meals on wheels things like this are likely to happen on a much larger scale every once in a while. For instance, there have been times when a meal recipient hasn’t responded to the knock at the door. After a call made by the volunteer back to the MIFA hub a family members is reached and goes for a visit. The family member finds that the senior has fallen and needs to go to the hospital.

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Thanks to the dedication of the meals on wheels program and their staff and volunteers, an even more serious issue has been avoided. As a volunteer for this program you are doing so much more than simply delivering food. You are delivering a smile and a “have a good day” to a person who might otherwise not hear it all day. You are also in a sense checking up on the individuals to make sure that they are okay. For some people, you might be delivering the only meal they will have that entire day. That one reason alone is enough to persuade me to return to MIFA in the future.

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job opportunity where I can apply my social work skills and improve our community. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com

Want to know more about Samantha? Check out her bio: http://volunteerodyssey.com/participants/#samantha-hicks
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Week 5, Day 4: Samantha Hicks at Knowledge Quest

Okay, I don’t mean to be over the top or anything but today was AMAZING! On day 4 I had the opportunity to hang out with the awesome kids and staff Knowledge Quest. Once again, being new to the area, I did not know much about the program. When I pulled up to the campus there were children running around everywhere playing and releasing energy after a long day at school. Across the street was a very large garden area where community members were working tilling the ground. There were flowers, fruits, and vegetables planted in these amazing raised garden beds. It was a sunny day and everyone, kids included, seemed to really enjoy being there.

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I was given the grand tour by Andy from whom I learned about the awesome things that were going on there. Knowledge quest is spread out into several different campus (there are hopes of being in one large facility one day). These campuses welcome neighborhood children to come and hang out after school. By hang out I mean enjoy a healthy snack (ranging from white meat chicken nuggets to a turkey sandwich on wheat accompanied by low fat milk and a piece of fruit), get exercise, receive tutoring and educational services from certified teachers, and learn about different things including community and music. Children are welcome to come and stay from the time they are released from school until 6 o’clock in the evening. Many of these children would be what you might call “latch key” kids if it weren’t for the center. I asked one fifth grade girl if she went to a babysitter’s house after school before she started coming to Knowledge Quest. She looked at me kind of funny and said “well no. I babysat my cousins after school.” This was coming from an 11 year old little girl. What a relief it must be for her to be able to go to Knowledge Quest after school where she can play with friends and work on her homework without all of the responsibility! Did I mention that all of these services are free to the families?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Once again, AMAZING! Knowledge Quest is staffed by both full time and part time employees. They also receive lots of help from the community members and families. On this particular day there were both teenagers, adults from the community, and parents volunteering their time to help out with the children.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlthough I was able to meet and talk with children of all ages, I found my niche working with the fourth and fifth grade girls. The kids have been working on making a model of what they would like their community to look like. My group, led by a sweet girl named Infinity, was working on the “Glamorous Hotel!” After all, every community needs a glamorous hotel! J Other students were working on different parts of the community which included restaurants, a post office, and a bank, just to name a few.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The girls were beyond sweet. They asked lots of questions and were very interested in what I was doing there. They also thought I was 17 or 18 years old which was especially sweet! This was a great opportunity for me because it is the perfect place for me to bring my daughter along! I hope to return with her in the next couple of weeks! Speaking of the next couple of weeks, summer break is right around the corner. This means that kids at Knowledge Quest will be there for their summer program which is every day of the week and includes before and after care. What am I trying to get at? Well, there is an extraordinary amount of need for volunteers during the summer. I can’t think of a better way to spend my summer than hanging out with these awesome kids! Have I mentioned that I can’t wait to go back?

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Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job opportunity where I can apply my social work skills and improve our community. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com

Want to know more about Samantha? Check out her bio:
http://volunteerodyssey.com/participants/#samantha-hicks

Week 5, Day 3: Samantha Hicks at Memphis Botanic Garden

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IMAG1415Day three of my adventure was at the Memphis Botanic Garden. It was a beautiful day and the perfect weather for outdoor activities. When I arrived at the garden, I noticed that there were several school buses there. I assumed the Botanic Garden must be a hip place IMAG1420for elementary school field trips. After checking in with the staff, I found out that they were having their annual World of Plants festival. During this festival, 2nd through 6th grade students travel through the gardens to several different “countries”. At each station they learn a little about how the plants from that country influence the culture there. Students work on crafts, taste food, and learn lots about each country. The festival lasts for two weeks and the Botanic Gardens expect that they will host approximately 9,000 students during this time!IMAG1417

I was assigned to help out Taylor at the Netherlands. Here, students learned about how the individuals from this country make wooden shoes from Tulip Poplar trees (which just so happens to be the TN state tree). Students colored mini wooden shoes and attached magnets to the backs so they could display them at home. I had the opportunity to talk with hundreds of students throughout the day. They all raved about how they loved the festival. One student even said to me, “this is the best field trip ever”! It took most groups approximately one and a half to two hours to visit every country, and at the end of the day they had a large bag of goodies to take home with them.

IMAG1419One employee explained to me that they are usually very busy during the spring season because of the festivals and school groups that come in for field trips. They welcome the IMAG1418help from anyone who wants to volunteer. They also have a harvest festival in the fall, which I hear is equally as fun! I had a wonderful time today working with both the awesome employees, and the students outside in the beautiful weather!

 

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job opportunity where I can apply my social work skills and improve our community. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way.

http://volunteerodyssey.com/participants/#samantha-hicks

Week 5, Day 2: Samantha Hicks at Church Health Center

Day two of my journey with Volunteer Odyssey was at Church Health Center. I had heard of it before, however not being from the area I’ve always assumed that it was simply small medical clinic run by a local church; boy was I wrong! When I first drove into the facility, my first thought was that I was at the wrong place. I’d been imagining a small brick building, much like a doctor’s office. In reality, the Church Health Center facility that I had the privilege of volunteering in today is a large, two story building with lots of windows and natural light.

During the summer months every year, the health center hosts a weekly farmers market in their courtyard. It is open not only to the members of the center, but also to the general public. They can shop for locally grown produce, homemade bread, along with all sorts of other local goodies. The day that I was volunteering at the center, also happened to be the kickoff day for this year’s market.IMAG1405On this particular day, there happened to be a couple of health food vendors in attendance which was perfect for me considering I have a thing for food trucks as it is! This being said, naturally, I had to try something. I decided on a green smoothie from the “smoothie lady” and it was amazing! The farmers market is open every Tuesday during the summer months, so you have plenty of opportunities to stop by and shop around, and be sure to grab a green smoothie during your visit!

IMAG1407After finishing my smoothie, I went inside and got to work as I had been assigned to help in the nutrition center. They were hosting a luncheon for a local church group that was interested in learning more about the services that the Nutrition center has available. You may be wondering the same thing, right? I know I was. They offer a variety of different programs, with the most popular being their cooking demonstration classes. IMAG1409These demonstrations are held several times a week, and are aimed at teaching the participants recipes that are not only healthy, but also cost effective and can be easily incorporated into their weekly routines. Carolyn, who leads the demonstrations, explained to me that her goal is to keep an entire meal; dessert included believe it or not, under 600 calories! On this particular day, the meal that was demonstrated and then served to everyone in attendance totaled only 523 calories. I could not believe it! Trust me when I say, we weren’t simply serving a “deck of cards” sized piece of dried out chicken alongside a cup of green beans, which by the way is how my personal version of a healthy meal usually ends up. IMAG1408 Instead the menu consisted of a spring salad with a vinaigrette dressing, orange glazed chicken, healthy, and might I add delicious, fried rice, steamed broccoli, and then for the finale, drum roll please…..banana raspberry squares! IMAG1406Each and every part of the meal was amazing, while the demonstration was also extremely informative. All classes are offered to members of the center, however some classes are open to the public as well. You can stop by and see Carolyn anytime to get a schedule of all the classes.

Carolyn and her staff are teaching participants easy and economical ways to cook in a healthy manner. These small changes are something that can make a huge impact on the health of a community as a whole. Not to mention all of the other programs the center offers; yoga classes, a full gym, and a therapeutic swimming pool, just to name a few. This organization is doing amazing things to help the members of our local community become healthier as a whole. It is such a privilege that these services are available to everyone, including families who might not be able to pay for a gym membership at a local athletic club. If you are in the area I strongly suggest you take a minute to swing by and check out the Church Health Center. It will be well worth your time to take a look around and see the amazing things they have available.

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job opportunity where I can apply my social work skills and improve our community. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com

Want to know more about Samantha? Check out her bio:

http://volunteerodyssey.com/participants/#samantha-hicks

 

Week 5, Day 1: Samantha Hicks at SRVS

samrobertHello all! Let me start this week off with a confession. This is my first time blogging! I am a religious follower of tons of blogs and the writers are always so amazing that I feel like I am sitting down having tea with them, not sitting behind a computer screen on the other side of the country. I have been sitting in front of my computer while the television babysits my three year old for the last hour ( I know, mother of the year award material, for sure) trying to figure out how to make this next week interesting for everyone. I have had all kinds of wild delusions this past weekend while anticipating my blog writing. I have imagined adding “Samantha Hicks – Blogger Extraordinaire” to my resume and having the following conversation with a new friend at the play ground: New friend: “So what do you do for a living?” Me: “Oh nothing much. I blog. I’m a blogger.” Needless to say, these things are not really going to happen. So, I hope you all can bear with me throughout this week. I will try to make it as interesting as possible. My goal is for everyone to feel as though they are walking alongside me through my experience in volunteering over the next week. Let’s get started, shall we?

It’s Monday morning and I wake up extra early to make sure I arrive on time at SRVS (pronounced serves). I was especially nervous this morning because I was going to be working with a population I have had no experience with. After an amazing morning I now know I had absolutely no reason to be nervous. Let me tell you more about it. I walked into the lobby and was immediately struck by how beautiful the facilities were. The entire building was impeccably clean and was furnished with comfy, modern furniture and accessories. What a wonderful place for both the staff and the individuals receiving services to be able to spend their days. I also received a tour of the learning center facilities, where I was going to be spending my day. The area consisted of two main hallways that were broken up into several small classrooms. The participants spend their mornings working at their own pace on Montessori style activities. I know a little bit about the Montessori style teaching approach with children but had never heard of it being incorporated with adults with developmental disabilities. I found out from the curriculum director that SRVS is the first agency to offer this service to this particular population. What a wonderful idea! Montessori is all about working with each individual at their own level. Although the classrooms are generally grouped by ability level, each individual is unique, and has specific areas they enjoy working with. Being in the Montessori classroom enables them to work at their own pace on whatever activity they enjoy.samrichard2

The activities vary from math and science projects to activities that promote daily living skills such as pouring and scooping. Okay, enough of my Montessori spill! I can’t help it. I think it is an amazing approach to learning, and I’m so excited that the people who are served by SRVS are able to benefit from it!

I spent most of my time here working one on one with individuals in the classroom setting. Everyone was so interactive and seemed genuinely thrilled to welcome a new face into their classroom. The teachers appeared to have a wonderful relationship with each and every one of their students. They were all very kind and patient. It would be a lie to say that this is an easy population to work with. It comes with many challenges and the staff at SRVS all seemed to truly love being there and love all of the people that they work with.

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In addition to the main classrooms the facility also offers several special activities, such as an amazing music room! The large room was filled with bongo drums, keyboards, and lots of other instruments. From talking with the individuals at SRVS it was clear that they all loved and looked forward to having music time. They also have an apartment model where participants can practice life skills such as ironing, making a bed, and sweeping. This particular day, the class I was working with was going to have a special treat in the afternoon. They were going on an outing to a movie theater. Most of the individuals look forward to going out to do things such as going to the movies and going bowling. However, there was one individual who did not want to go to the movies. The staff made special arrangements so that he could stay at the facility and practice music with another class. This is a wonderful example of how they accommodate to the needs and desires of everyone they serve. They recognize that they are working with adults who have their own individual personalities and treat them as such. I can imagine that it is sometimes hard to remember you are working with adults when working with the developmental disabled population. This does not happen at SRVS. The individuals are treated with dignity and respect. Overall, I had a wonderful time today! I look forward to returning to help out in the near future!

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job opportunity where I can apply my social work skills and improve our community. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com

Want to know more about Samantha? Check out her bio:

http://volunteerodyssey.com/participants/#samantha-hicks

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Prelude: Samantha Hicks

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For the last few years my life has been packed full of potty training, princesses, and playing pretend. I am lucky enough to have had the amazing opportunity of being a stay at home mom for the past three years. It has been an incredible experience, and I have relished in every moment of it. Aside from being a full time mother, staying at home with my daughter has also enabled me to complete a Master’s Degree in Social Work through The University of Tennessee’s distance learning program.

Nearing the end of my last semester of graduate school I decided that it was time to trade my mom jeans for dress slacks and begin my search for what they call a “real job”. After all, I couldn’t possibly believe that spending the next fifteen years at home playing dress up and having tea parties was actually an option. Could I? Either way, today I am nearing the two month mark and have applied for seventy-five, plus, jobs. I am quite new to the Memphis area and have decided that networking in the private/ non-profit sector may be beneficial in my search. What better way to accomplish this than by volunteering? It is a win-win for everyone involved, and furthermore I will have the opportunity to meet lots of new and exciting people to whom I can lend a couple of helping hands along the way. So, wish me luck! I am jumping into this experience head first, on a mission to help change lives and hopefully have mine changed along the way as well