Day 7: Home for the Homeless

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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. In the basement of the house they store food, toiletries, and other necessities that … Continue reading

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 student-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 … Continue reading

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. I 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 … Continue reading

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 … Continue reading

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. … Continue reading

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 one could desire. To the right of … Continue reading

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 where most of the fitness services reside. It reminded me of a YMCA but a bit … Continue reading

Where to Volunteer in Memphis

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Are you looking for volunteer opportunities in Memphis? You’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re looking for something easy that fits your schedule or something meaningful where you can make a big impact, we’re here to help! Memphis needs dedicated volunteers like YOU! Deliver meals, tutor kids, help homeless families, become a docent, plan special events, respond in a crisis – the opportunities are endless. We’re inviting you to get involved. Here’s how to get started with Volunteer Odyssey: If you’re looking for the best places to volunteer in Memphis, we’ve got you covered! Email Caroline@volunteerodyssey.com if you’re ready to start. It’s time to make your mark on Memphis!        

Prologue: Harli Kurdelmeyer

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During 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 … Continue reading

Epilogue: Kathleen Quinlen

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The stakes always seem a little higher for nonprofits during the holidays. Whether they’re heavily promoting opportunities for donors to give before the end of the year, trying to make the holidays special for every member of the community they serve, or addressing the needs of a vulnerable population as cold weather approaches, they often seem to be expending an exceptional amount of organizational energy around mid-December. I think that completing my Volunteer Odyssey the week before Christmas and Hanukkah afforded me a unique experience. First, I was able to see several different Memphis organizations operating under the pressure that seems inevitably tied to anything having to do with the winter holidays. From making sure every child at the Carpenter Art Garden received a gift to ensuring that families at Snowy Nights had a magical experience, the staff and volunteers … Continue reading