Prelude: Rivers Powers

I’ve always been an incredibly driven person, and growing up, my days were beyond filled with school, sports, art lessons, piano lessons, homework, and hobbies. When I got my first job in Corporate America after I graduated from law school, I didn’t have time to do any of the things I enjoyed because I was working 50-60 hours a week. After years of doing nothing but work with no real down time and missing my friends and family, I made the very risky decision to pack up and move to Memphis without a job. It is so easy to daydream in your cubicle of all the amazingly fun things you will do with your free time, but the TV watching, catching up on sleep, and socializing gets old very quickly. I feel very blessed to have met one of the … Continue reading

Week 1, Day 7: John Cook at Dorothy Day House of Hospitality Soup Supper

Wouldn’t you know it–yesterday was snowy and cold while I worked outside, and today is sunny and perfect and I’m working inside. Sarah is really testing me…. Today I am helping set up for a soup supper to acknowledge and thank all the volunteers and donors who help Dorothy Day’s House of Hospitality maintain her mission. For those of you who don’t know, the Dorothy Day House is a homeless shelter that strives to keep families together. I have seen plenty of homeless men out and about town. Occasionally I’ll come across a homeless woman, but I have never before seen a homeless family. But they DO exist. Homeless families aren’t seen very often because they are usually hiding. They don’t want to risk getting caught and having their kids taken away. The Dorothy Day House is the only homeless … Continue reading

Week 1, Day 6: John Cook at Shelby Farms Park and Conservancy

I woke up this morning with a terrible attitude. It’s Saturday. It’s early. And it’s friggin’ SNOWING. Do I really have to go work outside today?! The answer? Yes. So let’s just power through this and get it over with. “Whistle While You Work” is a volunteer program at the Shelby Farms Park Conservatory. The first Saturday of every month, volunteers meet at the park to help repair trails and perform maintenance projects like: spreading mulch, gardening, and removing dead limbs. The park’s forest attracts an array of wildlife, however, much of the forest is fragmented and severely threatened by invasive species, like Chinese privet and kudzu. I show up at 9 a.m., still in a sour mood, and notice a huge group of people hanging out at the parking lot. Why are these crazy people here so early on … Continue reading

Week 1, Day 5: John Cook at Make-A-Wish

“The Make-A-Wish Foundation has enriched the lives of children with life-threatening medical conditions through its wish-granting work. The Foundation’s mission reflects the life-threatening impact that a Make-A-Wish experience has on children, families, referred sources, donors, sponsors, and entire communities.” Today, I got a behind-the-scenes look at how the organization ran. One thing is for sure, these people stay busy. As soon as I get to the Make-A-Wish office, I meet with the volunteer coordinator, Marcy. Marcy explains all the different projects and fund raisers the foundation is working on and then hands me the reigns to the “Wishes in Flight” project. This is a program that offers people a chance to donate their frequent flyer miles to children whose wishes involve traveling. It’s perfect for people who want to donate but may not have the funds to do it. My … Continue reading

Week 1, Day 4: John Cook at Catholic Charities of West Tennessee

Hunger is a feeling everyone can identify with. Whether it’s because you’re trying to lose some weight, or perhaps just too busy and had to skip a meal, at some point in your life you’ve experienced that empty, painful feeling. However, most of us overcome this feeling relatively quickly. We just walk to our refrigerator or pantry and whip something up. Or perhaps we drive to the nearest McDonalds or Burger King for a quick bite to eat. (To make it clear, I do not condone that kind of behavior, that’s just my prerogative.) (And spare me whatever Bobby Brown reference you’re thinking of right now.) It’s not a problem for most of us to feed ourselves. However, I learned that 1 in 6 people in our community do not know where they are going to get their next meal. … Continue reading

Week 1, Day 3: John Cook at Memphis Botanic Gardens

I have been giving this a lot of thought. A LOT of thought: I’m going to become a farmer. That’s right! I’m going to become a farmer and I’m going to grow ALL kinds of things too! Tomatoes? Duh. Carrots? Absolutely! Strawberries?! Get out of here! Of course I’m going to grow strawberries! And everything else in between!! Cucumbers! Zucchini! BELL PEPPERS of every color you can THINK of!! (except perhaps blue) PLUS- so many different herbs you won’t know whether to laugh or cry. There’s just one problem: I don’t know HOW to do any of this. The only experience I’ve ever had with growing anything (other than an amazing beard) was a few weeks ago when I did this to an avocado pit: Until today! I showed up at Memphis Botanic Garden in East Memphis, a 96 acre … Continue reading

Week 1, Day 2: John Cook at St. Mary’s Catholic Church Soup Kitchen

For over 100 years, St. Mary’s Catholic Church has been operating a soup kitchen to feed the poor and hungry.  Today, I got a chance to be a part of the legendary operation: First and foremost, I would like to explain that I have volunteered places in the past and many times felt like I was in the way – “too many cooks in the kitchen” type scenarios.  But not today!  Mr. Ron, the volunteer director, greeted me at the door, introduced himself, and immediately put me to work.  THAT is exactly what I wanted. No beating around the bush, no standing around wondering what I should be doing—BOOM: Sandwich makin’ time!  And if there’s one thing I know, it’s sandwiches.  I enjoyed sitting at the table, listening to the other volunteers tell me a little about themselves, and secretly … Continue reading

Week 1, Day 1: John Cook at Meals On Wheels

  So here I am, my first day of my Volunteer Odyssey experience.  Today I am delivering lunches for MIFA Meals on Wheels., a program that provides lunches for homebound senior citizens.   I show up to the MIFA office around 9:15 am to “check in”, load up a couple coolers of food, and figure out my route.  My route consists of around 12 seniors who all live around the same area. As I approached my first stop, I became a bit overwhelmed.  I started asking myself a lot of questions  : “What if I do it wrong?” “What if she doesn’t like me?” “Is this enough food?” “Should I take out her garbage or offer to mow her lawn?” “Now you’re just being ridiculous. But yea, offer to mow her lawn just in case.” I parked and put together … Continue reading

Prelude: John Cook

Unemployment can take its toll on you.  Don’t get me wrong—the first week or so of sleeping in and watching trash tv is great! But it gets old real quick.  I needed something to do.  So, I decided to do all those things people talk about doing if they had the time:  visit family, yard work, projects around the house, and hit the gym.  Keeping myself busy was definitely a step in the right direction, but I was still unsatisfied. There had to be something else I could do with all this spare time.  And then, with a little (more like a LOTtle–HA! See what I did there?) encouragement (definitely NOT nagging) from a friend, I decided to get out and volunteer my time to some organizations that could use it. And oh yea– I’m “blogging” about my experience. Feel … Continue reading