Week 2, Day 7: Rivers Powers at Dorothy Day House of Hospitality

Everyone knows that homelessness is a problem in America, but what most people don’t know is how the system works to combat the problem. Homeless shelters exist and are supported by governments, faith-based organizations, and non-governmental organizations. However, many shelters have very specific requirements for who they allow to reside in them. Some are gender specific, substance-free, number restricting (per family unit), time limited, or religiously affiliated, but very few allow families to remain intact or allow male children over the age of about 6. This is where the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality comes in: to fill this void and prevent families from being separated just because they are homeless. Dorothy Day House of Hospitality is a great place for families, who can’t get into a typical shelter, to stay while they are getting back on their feet. Some … Continue reading

Week 2, Day 6: Rivers Powers at Dirty Girl Run

I am a runner. I am what some would call a long distance runner, but for plenty of my running buddies, my half-marathon max distance is very short. I’ve participated in dozens of races, which require lots of training, but I’ve only been out to Shelby Farms at 6am 2 or 3 times for training runs, and it’s always been cold when I have. The only reason that rivals a training run for best reasons to be at Shelby Farms before the sun rises is to help out with a charity run. The Dirty Girl Run is a girls (of all ages) muddy 5K obstacle course whose proceeds benefit the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Maybe my favorite thing about the run series is that breast cancer survivors get to participate for free! It was a lot of fun to work … Continue reading

Week 2, Day 5: Rivers Powers at The Waffle Shop at Calvary Episcopal Church

I am an Episcopalian (though Calvary is not my parish) and have been living in Memphis for several years, so I knew about The Waffle Shop and the Lenten Preaching Series at Calvary Episcopal Church, but I had never been until it was chosen as part of my Volunteer Odyssey.  I went the day before I was scheduled to volunteer with a friend to have lunch and see how it all works.  Fortunately, he knew and introduced me to the woman in charge, so I didn’t have to go into it totally blind on Friday. The first thing I did as a volunteer was wait tables, something I didn’t think I would do again, but it’s really not bad at the Waffle Shop – not to be confused with the Waffle House – even though the house is packed non-stop … Continue reading

Week 2, Day 4: Rivers Powers at St. Mary’s Catholic Church Soup Kitchen

Rivers Powers at St. Mary's Catholic Church Soup Kitchen

What will the Lord put on your heart to help the poor & homeless eat a nutritious meal? Access to healthy foods, regardless of someone’s socio-economic status is something I am passionate about, both personally and professionally.  St. Mary’s Catholic Church’s Soup Kitchen is at the top of the list in Memphis for tackling this issue on a daily basis.  They serve around 90,000 meals every year to the poor and hungry.  From 7:15 – 10:00am water, electricity for charging a cell phone, and food are provided to anyone who shows up. In addition to snacks, each person receives a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a deli meat sandwich, and 16 oz. of hot soup.  My tasks there were very basic – making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, breaking down a cooked chicken, dicing potatoes, and serving food. From a … Continue reading

Week 2, Day 3: Rivers Powers at Memphis Botanic Garden

I love living in the city, but at my heart, I’m a country girl and LOVE playing in the dirt.  Gardening is in my blood, so I was very happy to have drawn the Memphis Botanic Garden as one of my volunteer experiences. I’ve been to the Botanic Garden before for events and the farmers’ market, but it was very cool to be able to go back and work in the greenhouses.  The orchid house is simply gorgeous with so many varieties of beautiful tropical flowers, and many other plants are grown in the other houses.  My first project was to transplant young plants from their seeding pots to larger containers.  These plants are being grown for sale at the upcoming Memphis Area Master Gardener’s Spring Fling.  Some of the plants I didn’t know at all, but I easily identified … Continue reading

Week 2, Day 2: Rivers Powers at SRVS

When thinking of a facility for the developmentally disabled, most people probably imagine a cold, sterile institution made of cinder blocks where too many people are being watched over by a distant and harsh staff. SRVS is NOTHING like this. The facilities alone are top notch and massive; I was amazed by how large and high tech the main building was. Small groups of about 8 people gather with several instructors in different classrooms to work on a variety of skills – everything from reading and writing and learning the alphabet to domestic skills like ironing and meal preparation are taught to people highly eager to learn. I was very impressed so many people were using advanced technology like iPads and the SMART Board as learning tools. SRVS teaches using the Montessori method, which I didn’t know a whole lot … Continue reading

Week 2, Day 1: Rivers Powers at MIFA Meals on Wheels

In the 25 years or so of schooling I have, I have never thought about spending my Spring Break doing anything like Volunteer Odyssey, but after Day 1 at MIFA delivering food for Meals on Wheels, I’m very happy about my non-traditional vacation. I pass MIFA at least 10 times a week, and several of my classmates work there, but I’ve never spent much time learning about their programs. That has been an epic failure on my part. Meals on Wheels is one of the best volunteer opportunities I’ve been a part of in Memphis. I now know why so many people volunteer their time there on a regular basis: the team at MIFA is very friendly and well organized. Food is delivered in teams of two, and each team is given a methodical delivery schedule and two coolers – … Continue reading

Epilogue: John Cook

After John had some time to reflect on his experience, we sat down to talk with him about what it was like. Here’s what he had to say: Volunteer Odyssey: Had you ever volunteered before for any of the non-profits that you went to during your Volunteer Odyssey week? John: Never! They were all completely new to me. And each day during my Volunteer Odyssey week, I did something completely different than the day before. Volunteer Odyssey: Will you continue to volunteer for any of the organizations now that your week is over? John: I’d be more than happy to volunteer for any of the places I went to when they need help. But there are a couple in particular that I’m definitely going back to. Volunteer Odyssey: What kind of reactions did you get from your family and friends … Continue reading

Prelude: Kevin Nowlin

I love people.  I relish an opportunity to connect with people of all types of personalities and experiences.  I love to serve.  I find there is undeniable personable freedom that comes from unselfishly giving able hands and undivided attention to those who have needs and something to say.  My problems seem to dissipate, and life is enriched, when I pour myself into the lives around me.  Anyone reading this, who knows me, knows my life has not been an exemplary devotion of service.  But I find myself in a unique professional situation: unemployed/underemployed; and I have the time and energy to devote to the things that most people dream about.  A day job, or life-job as the current demands indicate, affords no tangible opportunities for a service immersion.  Volunteer Odyssey is going to be one of those rare opportunities in … Continue reading

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