Wow, what a week!  To describe my Volunteer Odyssey as intense would be an understatement.  Between working my volunteer commitments each day, and meeting the deadlines of submitting my blog after each volunteer experience, I felt like I was working a full time job.   It was a full time job that was far more rewarding than I ever imagined.

There were two recurring themes I noticed during the week.  First – the word “blessing” was used a lot by those who were served by the non-profit organizations I was paired with.  Second – the non-profit partners I worked with all showed such passion about their job and seemed genuinely happy.   After what I’ve witnessed this past week, I believe the happiness and passion demonstrated by the non-profits and their employees is a result of knowing that what they were doing was providing a blessing to those who needed it.

That is exactly what I am looking for – a job that I feel passionate about.  I want to look forward to going to work every day.  Through the connections I’ve made during the past week, I realize that this is possible.  Thanks to my Volunteer Odyssey, I’ve met some wonderful people in the Memphis non-profit community who understand my goal.  They are eager to help me achieve it.   I’m continuing to volunteer with MIFA, Habitat for Humanity, and Porter Leath to gain some much needed non-profit experience, and I feel confident that this will help me find the perfect job.   Thanks to Volunteer Odyssey for giving me the opportunity to experience a variety of jobs in the non-profit community.  The encounters gave me the boost of confidence I needed.  I am now headed in the right direction to find a job that will allow me to provide blessings to those who need them.

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Epilogue – Brendan Larkin

When I discovered that I was going have a friend come to visit Memphis just a month after pulling a U-haul up my driveway on Young Avenue I frantically brainstormed how I could entertain him. The frenzy subsided as I realized how well I knew Memphis relative to how long I’ve called this city home. It may sound corny, but because of Volunteer Odyssey and everyone I met during the process I feel connected to Memphis.
If I didn’t have my daily blogs to reflect on, I might remember the journey as a dream, blended into one unique experience instead of seven individual days. Regardless of how I look back on my adventure, it will undoubtedly be my first memory of Memphis. The smiles and greetings of the men and women on both sides of the soup kitchen line exposed me to the soul of the city. Hours spent working under the sun in Shelby forest gave me a picturesque sense of a hard days work in the Mid South. The spirit of southern hospitality was embodied in everyone I worked with throughout the week. It was a lot to take in a week, but I appreciate the cultural submersion I received.

My friend’s visit was a success and I’m convinced I could pass has a full-fledged Memphian (I hope to erase the biggest blemish on my Memphis resident resume by attending a Grizzlies game in the up coming season)! After my Volunteer Odyssey week I jumped head first into my job hunt. Job hunts are daunting, but a throw in being new to a city and desperation beings to creep in. The resources and community I received with Volunteer Odyssey gave me the confidence and determination to achieve my goal of landing a job with a small local business. Next week I’ll start at Quality Incentive Company and couldn’t be more excited for my next adventure in Memphis!


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Megan Banaszek Epilogue

If I sound different than I did last week in my blog posts, it’s because I am now employed full time! A girl can only justify watching The Price is Right for so long.

My experience with Volunteer Odyssey was everything I had hoped for and so much more. I met individuals with the biggest hearts in the city, learned about the vital organizations in Memphis, and received invaluable advice from Mid-South natives. Volunteer Odyssey made me fall in love with Memphis.

Two weeks to the day after I volunteered with my Odyssey, I was offered a job at Carpenter Art Garden. The garden is supported by Binghampton Development Corporation. I encourage everyone to check out their website to learn more about this organization, as they are doing great work improving and empowering the area. As the garden’s first full time staff member, I will have a plethora of roles, for which my previous non-profit experiences have certainly prepared me! I look forward to putting my time and energy into fulfilling the vision so many dedicated volunteers have for this precious gem in the Binghampton community.

Erin from Carpenter Art Garden presenting the official job offer!

Erin from Carpenter Art Garden presenting the official job offer!

The people I met were so willing to share job leads they knew of in the area. It says a lot about Memphians by how many people I had just met were inclined to reach out and help me. During my Odyssey, I was moved by the mission of every single agency I had the chance to work with. Since my blog, I have donated a meal to Dorothy Day House, found myself riding Urban Bicycle Food Ministry every Wednesday night, and spent time on Habitat for Humanity build sites. I look forward to further developing these relationships and helping these organizations make an even greater impact in Memphis.

I have completely fallen for the Grit and Grind of Memphis, and Volunteer Odyssey has everything to do with it. I would recommend this program to anyone who is in transition in their life.,It is a win-win for the individuals and the community. Maybe someday you’ll read a new blog about a Memphis transplant spending a day volunteering at the Carpenter Art Garden. I can only hope to pass on the same enriching experience I was so fortunate to have in my first days in Memphis. I hope this blog has inspired you to go out and find ways to serve your community. If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity, I know a place!


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Epilogue 2… what happened next?

I really enjoyed my Volunteer Odyssey. I was able to meet and mingle with creative minds and trailblazing leaders! One of the most rewarding aspects was getting outside of my comfort zone and exploring new possibilities. I was encouraged and offered the possibility to network with top business men and women from our city. I was able to sit with them and ask questions regarding their beginnings and the experience of going from “ground-zero” to unsurmountable success. All of which could not have been done without the coaching and support from Volunteer Odyssey.

To be more specific, outside of your work schedule, you are connected with leading professionals in your career field and interest. This connection is usually made through email and it is left to you to follow through with your contact. If you follow up, a meeting usually takes place and this is when you are able to shine. At this moment you can ask questions, lead a thought-provoking conversation, and share your experiences and how this may relate to the work they’re doing. From this meeting, you may find yourself with a new job or a mentor who can positively impact your career goals and aspirations. This is exactly what happened to me. With the coaching and support from Volunteer Odyssey, I was lead to a local entrepreneur who is really making waves in our city. I had the awesome opportunity to assist with the Untapped event at the Tennessee Brewery.

The Tennessee Brewery Untapped event was a six-week event. A group of local entrepreneurs reactivated the Tennessee Brewery to show how historic sites can be transformed into fun, exciting, innovative spaces for a good ol’ time! This was truly an amazing experience to be a part of. I met tons of people passionate about our city and enjoying the spaces worked by their great grandfathers, grew up around, or people who just appreciate the historical architecture or significance that once represented Memphis. I also enjoyed making new friends, learning new trades, and eating scrumptious food!

I hope others will be able to gain as much as I did, even more, from their Volunteer Odyssey. It can be a lot of work, but your Volunteer Odyssey can be personally rewarding, educational, and a great professional development opportunity.

Epilogue: A New Beginning

I really enjoyed the time spent on my Volunteer Odyssey. I’ve always been the type of person who is eager to learn and volunteer. After my Peace Corps service and receiving my master’s degree, I pledged to make it my life’s goal to become a humanitarian who is well poised, educated, and experienced to create sound solutions to meet the demands of today’s challenges.

I have demonstrated my passion for service during my time as a student through extracurricular activities, and I will continue my passion for service throughout my career. As an undergraduate student I was President of the Urban Studies Club, Vice President of the Gamma Rho Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, AmeriCorps volunteer, and Habitat for Humanity volunteer. As a member of the Urban Studies Club I was able to complete service-oriented projects with groups like the Rotary Club and Sierra Club. Each of these experiences afforded me the opportunity to be of service to those who are less fortunate and serve as inspiration for younger generations. During my time as a graduate student, I actively participated in Synoptikos (graduate student organization in the department of Urban and Regional Planning at Florida State University) and was elected by colleagues to be an officer but, unfortunately, was unable to accept the position due to my invitation to the U.S. Peace Corps. I also participated in several campus clubs and organizations including the Azúcar Dance Company, Black Graduate Student Association, American Planning Association, and the FSU Sustainable Campus and Community Committee.

Fast forward to the present, I have completed a Volunteer Odyssey. A Volunteer Odyssey that allowed me to lend my skills and talent to some of the most impactful nonprofits in Memphis. Not only were relationships formed, I was able to expand my network and establish myself with a nonprofit dedicated to helping others Stand Out and Give Back. From this point forward, I am no longer viewed as a transplant, but as the young professional who was willing to freely give her time and talents for a greater cause: Building a stronger city through the development of its people.

From this experience, I was able to gain valuable work experience that will last a lifetime. Much of what I learned during my Volunteer Odyssey will prove beneficial in my career and personal life. Volunteering in roles such as translator for refugees, feeding the urban poor, practicing rudimentary mathematics with adults with disabilities, have all exposed me to the many facets of urban development. It is my goal to increase my knowledge and volunteer experiences so that my work will help to reduce social inequalities and the overall welfare of mankind. I will take what was learned and build upon it. I will build my network. I will build my relationships. I will build my outreach to those who are less fortunate. Everything I gained and learned during my Volunteer Odyssey will expand and grow. This is not an end, but a new beginning.

Thank you Volunteer Odyssey.



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Epilogue: Kat Franchino

I always forget how hard moving somewhere new is until I move somewhere new. I arrived to Memphis in late April and have experienced a whirlwind of emotions and experiences since then. While finding the closest grocery store remains easy enough, it’s surrounding myself with that strong, supportive community that I find most challenging.

20140619_Photos_For_Vol_Odyssey_Epilogue_01Life doesn’t have a roadmap? Oh sakes alive!

One of the best ways to find that community, at least in my opinion, is by seeking out volunteer opportunities. A community’s backbone is often made up of nonprofits and their dedicated teams of staff, volunteers, and donors–the people that reach out to those in need and say, “Hey, we’re right here with you.”

Nonprofits are a bit like Cinderella’s glass slipper though. Which one is right for my interests, my skills, and me? Luckily Sarah, founder of Volunteer Odyssey, was my fairy godmother and determined to help me find that perfect nonprofit fit.

It’s been nearly a week since my Volunteer Odyssey experience ended, but already I see the little changes that the organizations have made in my life. On Saturdays, I now find myself waking up early to visit with Gale and Nancy at the Memphis Farmers Market. After watching the dedicated riders of Urban Bicycle Food Ministry easily navigate the dark city streets while I tried to figure out if Main ran north and south or east and west, I threw my car keys on top of the fridge and have biked (almost) everywhere since then. Shame is a mighty strong influencer, my friends.

My Volunteer Odyssey week not only introduced me to awesome nonprofits and people, it also reminded me of the importance of action, which brings me to a  powerful ad that made the Internet rounds recently: “Liking” isn’t helping. Social media is one of the nonprofit world’s most powerful tools. Just look at Volunteer Odyssey. But I think it can also be one of its biggest weaknesses. Clicking the “like” button is the first step, but too often, it’s also the last step.

Volunteer Odyssey encourages us to take that first step, and then a second, and a third, and then…those steps never stop, whether it’s volunteering or donating or even coming on board as a staff member. My week with Volunteer Odyssey may have ended, but I know its impact on my life, as well as the Memphis community, will continue.

Epilogue: Michelle Harp


doylespic of me

What a week!  I met great people, got involved with great organizations, and felt like I made a real difference.  Even though my seven-day Volunteer Odyssey is over, I am not letting it end there.  I began the process of becoming a Le Bonheur volunteer and hope to attend the next orientation!  I have already tutored a group of adult refugees at World Relief, which I loved.  And last but not least, I will be on the event planning committee for Habitat for Humanity’s next fundraiser in the fall.

After working with seven different non-profits in seven days I’m convinced that many people do not volunteer simply because they do not know how.  For instance, my gifts are with people and children, but it’s a broad range – where to start, what do I choose?

That’s where Volunteer Odyssey comes in.  Readers can walk through the experience of others to help narrow down what they want to do.  Not only did I enjoy volunteering, but so many times I heard of other ways for people to be involved.  For example, pet therapy – someone who loves dogs can volunteer doing that.  My friend who has a degree in Counseling would be a great benefit to Porter Leath working with the Parent Educators.  There are ways to volunteer and do something you love at the same time! It’s a win-win.

Thank you for coming along with me on this journey! I have enjoyed blogging and sharing with you as well as hearing feedback!   I hope this has helped you find your volunteer path!

Thank you for reading!  Know an employer that’s looking for someone who’s great with kids? Need an event planner, organizer, or fundraiser?  Send an email our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or shelly2903@gmail.com.


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Epilogue: Alexandra Samsell

Where do I even begin? My Volunteer Odyssey experience brought out so many different photo 3 (2)emotions in me, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Throughout this entire experience, I kept thinking of one word for how I felt: overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed by the kindness of everyone I encountered and their willingness to help me in any way they could. I was overwhelmed by the beautiful missions and mass of information I learned about each organization. I was overwhelmed by the whole volunteer process.

I had naively gone into Volunteer Odyssey thinking I could still fill up my social calendar and be raring to go for anything that spontaneously came up. This was simply not the case. Even though I enjoy writing and was familiar with short turnaround times from my graduate school days, I had not exercised that part of my brain that rigorously in a while. To be completely honest, I was exhausted by the end of my volunteer week, but it was worth it!

The word “grateful” kept popping up in throughout my blog posts because that’s how I feel. Being somewhat new to Memphis, I wasn’t sure where to start to become more knowledgeable and involved in the non-profit community. Volunteer Odyssey provided the framework for me to build a network, and I can’t express how thankful I am to have been able to participate in the program. I was inspired by the seven organizations I visited, not only by the passionate staff of each, but also by the people who benefit from the organizations’ work. I urge everyone to volunteer at various non-profits in their communities, especially the ones they know little or nothing about because it might be motivating to think about people of different backgrounds in a new way.

I would like to thank two very special people who have been extremely involved during my journey. Leah Fitzpatrick, my blog editor, has helped me to become a better writer. She advised me on grammar, formatting, and content suggestions for each of my pieces. Her guidance was invaluable, and I am appreciative to have learned such critical writing skills I can take with me wherever I go in life. Thanks for the thorough feedback, Leah!

Second, I’d like to thank Sarah Petschonek, who created the Volunteer Odyssey program. She is an incredible woman who supported me every step of the way. She stayed “on call” during my entire week of volunteering to address any questions or concerns I had, and also introduced me to people who weren’t part of my Odyssey. She set up great openings for me to network with so many wonderful people in our community. You are a rockstar!

photo 1 (2)If I could, I would participate in Volunteer Odyssey every week! It was a life-changing experience and I have met and even become friends with numerous connections from my journey. I am eager to continue to support the places I visited and have continued to volunteer after my designated week. I am excited for all of the new opportunities I now have because of my participation in Volunteer Odyssey and I’m ready put my new skills to work! Thank you for sharing this adventure with me – I hope you enjoyed reading about it!

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job in writing, event planning, communications, or teaching. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or aesamsell@gmail.com.


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Ariana Glantz – Epilogue

Where to start my new internet friends?

When looking back I have a tendency to want to summate the whole experience and encapsulate it into one nugget. Unfortunately, I don’t think that strategy will work with Volunteer Odyssey. Yes, I have overall impressions of the people that I met, the new eyes that I see Memphis and Memphians with, and the refocus that I have for myself but I really don’t think that I am doing my Safari Odyssey justice.

The week was tough, no doubt about it. Physically it is tough to be thrown into different situations and maybe be lifting or holding your body in new ways that you’re not used to. Mentally and emotionally? That is another story. It is draining in the best way possible. To give perspective I finished my odyssey two weeks ago and I am just now feeling up to reflecting. The whole experience is similar to a purge or detox – your whole being is given over and only at the end are you given it back. But that body and soul that is returned is in much better shape than when you gave it.

I am not claiming that the Odyssey has made me a better person or I have somehow become this completely altruistic human (I did however meet many people that fit this bill and make me want to strive to reach their level). However, I did come to understand, to some degree, my place in Memphis and the impact that one individual can make. Before embarking on the Odyssey I was feeling a little lost. I was very much caught up in the < I NEED TO BE A YOUNG PROFESSIONAL WITH A GOOD JOB AND ON A SET PATH TO MY FUTURE SO THAT I CAN BE HAPPY>.


Even typing that was much too much overwhelming. For me, thats not what I want my life to be about. And its certainly not a model from my parents or something they want for or from me. I am very fortunate to have a family that is keen on self-reflection and analysis. You make mistakes so you can get up and say “huh, guess that isn’t going to work, better try Plan B.” Somehow in the last year or so I forgot what makes me happy and that I should be doing that instead of some alternate foreign expectation. Yes, I need to make sure that I can pay my rent, feed and clothe myself but that is no excuse for not making stands for what matters in my life.

I have been very fortunate to figure out what makes me happy is being around others and helping them in some small way. Whether that be packing up non-perishables for families, problem solving, or just having a meal, I need that human connection. I have that extrovert need to be around people and luckily there are a million and one ways to do that in Memphis that also satisfies my hunger to help be a part of a change. It is incredibly discouraging to look at the statistics that surround Memphis and say change isn’t possible. However, it is also incredibly encouraging to help one person pick out a new set of clothes and think that you may have helped to change their life for the better. Sometimes we get so focused on the big picture it is hard to refocus on what is right in front of us.

I am not sure if I will ever know the full extent that this Safari Odyssey has had on me and that kind of excites me for that means I will, hopefully, continue to learn from the experience. This whole journey could not have been possible without the mental, emotional and financial contributions so many of you have made to me. Thank you for your support. And, of course, big thank yous are in order Sarah and all the organizations I have had the chance to, and will have the chance to, work with. Their work is incomparable.

Thank you for being on the journey with me. You were a great companion.

Until our next adventures, safari on internet, safari on.


Megan Waters – Epilogue

Jump in.

That’s the best advice I can give you if you’re thinking about doing a Volunteer Odyssey week.

Actually, that’s the best advice I can give you about life, too.

It shouldn’t be hard, should it? There are people who need help. We have the ability to give it to them. It should be the easiest thing to do, but somehow, we don’t do it. We sit at home, warm and dry and fed, with kids who have books to read and backyards to play in, and worry about ourselves.

Sister Maureen from the Dorothy Day House doesn’t do that. Neither does Al from Fig Tree Food Pantry or Ms. Tonie at Room in the Inn. They jump in, when it’s cold, when it’s raining, when they are tired, when there’s too much to do and not enough resources, which is of course, always. There are good people all over Memphis who are working, day in and day out, to help those who need food, who have no home, who just need a place to learn.

It’s worth remembering in light of last week’s heartbreaking Pre-K vote. Even when Memphis went to the polls to refuse to pay a tiny amount of money to educate children who need it, Ms. Angela and Ms. Patience went to work. They went to Porter Leath’s Early Head Start the next day, and they sang songs about numbers, and played games with letters, and read books to Isaac and Paris and the other children.

The Volunteer Odyssey week is eye opening for those who have not experienced the vast need in Memphis, and for those who have, like myself, it serves as a reminder. That it is my responsibility to pay attention to those in need, and to help where I am able. I’m sending needed supplies to Room in the Inn and to Fig Tree Food Pantry, and I’m hoping they will let me don the Snow Queen robe at one of my nights on duty at Snowy Nights in My Big Backyard at the Botanic Gardens. All of these places, and the numerous others that are making a difference in our city, need your help too.

So jump in.