Day 6 of my Volunteer Odyssey had me headed to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis. I was not going to be able to play with power tools on a build site, however. The office where all the behind the scene workers make those events happen needed my expertise. This would give me a chance to demonstrate some of the skills I’ve learned from nearly three decades in the corporate world and put them to use in the nonprofit environment. This is my goal by going on my Volunteer Odyssey.
I met with Amy, the Volunteer and Events Manager. I was tapped to be her helper for the afternoon. After explaining the process of how families are selected for a Habitat for Humanity home, as well as some of the other services they provide, such as educational programs, budgeting, and emergency repairs, she then reviewed the project I would be handling. A group of homes will be built this fall, and we needed to line up vendors to supply coffee for the volunteers, ice, and find some ice chests at a reasonable price.
Now that I had my marching orders, I jumped right in and got to work. I went online and researched coffee vendors located close to the build site and compiled my list of places to call. I did the same for ice vendors, and once I knew the lunch rush was over, I began making my calls. I got lots of leads, but no firm answers. When Amy stopped by to check on how I was doing, I explained to her that several vendors wanted to follow up via email or a phone call and I wasn’t sure how she wanted to handle that. “I have plenty of free time right now, and I’d be happy to provide them my email address and phone number and follow up from home if that’s okay,” I told her. I added that I’m hoping to land a volunteer position similar to this where I can work a consistent schedule and gain more experience in the nonprofit world, and ultimately land a permanent job. She said that is exactly how she got this job – she started out as a volunteer. That’s what I needed to hear to reassure me that I’m following the right path towards my goal.
Amy had a couple of meetings to attend, so I continued with my project at “my” desk. Okay, I admit it – I was pretending like I was working for Habitat for Humanity as a Volunteer and Events Coordinator, and Amy was my boss. Before I knew it, my shift was over, and I still had follow up to do. Vendors were reluctant to commit to pricing or, even better, a donation. I went to Amy’s office to let her know the status and confirm with her that it would be okay for me to continue it from home. We scheduled another volunteer session for me to come back next week and would see what other projects could use my help. We also discussed setting a weekly schedule for me to come back and volunteer.
While there was nothing glamorous about today’s experience, it was valuable to me because it helped to boost my confidence. I felt comfortable handling the task that was given to me, and I felt proud being a Habitat employee for the afternoon, even if I was only pretending. I also felt proud because I’m taking charge of my goal. I’m not just sitting back waiting for it to happen – I’m making it happen, and at the same time helping others. As Amy said, “You help me while I help you!” So we both win.
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