Thursday, February 11, 2010
I have always been a fan of volunteering. Moving around as we have, it was always a good way to get involved in the community and to meet interesting people. The trick to a successful volunteer experience is to find an organization/project that interests you and just go with it.
I began my volunteer career in Shaftsbury, Vermont at the Peter Matteson Tavern. I wore an 1800’s costume and learned to spin and weave as well as to make lace. I was called upon to conduct a few tours but I wasn’t very good at it and felt badly that people had actually paid for one of my tours. You know what I mean – some tour guides are just so good and some are just not. I was not.
My next volunteer experience was as a literacy volunteer. I was living in New Jersey where there was a very diverse population of non-English speaking residents. I worked with a young woman from Puerto Rico. She spoke English very well but needed help interpreting insurance documents, etc. Now really, can anyone figure these things out? This experience gave me a new respect for anyone who could speak a second language and function in another country.
Next stop, the Girl Scouts. I spent many years as a troop leader as my girls grew up. I met a lot of really nice people and I was able to use my planning skills to the extreme. No meeting went without a themed craft project and “lesson”. Okay, maybe I got a little impatient every once in a while and showed my “crazy mom eyes”. But I didn’t lose many girls along the way, or wait; maybe it was the free babysitting service.
I think my old classmates will get a chuckle out of learning that I was also a softball coach for a few years. In school, I was always the kid who ran to the outfield because I could not throw a ball to save my life and there was rarely any action that far out. I still feel bad for the Phys Ed teacher. She was so tolerant of my “girly” behavior. Anyway, a softball coach was needed and I stepped up. It was very stressful being a coach. I remember getting calls from parents admonishing me for taking their daughters out of the game. I thought I was being kind by not letting the girls humiliate themselves. Different perspective I guess.
After my daughters were both out of school, I decided that I needed a break. I felt drained and burnt out. Volunteering does take a lot of time and energy even if you do enjoy it. I took a few years off before starting to feel guilty for not “giving back” to the community.
This brings me to my latest experience. As part of my year of challenges and goals, I volunteered to work for a charity auction in the small city where I work. The auction is held every year to help raise money for the Christmas decorations that go up in the downtown area. I have to admit, I wasn’t much into soliciting donations for something as frivolous as Christmas lights when other organizations were trying to raise money for food and clothes for the disadvantaged. At best, it was a half-hearted effort on my part.
Imagine my horror when I was presented with an Volunteer Award for Outstanding Service. What an ingenious idea! Make your volunteers feel really bad about their lackluster performance so they will come back and try even harder the following year. I would recommend this technique to any organization that is dependent on volunteer labor. What choice do I have now but to sign on for another year so that I can prove myself? Would anyone like to donate to the 2010 Light Up Geneva Auction? I’ll be giving you a call.