I was really wishing I could find a way to start this post with something along the lines of ‘it’s a sticky job, but someone has to do it’, but truth be told, this was not at all a sticky job, but rather an incredibly powerful one.
I have mentioned several times now that, Life of DIY, is a concept more about living life for yourself-living it in your way-and in making sure to create and design all areas in your life. To feel creative and energized I need to be doing ‘good’ in multiple areas of my life in order to succeed. One area that I am absolutely engaged with right now and conscious about the effort I am putting forth is volunteering. This past week we did some volunteering and while I will tell you about the actual job we did, I want to share the few things that I observed and learned while doing it because they really are things I rarely see in any other capacity.
Literally down the street is the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, an absolutely gorgeous facility that works tirelessly to serve several of the surrounding counties and thousands of customers. This was an organization I had on my radar to work with this year and had actually already created an online account with and registered for a shift in the upcoming months. What I didn’t realize was that this first act of getting involved, even though scheduled two months out, was the first step to igniting the fire in me to help. With that being said, when I got the email late last Tuesday morning reading URGENT in the subject line I couldn’t help but feel like I had to be there to help pick up an empty volunteer spot for that night’s shift, and I couldn’t be happier that I had this feeling.
We were greeted by not just nice, but enthused, employees at the front desk that directed us to our volunteer room to wait for the shift to start. I was already excited to be there and to know that what I was about to do for the next two hours was going to help someone, but when I found out that our project for the evening was to pack 800 boxes for senior citizens I bought in even more to working hard for the organization (…this excitement goes back to five years working at an independent/assisted living home that I can hands down call one of the best jobs I will ever have). Our project leader described step by step what each station was responsible for, demonstrated a quick example and we were off to work!
Packing The Boxes
With two team members at each station a large conveyer belt sent boxes around to be filled with the government-supplied food that each recipient of these boxes would be getting. If I can remember correctly the box stopped at cereal, canned vegetables, canned fruit, and boxed milk before it reached us-the peanut butter! We neatly placed all 714 jars of peanut butter (we didn’t quite meet the 800 box goal) in their respective kits and sent them down the line. While, yes, it is a monotonous task to place peanut butter in boxes for two hours-it is so rewarding and this is where I was able to observe and learn a few things about volunteers.
Why Volunteers Are Special
- There is an energy of giving at any volunteer site. People are there because they want to be, because they feel invested in the cause, and they let that energy be seen and shared with others.
- Nobody Works Alone. The milk station next to us was one of the more difficult ones to run simply because the boxes were difficult to get into and the location required them to move in both directions to grab incoming boxes and then to move them far enough down the line to the next station-build ups happened frequently. What I noticed is that there was never a moment that either our station or the fruit station on the other side wasn’t jumping in to help. There was never a down moment because if your station wasn’t busy it was like everyone instinctively gravitated towards those working in order to help out. I laughed because how many times at work, when you find yourself with five minutes to catch your breath, do you rush to the next office or down the hall to volunteer your five minutes to a co-worker and their tasks? I am going to wager to say not often. Volunteering is a ‘work’ environment that not only functions differently and empowers people differently, but the end result is an outstanding product of a shared goal.
- Time=Happiness. The last thing I really walked away from this experience with was the idea that the more time I put in, and the harder I work during that time, the more happiness I have the ability to help spread. I may never see the 714 recipients of these boxes, but all of us that helped that night were able to send a little bit of comfort, necessity and happiness to each Senior receiving food. This is not an “I did” situation, it really is a “We did”. I knew the shift was significantly short on help that evening and if people had not responded to the urgent email for help there is no way that 714 boxes would have been packed and so many of our neighbors would have been served.
I can’t wait to see how others are giving back this year and the difference they are bringing not only to the organization and projects they partner with, but to hear their stories on how volunteering brought them a sense of change and happiness, but for now I am eagerly waiting my scheduled shift back at the food bank, or even another urgent message for help!