Looking for a New Year’s Resolution to help others besides yourself? Volunteer. I came late to community volunteering. My pro bono work was always career-focused. Committee work for professional associations. PR support. Program chair. Treasurer. President. Only in the past two years have I discovered more satisfying types of volunteering. This past Thanksgiving, Larry joined me in the kitchen.
Why Volunteer? Do good, and feel good. Some organizations need more hands than they can afford to get important work done. I chose Project Angel Food in Hollywood for the flexibility. Working in their kitchen doesn’t require individuals to commit to a specific schedule. When I have a half-day available, I show up and cook. Chop. Serve. Pack. The sense of accomplishment is HUGE. Every day, Project Angel Food delivers meals to 1300+ homebound clients. That feels good.
What’s also interesting is fellow volunteers. Great conversations while you peel 1,000 carrots. We have regulars. Groups, such as a school or company. Underemployed folks with spare time. Culinary students earning credits. And community service folks working off a ticket. Better than traffic school!
Project Angel Food also needs people to deliver meals; a route is only 6 or 7 homes per day. If you have time from 11 to noon to deliver, this is a very good place for you. The clients are sweet.
My other gig, the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center is a different adventure. The commitment is a schedule and specific duty. My motivation: the 2 mile round-trip walk from home and it helps to get to know a hospital intimately BEFORE rolling up in an ambulance.
Years ago, my little pug Zoe and I volunteered there. She was a Therapy Dog and (speaking as her assistant) that job was not easy. Groom the dog within 24 hours of visits, haul her little puggy butt to far corners of the hospital (no indoor lawn to piddle), hand sanitizing, fresh sheets on beds, photographing patients with the dogs. It made patients happy but was rough on Zoe. We stopped after a couple of years.
But since I like to solve problems plus have a thick hide, being an Info Desk Lady seems to suit me. Everyone has a problem. Sometimes happy (new baby! new heart!) or scared, confused, frustrated, needy. Not everyone is nice, no siree. Suffice to say, it takes a certain crusty personality to hang in there. My co-volunteer Marty is a retired reporter from Newsweek and USA Today. He’s got a thick hide, too.
What is the hardest part of volunteering? Getting in the car. That takes planning and motivation. The rest is easy. Lots of people say, “Oh I really want to feed hungry people on Thanksgiving!” but they don’t get in the car. Get. In. The. Car.
Larry joined me in the kitchen on Thanksgiving because I booked him. There is a brief orientation required first. That tends to be a hurdle to some folks. But once trained, he dished up 200 pumpkin pies, smiling the whole time. Then we packed our car with meals and delivered on our way home. Good day and much to be thankful for.