Category Archives: Community Service

Post-pandemic Call to Community: Volunteering to Build Hope

Organization: Habitat for Humanity, Tucson: https://www.habitattucson.org/

Location: Tucson, AZ (USA)

Backyard angel

We are still collectively emerging from the pandemic and many of us feel a sense of uncertainty… an unsettling. The ways of life we took for granted were shaken and we are struggling collectively to adapt to new patterns of work (where, when, how), community (sharing public space such as shopping & restaurants), family (holidays, celebrations, trips), and even a realignment of what we want for our lives and our families. In a way, we have been shaken awake from a life we may not have questioned enough. And we are not yet settled into what will be.

Adding to our sense of vulnerability are big-world challenges such as concern about the economy and inflation, the war in Ukraine, new rounds of COVID, seasonal flu. There may sense we have lost the control we thought we had over our lives and feel more vulnerable to the world’s ills.

But that’s not the full story of our collective experience. It does not reflect what we are capable of building as we emerge post-pandemic.

We need to rebuild and reclaim our agency over our lives. To work through the trauma of the past few years which has left us anxious.

We can do this by focusing on what is ours to do in the moment. We can ask ourselves, what is right in front of us, in the smaller spaces of life? Where can we have impact in our families? Our work? Our communities?

I’m not talking about anything big or splashy. There is magic in the subtle and the ordinary. We just need to tap into that energy. One such avenue is volunteering.

Volunteering is personally empowering and socially productive. Spending even a short amount of time surrounded with people who are dedicated to bettering the world, and participating with others in community to make a difference for others, strengthens our hope muscles and lessens our anxiety. It also boost our connection to others. We are part of a whole.

Volunteering even just one time, for a few hours, can give you a mental and emotional boost, while also helping members of the community in need. There is magic in working together with others focused on kindness…. and in what happens when you do that. It’s energizing.

It’s also a conscious choice to act, so it builds confidence and agency. The word volunteer comes from the Latin “voluntaries” meaning “willing or of one’s own choice.” Volunteering is a conscious decision to act. You choose to make the effort to volunteer. This is empowering!

Even when I travel, I look for an organization where I can volunteer. It is one of the best ways to get to know the local community. Instead of remaining at a tourist level, it is exciting to dig deeper and be part of something that sustains the local people.

Some types of organizations are better suited for one-time visitors. Habitat for Humanity is a great choice! They have chapters in every US State and 70 countries around the world. Habitat focuses on building or repairing homes for low-income families and they need regular teams of volunteers for a variety of projects.

My husband and I traveled to Tucson, Arizona, to visit his father over Thanksgiving weekend, and I spent one day volunteering with Habitat for Humanity Tucson’s “A Brush With Kindness” division.

We started painting but then it rained

A Brush with Kindness partners with low-income residents who struggle to maintain the exterior of their homes, allowing them to reclaim their homes with pride and dignity.

They help with outside painting, system repairs to electrical and heating, tree trimming and removal, repairs on roofing, siding, doors, and windows.

On this particular day we were there to install fences and gutters.

Tucson ended up experiencing an unusual day of rain so we did not get to do the gutters, so we focused on installing the fencing.  

I was one of about 10 volunteers that day. I met some inspiring people – among them a female long-haul truck driver who shared interesting stories of life on the road, a retired school principal who traveled the world on her bicycle and shared wonderful stories of towns visited around the world, and a seminary student getting ready to embark on the next phase of his journey.

Our team was across all ages – from college students to retirees. Most were local so I learned a lot about the local culture, local favorite hidden restaurants and activities, and about local, little-known hiking spots. Things I may never have learned had I remained in “tourist” mode and not volunteered for the day.

I have volunteered with several Habitat for Humanity chapters in a handful of States and love the organization. The site leaders are always very helpful, ensure you are properly trained and following safety protocols, and also ensure you are engaged and busy. It is always a wonderful experience!

Habitat for Humanity Tucson builds about 15 – 25 houses a year. Applicants undergo an application process where they are approved based on their income, willingness to partner to build the house (sweat equity) and need.

Families have to put in 200 hours of sweat-equity per adult per home. The typical home is about 1,200 sq ft, and is often one story, with 3 bedrooms and 1 ½ bathrooms. They will vary from that depending on location/need.

Volunteer activities vary based on needs of the day but can be tailored to each participant’s abilities so everyone has something meaningful to do. This makes it great for families (parents and adult children, siblings, etc.) and all different ages (teens through retirees). Please note – there are minimum age requirements so check your local Habitat for details.

Interested in finding a Habitat for Humanity near you so you can volunteer? 

Check out https://www.habitat.org/ and you can search by your State.

Interested in learning more about Habitat for Humanity Tucson and their Brush with Kindness division? Check out: https://www.habitattucson.org/

Thank you for journeying with me! XO – Penny

Virtual Volunteering Part Three: 8 Amazing Virtual Volunteer Opportunities for Groups, Offices and Teams

teamwork to help others

 

Volunteering as a team:

  • Is a chance to get to know and appreciate each other on another level. This has ripple effects as it promotes collaboration in the workplace.
  • Gives employees a fresh perspective on positive and productive interaction. It brings teams together on an emotional and personal level.
  • Builds and reveals skills you may not even realize your team members have!
  • Promotes good citizenship. There’s only one Earth and we are its stewards. What future do you want to build? What responsibility is your organization/group/team taking to be responsible members of your community?
  • Inspiring a culture of giving back engages employees, builds employee passion by supporting a sense of purpose, elevates workplace morale
  • Provides an amazing opportunity to develop leadership skills, build problem-solving skills and teaches participants how to be flexible.

Read more

Love in the Face of Tragedy: Volunteering after Unimaginable Acts of Violence

May 31st, 2019…. The words “active shooter” sent ripples of horror through the police radios. A 15-year city employee was on a shooting rampage at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center. When it was over, 12 people would be killed (13, including the gunman). Another 4 would be injured.

 

18464775_G

 

The VA Beach 12. Lives cut short tragically and violently. Innocent victims cruelly and horribly lost.
When unexpected and unimaginable tragedy hits, the collective community trauma can be devastating. It’s a story we hear far too often: Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Pulse Nightclub, Parkland… the list goes on and on, battering us with grief and loss. 
Read more

Week 52: Volunteering at the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana

My legs and back were stiff from sitting on the ground for the last hour, but there was no room to stretch or move in the tiny sweat lodge full as it was with tribesmen/women and invited guests.

 

I had never been in a place so dark. Covered with branches and then thick blankets, absolutely no light entered the space. The air was humid and thick enough that you felt you were breathing in gel. Read more

Week 47: Helping our Children Build a Better Tomorrow

kids earth heart

 

One day in the not too distant future the world will belong to our children. They will make decisions on the environment, policies on poverty and social services, and be responsible for making decisions about resources, war, and peace.  They will be the problem-solvers (and problem-creators) responsible for the well-being of future generations.

 

How can we support our children and young adults so they become their best selves in a global society? How can we fuel within them a sense of service and civic engagement? How can we expand their minds to include causes bigger than themselves?

 

Most importantly, how can we help them develop the resolve and confidence they will need so they believe without a shadow of doubt they can make a difference, effect change, and improve the world?

Read more

Week 32: DoSomething.Org – Empowering Youth and Young Adults to Get Involved and Get Active (because apathy sucks!)

logoDoSomething.org is the future of volunteer and activism experiences. The non-profit uses a digital platform to power offline action through hundreds of grass-roots volunteer, social change, awareness and civic action campaigns.

 

 

Words on flower

Targeted at ages 13 – 30, the campaigns can be completed by individuals or groups, without any need for transportation, funding by participants, or oversight. Young adults love to get involved and make a difference. They are passionate about causes they identify with. DoSomething.org taps into that potential and makes getting active super easy and super fun, empowering teens and young adults to drive social change.

Read more

Week 31: Volunteering New Year’s Eve at First Night Morris

lego knight on horseChased by Lego knights and pirate ships, stalked by 6 foot tall dinosaurs, time-warped to the 1930s to carve Mt. Rushmore, paralyzed by the siren’s song of a Metropolitan Opera Soprano….. is this a crazy, alcohol-fueled dream? Nope. This is how I rang in an eclectic and delightful New Year’s Eve at First Night Morris in Morristown, NJ.

Read more

Week 27: Feed My Starving Children’s Mobile Packing event with Liquid Church: A Holiday Poem

photo of group

Pastor Tim calls Christmas the season of light

and encourages us to find ways to shine bright

by sharing love and kindness to others in need,

And one way to do this is through doing good deeds.

So when Liquid Church held Feed My Starving Children’s Mobile Packing event, 

my husband and daughter and co-workers went. 

Read more

Week 23: Liquid Church’s Love Week: Spreading Kindness and Connection

kindness heart

The month of November always makes me think of kindness. The start of the winter holiday season is a wonderful time for refocusing and remembering that it takes only a tiny effort to share love!  It brings to mind a special story I want to share with you. It’s my interpretation of the concept of Tikkun Olam*, Hebrew for “repair of the world”…

Read more