For the past decade, I've made an intentional effort to volunteer for a nonprofit at least once a month. It's one of the few things I've been consistent about, regardless of marriage, children, jobs, etc.
My involvement with my own church youth group initially sparked my interest in volunteering. We regularly participated in the CROP Walk, Relay for Life, Operation Christmas Child, etc.
In college, I volunteered to be a Mentor (similar to Big Sister program). I also loved campus-wide projects such as MLK Day of Service. When I began as youth director my junior year, I implemented a "mini mission" where the youth group and I traveled throughout the surrounding counties to complete service projects.
Once we moved to Charlotte, I completely immersed myself in Hands on Charlotte and participated in a wide range of activities. I used it as an opportunity to get out of my comfort zone. I avoided any activity with young children. Some of the more memorable experiences were mucking the stalls at a therapeutic horseback riding farm, reading with elderly in an adult literacy program, gardening at Hospitality House, painting a mural, and disinfecting the beds at a men's shelter.
I eventually became the Project Coordinator with HOC for the women and children's homeless shelter. My role was to come up with crafts, experiments, and team building activities for the children to complete. I had to gather the materials and hope enough volunteers showed up to help.
I took a break from volunteering when I was pregnant with the triplets, though I yearned to give back to the community somehow. I started cooking breakfast for guests at a church's temporary shelter through Room in the Inn.
Since becoming youth director for our church, I've been able to more easily come up with monthly service projects. In the past several months we have worked at a back-to-school carnival, raised money and awareness with the CROP Walk, and assembled treat bags/cooked dinner for homeless.
This month we made snack bags for the residents at the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte. Apparently it is rule at all RMH that food is not permitted outside of the kitchen. We were told we could make snack bags for guests to take on their way to the hospital. The five of us each brought in snacks, wrote cards with comforting scripture verses and messages, and stuffed bags.
These four are the most active members of youth group, and the most entertaining!
The most frequent nonprofit organization I volunteer for is my church congregation. Just in the past month, I have:
- Led a small spiritual enrichment group on Tuesday evenings this month.
- Joined the Christian Education team and will be responsible for leading the meetings and delegating tasks.
- Accepted Elder nomination at church, which means I will be part of the governing body of our congregation. This is a large time commitment and definitely outside of my comfort zone because it requires me to speak out rather than be passive.
Despite having a long history of volunteering, I have not even come close to exhausting the resources and agencies available in our area. I am also interested in working with prison ministry/halfway house and those recovering from substance abuse. Volunteering with those agencies will continue to be postponed for now because they require extensive training. To be most effective, they would need to be a recurring commitment.
One of the most important things to me as a mother is to raise my children to know that they should be grateful for all of their blessings, and they should always be willing to help others in whatever way they can. I pray that they will constantly seek out opportunities where they can make a positive difference in others' lives.