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Posts Tagged ‘service’

-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, D.C.

Share the Story logoDecember 5th marks the United Nation’s International Volunteer Day – a day where people and communities worldwide come together in service. I agreed to join a group of volunteers from Meridian International Center (you might remember them from Week 36) who were going to plant trees with Washington Parks and People.

On the bus ride over to Oxon Run Park in the Southeast part of our nation’s capital my mind drifted back to the turn of the 19th century to images of Johnny Appleseed leisurely spreading seeds from a small leather pouch as he headed to the new frontier of the Midwest. Well not only is my mental version of Johnny Appleseed historically inaccurate, it couldn’t have been further from the reality that lay ahead.

Along the trickling banks of the stream bearing the park’s name, we were put into small groups and assigned about a half-dozen trees to plant in the lonely green clearing. That’s right, no seeds but 100+ pound baby trees. Each team was led by a graduate of the DC Green Corps – a city-wide program developed by Washington Parks and People that introduces participants to more than 50 different careers in urban forestry through an intensive three-month course.
I am not sure which part is more difficult. Digging the whole to put the trees in or schlepping the trees around. The next morning my forearms hurt so bad from shoveling…that movement that you make to leverage the shovel against the earth burdens muscles that I apparently never use.

DSC_0078.jpgWhen the day was over we had planted 61 trees according to the design plan that the Washington Parks and People staff architected. It took into account aesthetics and purpose – the trees would help keep soil in tact and reduce erosion and excessive runoff that causes flooding during heavy rains. The American sweetgums (liquidambar styraciflua) that I helped plant that day are native to the region and will dazzle local residents with its deep glossy green foliage which give way to beautiful purplish hues in the fall.

Before we left several volunteers named and hugged their trees. Despite being a self-proclaimed treehugger, I didn’t wrap my tired arms around any of my trees. Instead I took a moment to appreciate the beauty of our labor that day and firmly record the new landscape in my mind. I think I will make a pilgrimage to the area each year to find refuge from Washington’s sweltering summer heat and have a picnic in the cool shadows of the sweetgums five-pointed star-shaped leaves.

DSC_0159.jpgPlease consider volunteering with Washington Parks and People and DC Green Corps. You can also make donations to help support their incredible work.

Click here for more photographs from this event.

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge from Washington, DC

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The Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall to the left reflects the trees that surround the memorial. (photo: Reed Sandridge)

Not even 15 minutes after the sun crested the horizon this past Saturday morning, 20 members of the Montgomery County Chapter 641 of the Vietnam Veterans of America grabbed buckets and brushes and walked down the stone pathway toward one of the most iconic memorials in the United States: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

“It started out I guess between 14 and 16 years ago,” Art Wong, who served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968, told me.  I later discovered that it’s actually been 17 years since he and Mike Najarian, both of  Silver Spring, MD, started making the early morning pilgrimage on the first Saturday of every month between April and October to wash away the grime and dirt that builds up on the 58,261 names engraved on the black granite memorial.

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Photo: Reed Sandridge

“The Wall,” as it is often referred to, consists of nearly 500 feet of black granite from Bangalore, India.  Carved out of the shadowy stone are the names of all military men, and eight military women, who lost their lives (or went missing) as a direct result of military wounds suffered during the Vietnam war.  The sheer volume of names is breathtaking.  An emotional place for many Americans, it is a place that I encourage everyone who comes to DC to visit and pay their respects.

Art was the first person I spoke to when I arrived.  He was kind enough to take a few minutes and let me interview him.  Click below to hear Art’s story as well as see the washing of the wall in the background.

“Wait a minute, don’t wash that section just yet,” Bill Gray, a silver star recipient, said as we washed the grime out of the crevices of the fallen soldiers’ names.  He pulled out a small camera and took a photograph of the name of a guy he served with.  “You can see a perfect handprint touching his name,” he said as he steadied his camera and captured what a loved one had left behind.  He paused and turned to me, “I’ve got six buddies up here.”

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Soap suds slide down some of the 58,261 names that live on the wall. (photo: Reed Sandridge)

The sound of brushes scrubbing back and forth, water hammering against the dark granite and conversations soft enough to be held in church were the only sounds.  The reflection of the mirror-like wall overflows into my mind and I find myself reflecting on those who lost their lives half a century ago.  How old were they?  Where were they from?  How sad their parents, siblings, spouses, children and friends must have been when they heard the news?  How many dreams were washed away as quickly as the soapy water that ran down over the names in front of me?

What impressed me the most about these men, and yes they were all men with the exception of my friend Patricia who also pulled herself out of bed at 0’dark thirty to come volunteer, was how friendly they were.  As we wrapped up our work a few early rising tourists made their way to the memorial.  There was no shortage of hellos, good mornings and respectful nods showering the visitors.

A pair of combat boots pinned with the Purple Heart sits in front of The Wall. (photo: SC Fiasco)

Although it was never spoken, it was clear that this monthly ritual was somehow comforting for the men.  Old friends, both present and in spirit, come together each month to pay their respects and share memories, laughter and tears.  Part of a poem written by Guy L. Jones, 43d Signal Battalion, Pleik Oct. 1968 – Nov. 1969, helps explain this:

A visit to the “THE WALL” will be many things to many people
But to me it has healed my soul
And made me feel proud to have been there.

I will be back on October 16th to lead a group of volunteers in cleaning the Korean Memorial.  If you would like to help out, drop me an email.

UPDATE: I found this MSNBC story about the men mentioned in this blog post…enjoy!

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Blog post by Reed Sandridge from Washington, DC

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Me with a fellow volunteer Jane who was part of LGW's Class of 2004. (photo: Tohry Petty/LGW)

Volunteer Days is an annual event organized by Leadership Greater Washington (LGW) that focuses on giving back to the community.  LGW is a nonprofit organization whose mission it is to identify and connect diverse local leaders in order to facilitate finding solutions to regional challenges.  I got introduced to them through a few of my friends and colleagues and decided to help them out on their service day.

I was reminded of the importance of effectively using volunteers during this outing.  I arrived at 9am as instructed and found two adults and a student waiting outside of Martha’s Table where we were to do some painting.  There was some miscommunication with a third-party that helped connect LGW with Martha’s Table and as it turned out there was nobody there.  After a few phone calls we realized that we would have to wait until 10am to start.  I didn’t care since I was planning on being there anyway.  I was kind of tired too so I slumped down on the sidewalk and waited in a semi-conscious state.

One of the other four volunteers was irritated that we had to wait and said he had better things to do and left.  I get that he wants to be useful, but we had all planned on being there anyway, so what difference does it make right?  I mean Martha’s Table is counting on us and it’s not their fault that we were there early.

This provides a good lesson to organizations that use volunteers.  Not everyone will share my view on this and many will feel like they have wasted their time and form a  negative impression of the nonprofit in need.

Everything worked out fine.  There was not enough of us to paint but Justin, volunteer coordinator extraordinaire, quickly came up with a project for us that involved freshening up the green areas in front of Martha’s Table.  Pulling roots out is hard work!  Who knew?  We replaced about a dozen plants with beautiful new ones.

I was really impressed with Martha’s Table and you should check them out!  “We provide folks with a chance to live their values,” said development and community manager Kimberly Lyons-Briley.  “Ultimately volunteers are some of our biggest advocates.”  Well, I can understand why – everyone there is so nice!

DSC_0001-2.jpgNo more weeding for a while.  Check back next Monday to learn about my experience volunteering with Lucky Dog Rescue!  In the meantime, check out AARP’s blog this Wednesday.  I’ll be starting a new weekly column on their site – but don’t worry, I’ll still be here too!

If you want to help Miriam’s Kitchen but don’t live in DC, check out their Wish List on Amazon.com.

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, DC

Good morning!  Today is the second annual Worldwide Day of Giving!

This all began as part of my Year of Giving project last year.  Today is a day to focus on others by giving or volunteering.

There are three simple ways to support this kindness movement.

1. VOLUNTEERING

You can volunteer with any organization.  For those of you who are busy and can’t take off work, consider micro-volunteering on www.sparked.com.  This is one of the coolest websites I have seen.  I did a project this morning while I ate my breakfast!  What are you waiting for?  Go tackle one of the 3,493 projects!

2. GIVE A STRANGER $10

So you’re old school?  You want to celebrate the Worldwide Day of Giving by paying it forward like I did last year for 365 days.  It’s easy.  Find a complete stranger. Approach them and tell them that you are participating in the Worldwide Day of Giving and would like to give them $10. The only rules are that you may not know the person and you may not receive anything in return for the $10 (aside from the rush of goodness you will feel).

Ideally you will take some time to speak with the recipient, find out what they will do with the $10 as well as a little bit about who they are. If you can take a picture or video, that would be even better – we would love to have you post that here or on the Year of Giving Facebook Page.

3. DONATE $10 TO THE YEAR OF GIVING

Your $10 will be used to help those listed on the Lend a Hand section of theYear of Giving website.  Donations accepted at http://www.yearofgiving.org.

Whatever you choose to do I hope that you will share your experience here or on the Year of Giving Facebook Page.

I’m off now to do my second volunteer project of the day at the IMPACT Summit – a forum that convenes leaders from the business, education, government and nonprofit sectors that leverages volunteerism, service and philanthropy to address critical issues facing our community.

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Sammy (Day 113) and Ashley (Day 181) at last year's Worldwide Day of Giving (photo: Reed Sandridge)

Later in the day I will be celebrating the Worldwide Day of Giving at One Lounge in Dupont from 6-8pm.  Come join us!

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge from Washington, DC

Last week I attended the National Conference on Volunteerism and Service (NCVS) in New Orleans.  The Big Easy seemed like an appropriate backdrop for an event talking about how to effectively mobilize people to serve.  Hundreds of thousands of volunteers helped this special city rebuild itself after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina nearly six years ago.

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James Carville at NCVS (Photo: JD Lasica/socialmedia.biz)

“A third of the city many people feel is better than it was before,” commented political strategist James Carville as he addressed the conference on Monday, “a third is getting better and a third is [pause] long range.”  As a tourist, most of what you see falls into the first two sections Carville describes.  It’s the lesser visited areas, such as the lower ninth ward,  that you find ghost neighborhoods and 6-year-old pleas for help painted on sides of abandoned homes.

Katrina survivors find refuge on their roof.

I arrived on Sunday and had to get a decent night sleep because I agreed to be a volunteer for the conference organizers on Monday morning.  Somebody (who just might be yours truly) had a terrible idea to volunteer from 5am-9am helping get registration set up on opening day.  That means I was up at 4am.  You know it’s early when the Starbucks if full of dark shadows from the street instead of caffeine addicts lining up to get their fix.

Working registration was rather simple.  My specific role was to help people self register on computer terminals.  After a minor technical setback that caused 5 of the 8 computers not to work, we got things up and running.  The online registration system was not as intuitive as it could have been which caused many people to ask for assistance which I gladly provided.

Audience

Photo: JD Lasica/socialmedia.biz

I ended up staying on until about 10am since the next shift of volunteers arrived a little late.  I walked the new group through the process and wished them luck.  I had a feeling that it was going to get really crazy later in the day when the opening ceremony kicked off.

The rest of my week there was spent soaking up valuable knowledge in workshops and seminars on topics such as improving employee volunteer programs, effective volunteer engagement, and dynamic partnering between the for profit and nonprofit sector to create social value.  I got to hear from inspiring speakers such as Bea Boccalandro, Caroline Barlerin, Susan Portugal, John Power, Gail Gershon, Monique De La Oz, Evan Hochberg, Dr. Madye Henson, Glen O’Gilvie, Jill Friedman Fixler, Melody Barnes, John Oliver, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the list goes on.

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A Cafe du Mond waiter with fresh hot beignets. (photo: Thomas Hawk)

Alas my week of beignets, muffulettas, coffee with chicory, jazz and near 100 degree weather came to an end.  It’s a unique sensation.  Part of me is exhausted yet there is another side of me that wants to work all night developing strategies to solve some of the challenges we face in this sector.  Exhaustion won, for now at least, as I slipped off to sleep on the flight back to DC.

There is a lot going on this week.  Wednesday is the Worldwide Day of Giving.  Click HERE to find out how easy it is to be a part of this global movement.  And if you live in DC, we will be getting together in person – details can be found HERE.   Finally, I got to catch up with 94-year-old Ms. Charlotte T.  from New Orleans who was my 248th recipient of $10.  I will post an update on her later this week – you won’t want to miss it!

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC.

HandsOn Network is a very impressive organization.  As the volunteer-focused arm of Points of Light Institute, they claim to be the largest volunteer network in the nation comprised of more than 250 HandsOn Action Centers in 16 countries.  Where these guys really get traction is by digging into their more than 70,000 corporate, faith and nonprofit organizations that have stepped up to the plate to help create meaningful change in their communities.  The latest figure I saw was that last year they racked up some 30 million volunteer hours.  That represents over $600 million worth of services that nonprofits and government entities didn’t need to spend.  That’s pretty awesome.

logoI have a connection with HandsOn Network.  You see I’ve been volunteering for a while with their local Action Center here in DC: Greater DC Cares.  I recently participated in Servathon and on the MLK Service Day.  I’m also building a team for their 9/11 Day of Service.

HandsOn Network mobilizes people who want to do good.  That is the hard part.  All of us want to do good things, however, moving individuals to act is often the barrier.  We have so many other parts of our lives that are pulling at us.  But it can be done.

Log on to HandsOn Network today and find a local Action Center near you.  There’s more than 250 of them so there is a good chance there is one near you!  And for those of you in Oconomowoc, WI, yes, even you have one near you…just down the road in Waukesha!

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Me volunteering at MLK Service Day in January.

By the way, HandsOn Network and the Points of Light Institute (along with the Corporation for National and Community Service) are part of the driving force behind the National Conference on Volunteering and Service that will be held in New Orleans June 6-8.  If you are passionate about volunteering, find a way to make it to the Superbowl of Volunteering and give me a shout…I’d be happy to meet up.

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much. ~Helen Keller

DSC_0199.jpgThe above quote is particularly relevant to today’s post.  As you know every Monday I bring you a blog post of my weekly volunteer activities.  Today’s service project was one that I took part in along with more than 8,000 other volunteers throughout our nation’s capital.

For the past 18 years, Greater DC Cares has organized Servathon – two extraordinary days of service.  The first day corporations and their employees participate in region-wide projects that focus on schools, parks, and other community areas.  On the second day, individual volunteers join in.

I registered a Year of Giving team for the second day where we were tasked with working on several outdoor projects at the Maya Angelou Evans Campus here in DC – a charter school in Northeast.

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Volunteer team at Maya Angelou Evans Campus

As I drove up to the school on Saturday morning colorless skies grew heavy and rain began to fall upon my windshield.  I was hoping the rain would hold off until we finished our outdoor projects.  We were building a garden area; from constructing the wooden frame that would encompass the area to building benches and painting concrete slabs that would be used as a walkway.

I was in charge of building some of the benches which turned out not to be to be too difficult since all the wood came pre-cut.  Thankfully we could do this work indoors, but that wasn’t the case though for several other teams who spent hours in the rain.  Mud was everywhere.  The beautiful thing about working on these projects together is that despite the thick layer of wet earth that was slathered on our clothes and exposed skin, spirits were bright, friendships were forged and cooperation thrived.  Thanks to all of those who came out to support team Year of Giving!  Click here to see more photos from the day.

Check out the Greater DC Cares website for other volunteer opportunities such as Servathon.  Their next region-wide service day will be held on 9/11, but you can find hundreds of other volunteer opportunities throughout the year on their website.

DSC_0168.jpgDC Cares also holds an annual event called IMPACT Summit which focuses on volunteerism, service and philanthropy.  As part of the event, they present a series of awards to outstanding organizations and community leaders who demonstrate extraordinary leadership in volunteering.  If you know of any organization or individual who should be recognized, please click here to nominate them.

Enjoy your week…hopefully we will have a new kindness investor soon!

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