After moving from Minnesota to Portland, Oregon, one of the first things I did was to search out volunteer opportunities. I knew of a wonderful non-profit called Outside In that reaches out to the homeless youth here in Portland, giving them the help they need to get back on their feet. One of the ways they help is to give much-needed job experience through the Virginia Woof Dog Day Care Center, mere blocks from my home. This wonderful facility also relies on adult volunteers, so my first foray into volunteering in Portland was to help once a week with the care of the dogs brought to the day care — and it was my dog fix when I needed one, too!
But besides that, it was great because I saw firsthand how the youths working there learned some really valuable job skills and social skills, and it taught me some social skills in dealing with troubled youths also, as well as wonderful time spent taking care of all those precious dogs.
Another branch on the connectedness tree was literally that, helping Portland Parks & Recreation with a neighborhood tree count. This project was carried out by volunteers around neighborhoods in Portland, aided by the great city staff. On neighborhood maps that we were given, we marked all the trees lining the sidewalks and streets — naming them, counting them and assessing their condition. In this way the city staff learned what trees are flourishing, where more trees could be planted, and how to make our lovely city flush with the beauty of more trees.
I learned how to cooperate with people I didn’t know, as well as learning about tree identification. It was an interesting volunteer opportunity that made me feel as if I was helping Mother Earth herself in taking care of the lovely trees that grace our Earth. It was a way of volunteering that I had never really thought about before.
I have had other volunteer positions that allowed me to help others in many different ways. I volunteer for the county library system here, where so many come to access not just books but take part in classes and events. It is truly a community center for people of all kinds. I have also worked at a place called Friendly House, which is a community center in my neighborhood that serves children to seniors in so many ways. This experience has allowed me to connect with seniors by becoming a “friendly visitor” to those who just need a dose of companionship. I also deliver groceries to a senior high rise building through a non-profit called Store to Door. I look forward to every Wednesday when I can reach out to these delightful seniors who just need a little help in getting what they need, so often just a kind word and a smile.
By nature I am really quite a solitary person, but I love the feeling of being connected with other people in the way that volunteering brings, and in the process I learn how connected we truly are to all the life that abounds on this Earth.