Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The other 364 days

This is me on a volunteer service trip in 2007.

Back when reindeer antlers were in.
We were called Extreme Team, traveling to New Orleans in December, over one weekend, to deliver food/goodie baskets to the people living in tent cities and under the overpasses.

We played with kids, we barbecued, served lots of hot coffee, made Christmas cards, and just loved on people whose worlds were still turned upside down 2 years after Katrina.

I came across this picture a couple of weeks ago and realized I missed serving, desperately.  This feeling, desire of wanting to do more has been hounding me for a while. Especially during Christmas, wanting to keep the generosity and the magic of the Christmas season alive the other 364 days.

So last weekend, I did something about it. I listened to Tammy @ RowdyKittens and headed on over to Volunteer Match to see what opportunities were available in my area. It's a great, user friendly website to discover local opportunities for you to volunteer, you should check it out.

After lots of searching, and my husband vetoing my idea to take in an international exchange student (at the moment, don't worry I'm not anything if I'm not persistent), I came across Joseph Provisions Distribution Center. They were in need of volunteers, open every Saturday from 10-4. 

So I went.

It was scary at first. The hole in the wall place is in a rough part of town. When I found a place to park I sent a shout out to the big man upstairs, hoping it would be safe.

When I entered the door all those feelings faded as I walked into a cozy, welcoming environment. Filled to the brim with people, already, and it was only 10:15. 

You see Joseph Provisions (JP) is a non-profit organization that offers food and clothing to individuals in need, run strictly on grants and donations. It doesn't matter if your annual income is $7,000 or $80,000. If you need food and a coat, they have it ready for you.

I was thrown in instantly, helping people fill out their paperwork and find what they needed; with the promise I would go through the 'volunteer training' once the crowd died down. 

I can't tell you how exhilarated I felt Saturday night. Not because of what I'd done. Because of the people that I got to hang out with. I learned so much about my community and myself, listening to the stories of the oppressed.  It made me aware of how grateful I should be to have a roof over my head.  And how a lot of other people don't, pushing me to do something about it.

So this is becoming a commitment for me. Two Saturdays a month at first, probably more as time pans out. I'm excited to give back, and even more excited about the people I'll meet and the relationships I'll develop.

Since JP runs on donations only, I had the crazy idea of holding an online unperishable/clothing drive.  What do you think?  I'm writing this now so I can remind myself later. I don't know how it would be possible, but it's worth a shot.  Further research required, of course.

Today I challenge you to give something freely.  Whether it's an hour teaching a child to read, your lunch money to the homeless man you drive by everyday to work, or a listening ear for your co-worker.  Do it and see how it feels.  I promise you'll never be the same.

Pay it forward,


Stacey said...

awesome!! the world needs more people like you seeking to serve others. i checked that website but nothing came up that i can do immediately. although i think i'll talk to my husband about hosting an exchange student in the future too! my parents did that and it was awesome! thanks for the reminder.

Simplifying in the South said...

Thanks Stacey. I love doing serving and hope I can provide more information so other people will be motivated to as well. Great thinking about the exchange student, I hope to do that soon as well.

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