Tuesday, August 23, 2011

T-5: Volunteering, Finally!

Finally got motivated and made it to the food bank to volunteer. I guess, because I've almost always working in offices, that's what I pictured. I imagined asking for donations or helping needy people get them.

There was a small office up front, but it was an enormous warehouse. My mind is still a bit blown by the size of it and the sheer quantity of goods. I remember learning in a communications class eons ago that one is in a semi-hypnotic state in a typical grocery store. This place would be that cubed over and over again. I've just never seen so much stuff at once. I felt like I'd walked into the warehouse at the end of Citizen Kane.

Fortunately for my cranky back, I was mostly sitting, but also able to get up and stretch frequently. I was a bit concerned, upon seeing the vastness and bulk, that there would only be duties like lifting. What I ended up doing was sorting through donations to pack like items into boxes. Many of the items were smashed or otherwise damaged, so we needed to determine whether the inner seals or packaging were open. Then we taped the packages that were intact inside. Repetitive and mindless, which is probably what I need right now. Busy work for those idle hands.

I was reminded of my first volunteer experience (other than campus clubs and student government, in which I was active in high school, undergrad and grad school). My friend L started law school the same year I went back to finish my B.A. I went to visit her in the midwest during orientation week her second year. She was in charge of 1L student volunteers at one of the volunteer sites, a Ronald McDonald House.

L gave me the option to stay at her place or a cafe or volunteer with her. We arrived and were given a brief tour of the main floor, then told what they needed done. I distinctly remember one of the volunteers complaining that she'd been told she would be able to teach kids art. That was all she was willing to do. I think they finally rangled some kids and art supplies.

L and I ended up weeding the front of the property. Not glamorous, but that's what they needed doing. If that freed up a few hundred dollars they could spend to provide a comfortable place for sick children and their families, then it was worthwhile.

Afterward, we were given a tour of the garden and I took photos. They let us pick produce, because the garden produced more than they needed for the families at the time. L and I went back to her apartment and I made fried green tomatoes from the garden.

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