As I’ve mentioned before, my day job is as a nonprofit development director. That means I work to engage people in community giving, and volunteering. Some days are long as in any job, and other days pay me for months. The other day, I took 20 donors and volunteers on a site visit tour to show them the impact they have had on the lives of others. First, we visited the local domestic violence shelter that was brimming with staff and volunteers. They run three 24/7 programs for domestic and sexual violence advocacy and support. They receive 11 calls a day for support and often have to turn people away because they are full. Most of the shelter beds are taken by children, they are the highest occupants of the shelter.
Next, we visited a mentoring organization that matches students with adult positive role models. We talked with one of the students who told us how much she appreciated the mentoring and how much it had changed her life. The statistics were astounding. Many of the children served had a parent in jail, were in the foster care system or were nominated by their school because they were having trouble with grades or social interations. This program helps many, many kids. And there are many more who are on the waiting list for sometimes more than a year, especially boys because there is a shortage of male volunteers.
Lastly, we visited a youth empowerment program focused on farming as the vehicle for team-building and learning entrepreneurship skills. Walking through the raspberries and kale we heard stories of troubled teens transforming into strong youth with a new-found belief in themselves. We received a introduction to words like, heirloom seeds, morning circle/check in, csa (community supported agriculture), empowerment, low income, troubled and hope.
After our tour of these three sites, we went back to the office and had a brown bag discussion about what we observed. Over sandwiches and left-over pasta, I heard phrases like “that was inspiring”, “it opened my eyes”, “I want to get involved”, “I had no idea this was a problem”, “how can I help”, “maybe we could do a clothing drive”, “I want to take that gardening class”, “I’m going to volunteer”, “I’m going back to my office to tell my coworkers what I saw today”. This statements are music to my ears. It means what they witnessed today opened their hearts and they want to get involved and share that feeling with others. It means we have a few new ambassadors in this social change movement to create a better life for all people.
As I reflected on this day, I felt renewed energy to manage the day to day, the paper pushing, then endless emails that go with this work. I was able to remember why I do the work that I do and that it feeds my soul. I am thankful to the nonprofit staff and volunteers who put countless hours into mobilizing their organization’s mission. I am thankful for the inspiration this day brought to me and 20 others. I will bring this experience with me into my day to day and am thankful to be reminded that my work is about building awareness and ultimately increasing hope.