069 Jeff Hoffman Project Transformation
Catching the Enthusiasm—Project Transformation
After three summers of listening to his wife's and his children's enthusiasm for their experiences in Project Transformation (PT), Jeff Hoffman took the plunge. He'd been reluctant because he knew his work schedule at the time would not allow him to make a regular or extensive time commitment, but with PT he found no pressure—just a welcoming of whatever he was able to share with the program.
Project Transformations mission is summed up in three C's: To engage college-age young adults in purposeful ministry and leadership, to support underserved children and families, and to connect churches to communities in need.
Initially, PT was a summer-only program with a focus on helping children, K–4, gain and retain the reading skills that are so essential to doing well in school and life. Building upon the early success of that goal, the program has expanded to be year-round and to include middle school youth, as well as elementary school children. The growth also incorporates all areas of schoolwork and social-emotional learning, as well as increased connections with the families through special events such as the Family Fun Nights and home visits.
The college-age young adults are hired for summer or for the school year to provide authentic, hands-on, high-quality programs for the children and youth. PT, however, offers these interns much more than "a summer job." Living together in intentional Christian community, they have opportunities to explore their faith and discern their path forward into leadership, service, and other areas of ministry.
The churches chosen to host the PT programs had been struggling as the communities around them changed. But PT has opened new channels for reconnecting with their neighbors, and the churches begin to thrive once again.
How do volunteers fit in this endeavor? In the summer, volunteers—including youth and school-age children with their parents or grandparents—come on their church's designated week especially to read with the children in the program, providing role models as well as improved literacy. During the school year, many individual volunteers make regular commitment to be homework helpers, encouragers, or mentors. These volunteers also build those special relationships with the children that create opportunities for social-emotional learning, specifically through being listened to and cared about. Other volunteers bring food to the college-age interns and sit down with them to share the meal—and conversation that is often deeply meaningful for both interns and volunteers. Like Jeff Hoffman and his family, volunteers can easily find a welcoming and rewarding niche for however they choose to commit.
So who experiences transformation? Children, families, young adult leaders, congregations, neighborhoods, and volunteers! Begun through The United Methodist Church in the Dallas area, the program is open to people of all faiths and is active not only in Texas but also in Indiana, Oklahoma, and Washington, D.C., as well as in Tennessee (Nashville, Memphis, and Clarksville). As volunteers and former interns move to different areas of the country, PT pops up and transformation begins anew.
For more about Project Transformation, visit projecttransformation.org or view their Facebook page.
068 Ted Dreier Childrens Kindness Network
A Little Kindness Makes a Big Difference
Want to make the world a better place? Start little. But with a big idea. Start with little children. Help them learn the big value of kindness. Start with a little cowor a big one! Moozie, to be exact.
When Moozie speaks, children listen—and learn. The big talking cow (robotic or a costumed human) may visit a daycare, preschool, kindergarten, or first or second grade class to give a special Moozie introduction to kindness (with the help of a volunteer storyteller). But what happens afterwards, on a daily basis, confirms the impact. With the assistance of the little Moozie puppet that comes to live in the classroom, teachers help class members through difficulties by simply posing the question, "What would Moozie say (or do)?" Teachers report–and research confirms–reduced disruptions and bullying with Moozie on the job.
Soon the children pick up the kindness value as their own. Playground tiffs change when a child intervenes, asking if Moozie would like that. When classmates are distressed, children have been known to bring them the little Moozie to hug. Empathy and kindness grow.
The Children's Kindness Network began 20 years ago and has reached nearly 400,000 children with the message, emphasis, and skills of kindness to one another, to animals, to the earth, and to self. Moozie-creator, Ted Dreier, working with volunteers, has extended Moozie's reach across the U.S. through not only the classroom visits, but also through the Moozie books, songs, and kits.
Teachers have benefitted, as have parents, grandparents, and even the 118 wing of the Tennessee Air National guard.
Tasks for volunteers are both big and little, ranging from assembling kits to making storytelling presentations in classrooms, to creating Moozie songs, to serving on the board of directors. All are welcome. Whatever "size" of the volunteers' contributions, they make a big impactone that goes from early brain-wiring of the very little children and from their experiences of kindness to how those influence their subsequent relationships, actions, and leadership as they grow bigger and move into adulthood.
And the world becomes a better place.
067 Gail Atkinson—Special Olympics Lead Volunteer
Taking the Lead So Others Succeed—Special Olympics
With more than 27,000 volunteers in Florida's Special Olympics program, someone has to take the lead! Gail Atkinson began like so many other volunteers—helping out a day here and a day there through the service opportunities sponsored by her place of employment. That was 15 years ago. She got hooked!
Now retired, Gail has stepped up her involvement to include making sure other volunteers experience not only the joy of seeing the athletes beam with pride but also feeling that they too have done their "job" well. Gail's team of volunteers regularly includes high school students working one time to get their service credit, police officers chosen for the day to present the ribbons and medals, and retirees dipping a toe in as they try out various volunteer opportunities, looking for something that fits their interests and sparks their passion. As lead volunteer, Gail communicates, facilitates, encourages, and supports her team of volunteers so that they too have a gold-medal experience!
Special Olympics Florida states that their goal is to "help people with intellectual disabilities participate as productive and respected members of society at large, by offering them a fair opportunity to develop and demonstrate their skills and talents through sports training and competition, and by increasing the public’s awareness of their capabilities and needs." All that is done through the effective use of volunteers. Those who have a good experience return again and again, making the games possible for the special athletes—thanks to lead volunteers like Gail.
To find out more about Special Olympics in your state, visit specialolympics.org. There is a place for you and people, like Gail, to make your gift of time award-winning!
066 Linda Stalters – American Red Cross
The Red Cross—On the Job Every Eight Minutes!
I was bringing my stepmother home from the baptism of her great grandson. We rounded the corner to see 12 fire trucks and three ambulances blocking traffic. Her high-rise senior apartment building was billowing smoke from the fourth floor–her floor, her apartment! First responders gently led her to another truckthe Red Cross truck. There wonderful volunteers comforted her in her confusion and provided her aid for her immediate needs from having her life so completely disrupted. As her family member, I too was comforted because I did not have any idea of what to do. The Red Cross was there to help us both get through the disaster and to know how to move forward.
For most people the American Red Cross is associated with presence at the news-making disasters of floods, fires, hurricanes, mass shootings, and such. But every single day—in fact, every eight minutes—crises that never make the breaking-news happen, and Red Cross volunteers are there too. Volunteers step in and step up to handle the wide range of needs such catastrophes precipitate. When a calamity such as a hurricane can be anticipated, volunteers are busy preparing shelters, food, and teams to take action. When tragedy strikes without warning, the volunteers themselves are already prepared and can react immediately.
Some volunteers work on site; others facilitate and support. Some have a regular pattern to their volunteering, perhaps doing recurring work in the office or being on call for a week, a month, or a couple of months at a time. Others commit to going anytime to a site and staying as long as needed. Those volunteer teams can be there for 72 hours without sleep in the same grueling conditions as the victims and first responders. Some volunteers are "just in case," handing out water at major events, such as big Fourth of July celebrations, and being available if any emergency happens. Some retired couples serve as a team, driving a Red Cross truck and giving out food, water, and cleaning supplies to victims. The requirements for these volunteers are to be healthy, strong, willing, flexible, and resilient.
Linda Stalters represents another type of volunteer. As a retired Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Psychotherapist, she and others licensed in the mental health field, focus on the psychological trauma that victims experience. She assesses their emotional needs, gives support, and connects them to resources for long-term healing. Sometimes, that role is to recognize exhaustion in first responders or volunteers and get the ones who are so committed to others some rest and food for their own renewal.
Whatever task Red Cross volunteers choose, they are trained and supported, prepared and ready, and very willing to help! For more about volunteering, visit the website redcross.org.
065 Bob Tigert—Ukulele Kids Club
Kids in Hospitals, Music, the Real Deal—What’s Not to Like?
Bob Tigert just "sorta fell into" his volunteer position on the board of the Ukulele Kids Club. "When they asked me, I had never heard of it. 'What is that?' I had to ask." A ukulele (and guitar and bass) player, Bob quickly decided the organization was the "real deal"—grassroots, amazingly noble, and very effective in the execution of its mission, which is two-fold:
Less than five years old, UKC has already changed the lives of nearly 5,000 children in close to 200 hospitals in multiple states and now Canada simply by providing music therapists this simple instrument. The ukulele allows them to teach the children how to make music while confined to their hospital bed. Small enough to be easily held, ukuleles are super easy to learn to play. With the help of the therapist, patients quickly begin playing tunes and singing. They have something creative, uplifting, and fun to focus on instead of what is wrong and hurting. Music becomes part of their healing.
Volunteers do not go to the hospitals to help the children directly. That is the role of the professional music therapists. Volunteers put their efforts into raising the funds to buy the ukuleles that the therapists will use with the child and then leave for the child to continue to play at home. Purchased through a special arrangement with an instrument-making company, each ukulele costs only $40.
Volunteers get to use their creativity too in raising funds. Often the event is a concert by musicians—a natural fit. But in New Orleans, the tattoo parlors each take a ukulele and paint it with their special artistry and then sell the "tattooed" ukes online, last year raising $15,000. Volunteers use whatever skills they bring in support of the fundraising efforts. Bob's career had been as a videographer. He has put his skill back to work to tell the story of the Ukulele Kids Club. You can see his video on the website.
Unlike Bob, you as a volunteer don't have to play a ukulele. But like Bob, you simply need to care about kids in hospitals, recognize the power of music to bring healing, and value being part of a real-deal organization that is definitely changing lives.
To learn more about Ukulele Kids Club, to see Bob’s video, or to donate, visit theukc.org.
065B Sheri Kimble—Violins of Hope
Music From a Dark Past—Hope for Today and Tomorrow
The lilt of beautiful music stirs hope in the hearts of listeners. But like any great gift it can be perverted for evil. The Violins of Hope experience tells the story and brings it full circle through the darkest of times and circumstances to hope again. Sheri Kimble, a volunteer docent, explains:
During the Nazi years, many Jewish and other musicians were forced to play their music at first for the entertainment of the Nazi officials, but then for the prisoners being marched off to the labor sites from the camps, and ultimately for the new arrivals at the death camps who were herded into the "showers." Even though they knew the outcome, the musicians had no choice but to play or they too would die. Sometimes they would receive an extra scrap of food for their playing. Having that could give them—and others with whom they shared—strength and hope to stay alive another day.
When the light began to return, the now freed musicians no longer had the heart to play. Their violins languished in dark attics and closets. Eventually, one—and then one by one—others were given to or collected by an Israeli luthier, Amnon Weinstein. His father, Moshe, had also been a maker and repairer of stringed instruments, which had brought him to Palestine before the outbreak of war. Unfortunately, 400 of his and his wife's families were destroyed in the Holocaust. In 2000 Amnon turned his skills toward restoring the violins and finding ways to tell their stories—so that the remembering will help humanity say, "Never again!"
The Violins of Hope experience travels internationally, but includes extended time in communities that are willing to turn the "visit" into a community-wide discussion and learning opportunity. Previous stops have been in Cleveland and Cincinnati, Ohio, and in Birmingham, Alabama. Through Memorial Day, May 28, 2018, Violins of Hope is in Nashville, Tennessee. Forty different exhibits and events—all but two are free—invite people into the story, into the music, into awareness, into hope. Major ones include concerts by the Nashville Symphony playing the violins and the Nashville Public Library's multifaceted exhibits.
Sheri answered a call to be a volunteer docent for the Library's exhibit. At first, in training, she felt overwhelmed by the intensity and responsibility of the story. Now, she is gratified to be able to help people of all ages understand, appreciate, and claim the message. To provide a 40-venue experience for a community for free requires volunteers, including those who raise the possibility within their home area, others like Sheri who raise awareness through their channels or on site, and others who raise needed funds. Volunteers make a difference. Volunteers for hope.
For more information, visit the website violinsofhopensh.org. May 28, 2018, is the final day for Nashville.
064 John and Elaine Berkheiser—Leader Dogs for the Blind
Raising Puppies and Opening Doors!
If you love dogs, you'll find kindred spirits in John and Elaine Berkheiser, who raise puppies (28 so far)—and give them away! The puppies ultimately go to work, serving persons who are blind, visually impaired, or blind-deaf.
How can the Berkheisers give them away? Each puppy accompanies them wherever they go—to stores, through parking lots, in cars, on busses, in hotels. Raising these puppies is a 24/7 job! Elaine admits that giving the dog up after their year together breaks their hearts. But...then comes the dog's graduation from the official training and the placement with the client. John and Elaine usually attend the ceremony and also take the occasion to meet the person who is receiving this furry opportunity for a more independent and fulfilling life. Many clients stay in touch, sending photos and notes of gratitude throughout the dog's service. With the bigger picture in mind, the couple begin again with a new puppy.
Founded by three Detroit-area Lions Clubs members in 1939, Leader Dogs for the Blind empowers people who are blind, visually impaired or deaf-blind with skills for a lifetime of independent travel, opening doors that may seem to have closed with the loss of sight. The organization began with four dogs and now trains and places nearly 500 every year.
To carry out their mission, Leader Dogs relies on multiple volunteers. Leader Dog "moms" handle the breeding program—mostly Labrador and Golden Retrievers with a smattering of German Shepherds. Volunteers, like the Berkheisers, who started because their daughter raised a puppy as her 4H project, provide love, basic training, and the adventures that result in a confident, alert, and loving companion ready for the next level of training and ultimately for service. The Berkheisers also volunteer as "puppy counselors," regularly visiting their network of other Leader Dog "puppy raisers," supporting and mentoring them. In addition, the organization provides manuals and training videos to assure that all involved—raisers and puppies—have a good experience, which will pay off in a greater quality of life for the client.
For persons receiving a dog, the placement training lasts 28 days. Leader Dogs also runs a summer camp for 16–17 year olds and a week-long "white cane" training. All of these services are free of charge to the recipients. If you know someone who is blind, visually impaired, or blind-deaf, either from birth or newly so, please encourage them to explore Leader Dog. A whole new life could be at the other end of the harness.
For more information or to explore volunteering with Leader Dogs for the Blind, visit leaderdog.org.
063 Kim Carrier—Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
Sampling the Fruits of Volunteering
With more than 900 volunteers each year, Volunteer Coordinator Kim Carrier knows something about what keeps volunteers coming and coming back to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum: "Enjoying the beauty of nature is its own lure. Even if they are not working in the garden, driving through the gate evokes an emotional and spiritual response. It's in our DNA to connect with nature and to support places like this."
The Arboretum has many opportunities for volunteers to connect and support. With 1,200 acres, multiple specialized trial and display gardens within the garden, wetlands and prairie restoration projects, and apple and grape variety development, volunteers who like to work hands on and "dig in the dirt" can readily find a place and like-minded company.
But as a nonprofit, the Arboretum also needs the skills of people who can contribute by raising funds, memberships, and attendance. Volunteers bring their expertise with spreadsheets, databases, and informative reports to assist the organization. Volunteers help with major events, including planning, marketing, dealing with logistics, and even cleaning up. Volunteers also educate inside the gardens as tour guides, knowledgeable tram drivers, and teachers for children's and adult classes. Outside the garden, volunteer ambassadors speak to groups about this treasure in their area while others use their skill with social media to generate enthusiasm and attendance at the Arboretum.
Kim readily admits that the most popular volunteer job, however, is apple tasting! As a research facility, the Arboretum is actively developing new strains of the fruit. The popular Honey Crisp and the new Tango apples are results of their work. A newer grape-breeding program is also underway.
No matter the skills, interests, or experiences volunteers bring, they can find a way to "connect with nature and to support places" like the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Kim points out that across the U.S. are hundreds of other unique and wonderful gardens beckoning. Maybe they don't have apple tasting, but they will feed the emotional and spiritual needs of the human DNA.
For more about the educational program of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, listen to the Retire-To podcast 057 with Fern Albertson.
For more about the Arboretum, visit their website (arboretum.umn.edu) or Facebook (facebook.com/MnArboretum) or YouTube (youtube.com/user/MnArboretum). Check your local area for volunteer opportunities in gardens near you.
062 Anne Huffman—Music & Memory
Bringing Back What Was “Lost”
A hospice volunteer, Anne Huffman, was keeping vigil at the bedside of a dying woman. Seeing the Bible at the patient's bedside, Anne began reading it aloud and then singing "Amazing Grace" softly. The woman, who previously had been non-communicative, responded. The patient died later that night, but a spark was born that day in Anne.
The spark was fanned when, in a subsequent training offered by the TLC program of hospice, Anne viewed the DVD, Alive Inside, and saw that her experience was not an anomaly. The organization Music & Memory has been making the lives of persons living with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, brain trauma, ALS, MS, and Parkinson's Disease better through individualized music playlists since 2006 in the U.S. and Canada.
Anne's fire grew through her church, where the congregation provided the funding and several members stepped up to help her, including the "tech guy" and two other women who each serve the patients in two local facilities, as does Anne, who also speaks to groups about the program, again fanning the flames.
For Anne, watching eyes light up and years melt away is her reward as she consistently sees patients suffering from both the disease and the ensuing isolation "awaken" in response to the music they remember.
But she also knows that the benefits of supplying individualized playlists to patients go beyond the specific person. With the resulting lessening of anxiety and agitation that often accompany this stage of life and the increasing social interaction and ability to converse that patients can experience, the atmosphere for all in the facility changes for the better. Families are also less stressed.
The Music & Memory organization provides, in conjunction with iTunes Plus and Apple, all that is needed to set up a program, including the guidelines for the legal use of the music.
For more information, visit musicandmemory.org.
061 Ed VanVorhees—The Bootstraps Foundation
The Bootstraps Foundation—Providing a Hand Up
"Pull yourself up by your bootstraps" is a part of the American ethos. The culture celebrates people who have become great successes, overcoming major obstacles through their own heroic efforts. Such a man was Bootstraps founder, Ray Danner, a successful restaurant-chain developer and owner, who came out of hardship, began working at age 10, and as a young man purchased his first business for $600. Many businesses and many dollars (both earned and given away philanthropically) later, he was inducted into the Horatio Alger Society. Today, long after Danner's death, his money, along with other contributions, supports the Bootstraps Foundation of Middle Tennessee.
The 19th century author, Horatio Alger, wrote more than 100 novels based on the real-life experiences of the children and youth living on the streets in abject poverty in the mid to late 1800's. The inspirational and influential stories focused on developing character and surmounting life's obstacles to be ready for opportunities for change. He recognized that a timely "hand up" is also a factor in success.
The Bootstraps Foundation searches out high school students who have overcome significant adversity and developed great character and then gives them the "hand up," awarding them $5,000 for each of four years of college. That money in turn is matched by a local university (Belmont) to make higher education possible for these who have already prevailed over so much because of their own bootstrap efforts.
A major reason the Foundation can maximize their mission is volunteers. Board members, including graduated Bootstrap alums, leverage services to keep the organization functioning, including fundraising, printing, copying, mailing, and other necessary tasks. Ed VanVoorhees donates his time and skill to the administrative oversight. Volunteers, lending a hand, make possible the hand up needed to make a difference for deserving young people and those they will touch because of both their own character and this opportunity to gain further education.
For more about this or to donate, visit bootstraps.org.
060 Barbara Bruce—Humane Society
Providing Second Chances for Animals and Other Cast-offs
The dog was horribly unlucky—a hit-and-run driver sped away leaving him with a crushed leg! The dog was also wonderfully lucky—the life-threatening collision occurred in sight of an employee at the Second Chance Store. He scooped up the injured animal, took him to the vet (his leg had to be amputated), and then brought him back to the store, his new home. Named Tap-Tap, the lucky dog is now the store's mascot and loved by volunteers and customers alike.
Barbara Bruce, a snowbird from New York State, volunteers several months a year at the Second Chance Store in Amelia Island, Florida. Proceeds from the donated items sold at the retail store go directly to support the Nassau County Humane Society in its mission—"dedicated to the humane treatment of all animals, to alleviate their suffering and neglect, to support the human-animal bond, and to foster an environment in which people respect all living creatures!"
Supporting the animal shelter began with volunteers putting on yard sales (aptly renamed, "Flea and Tick Sales”), which proved so popular and effective that the Humane Society was eventually able to acquire a permanent sales venue. With the new store has come greater recognition of the purpose of the organization and more customers making purchases in support of its work. And, yes, lots of them come to see Tap-Tap!
Barbara, an animal lover who also has had retail experience, has chosen to volunteer in the store. But she points out that other people find their volunteer joy working directly with the animals in many different capacities, including socializing puppies and kittens, walking and grooming dogs, handling paperwork for adoptions, and even making sure the kennels are clean.
She also reminds us that animals in shelters all over the United States need loving care and that volunteering on their behalf can take many different forms and skills, all within a flexible time commitment. So, if you feel a tap-tap on your shoulder, it might just be a special critter, a special place inviting you to volunteer.
Simply type "humane society near me" into your browser or visit nassauhumane.org for more information.
059 Linda Stalters—Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America (SARDAA)
Changing Perceptions—Key to Hope, Treatment, and Opportunity
"We can't be everywhere, yet people with the diagnosis are everywhere!" Nearly nine million Americans suffer from schizophrenia and other illnesses involving psychoses. Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America (SARDAA) is the "we" working to make a difference in the lives of those diagnosed and their families.
Linda Stalters, a retired Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Psychotherapist, began the organization in 2008. SARDAA promotes hope, treatment, and recovery through support programs, education, collaboration, and advocacy. Their vision is that every person living with a schizophrenia or related brain disorder receives respect, appropriate treatment, and an opportunity to live a meaningful and satisfying life in a compassionate community free of discrimination.
A key to bringing about that vision is changing perceptions on several levels:
Volunteers assist in reaching these goals. They do so as speakers and educators, as videographers and artists, as advocates to state and national policy-making bodies, as organizers of new groups and as mentors to the leaders of support groups (which are led by persons who have the disease and who are themselves volunteers). Volunteers are also needed for simply saying "thank you" through notes or phone calls to supporters of the organization's work. In turn, the organization's small staff support the volunteers with training, materials, and a voice in this important work.
Linda says, "Whenever I think I might quit or when people ask, 'When are you going to retire for real?', I remember that people who live with the disease can't ever retire. I hear thanks for what we do. Those affected say, 'I am so grateful for this organization because it saved my life!'—and I can't quit!" For more information, visit sardaa.org or hearingvoicesofsupport.com.
058 Liz Martin—General Federation of Women’s Clubs
Changing the Power of One to Power to the Nth Degree
Liz Martin believes in the power of people—especially women—joining together to make a difference in their community. But she’s also discovered how one person, using her specific skills, can make that power even greater.
When Liz joined the Brentwood/Franklin Woman's Service Club she found much more than she expected. As a part of the international General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC), her local club is one of the nearly 3,000 (combined membership of 80,000) working independently and together on significant issues, including supporting the arts, preserving natural resources, advancing education, promoting healthy lifestyles, encouraging civic involvement, and working toward world peace and understanding.
The mission and history of GFWC attracted her to the club. She has stayed for more than a decade because of the benefits: She has met great people she might not have otherwise, expanded her knowledge of her community and of important national and international issues, and participated in specific projects locally and beyond.
As club members got to know Liz, she was asked to be the treasurer. No problem! She definitely had the skills. Liz’s career was as a financial planner. Taking on the job was a way for this one person to give back. But she quickly discovered a new challenge: bringing their financial systems into the 21st century in terms of bookkeeping, computerization, and taking advantage of investment opportunities that would grow the organization’s dollars and consequently its potential for more good. Actually, that was the easy part, according to Liz. The bigger challenge was to change the thinking of the group from “we don’t want to lose any money” to “we can safely grow the money.” Fortunately, Liz’s years of helping individuals and families make that same transition to success have paid off, enabling the club members to greatly increase their impact on projects and issues they are passionate about.
One person—investing heart, time, energy, and skill—joining with others of like mind and commitment changes the power of one to power to the nth degree!
For more about the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, visit gfwc.org. To learn more about the Brentwood/Franklin Woman's Service Club, go to bwctn.net.
057 Fern Albertson—The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum—Feeding Body and Soul
Do you have an interest in plants, gardening, bees, butterflies, children, sharing your knowledge, working with like-minded people, having a meaningful and rewarding volunteer opportunity? Check any of the above, and this interview is for you! Fern Albertson volunteers with The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, where she has found all of those interests fulfilled and her soul fed.
Have you eaten a Honey Crisp apple lately? Or perhaps you’ve tried the new First Kiss apple. Both of these, along with 28 others, were developed through the research at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The history of today’s 1200-acre premier facility had its beginnings in the 1800’s with government assistance and insistence to develop apples hearty enough to grow despite the Minnesota winters. The push was to attract settlers to the area by providing a viable economic opportunity. Today’s Arboretum now attracts 500,000 visitors each year! Thirty-five thousand of those come specifically to the Learning Center, where Fern volunteers.
As a volunteer, she works most often with school children and children coming in the summer through the Y or Parks and Recreation day camps. Working with a curriculum that also meets state education standards, Fern, along with other volunteers has been teaching the children about bees and butterflies, as they observe the resident pollinators at work in the gardens of the Arboretum. She also takes children “shopping” at the Green Grocer. If their grocery list includes sugar or chocolate, for example, the young shoppers have to find the plant sources (sugar cane and cocoa plant) growing there. The lists are varied, but the lesson is pointed: Our food comes largely from plants! The Arboretum’s educational programs change regularly, inviting return visits and keeping the volunteers engaged as they too continue to learn.
Fern is one of 900 volunteers the Arboretum relies on. Some, like Fern, lead programs or give tours; others help maintain the gardens or drive the trams. Several assist the researchers—like the ones who developed Honey Crisp and gave us our First Kiss!
Arboretums and botanical gardens are scattered all across the nation. Click Here for a list of facilities around the country. You might find a garden or arboretum in your local area where you can check volunteer opportunities.
056 Marci McAdams—Special Olympics
Special Olympics—Smiles for Everyone
“I get to see their smiling faces—that’s my reward!” Marci McAdams enthusiastically declares with a big smile on her own face. One of her volunteer jobs for Special Olympics in Florida is to hand out the rewards to the participants. Those smiles keep her coming back and taking on more as a volunteer. She handles much of the administrative work that keeps the program running smoothly; and she also trains new coaches, who are also volunteers. When she runs a training session, she invites at least one of the special athletes to help her by showing the potential coaches the possibilities.
Special Olympics is so much more than “a competition here and there.” In the early 1960s Eunice Kennedy Shriver, moved by the lack of inclusion of children with intellectual disabilities (ID) in even basic opportunities for play, set up a summer camp in her own backyard to give them a chance to participate in physical activities, including sports. She set out to change society’s view of persons with ID. Now more than five million special athletes from ages eight through older adults in 172 countries participate year-round in Special Olympics trainings and events in county, state, area, and international levels in more than 30 different sports. Children, age two to seven, can begin developing skills through Special Olympics Young Athletes program.
Athletes benefit from the training and competitions as they develop physical fitness, skills, and friendships. They gain courage and self-confidence and experience joy. Society benefits from focusing on the abilities rather than the disabilities of persons with ID and discovering their gifts. Promoting understanding and social inclusion, Special Olympics is making a change for the better for everyone.
Volunteers make it all possible. Handing out awards, doing administrative tasks, training new volunteers, including coaches—all of which Marci does—are just a few of the opportunities available to volunteers. Encouraging athletes, setting up and tearing down for events, coaching for the various sports, recruiting other volunteers, and photographing events are a few more of the possibilities. Check the website for your state to find a specific place where your interests intersect with the needs: specialolympics.org.
055 Barbara Winkler—Quilts of Valor
Touched by War, Receiving Comfort and Healing
Barbara Winkler is not alone in her desire to honor, thank, and comfort men and women who have experienced the horrors of war on behalf of our nation. Nationwide, in 47 states and the District of Columbia, are multiple small chapters of quilters creating beautiful and practical Quilts of Valor and presenting them to veterans and active service members. In Barbara’s chapter alone, the group has made 4,375 since Barbara created her first quilt! Last year they made 651!
Many chapters gather and benefit from the social aspect of creating a quilt, as well as from the joy of finding a purpose they find meaningful and appreciated by the recipients and their families. However, most chapters also have members who work at home. In Barbara’s Southern California chapter, the oldest member is 92, working at home and providing a one quilt-top each week for the other stitchers in the group to complete. Barbara’s group also partners with teens in local high schools to make the quilts. The students earn service-learning credits, find mentors and friends among the skilled quilters, and experience pride in their skill and creativity, as well as humility in knowing the stories of the ones who will receive their quilts.
Volunteers do not need to know how to quilt. Quilting is a group effort. There is a specific task for everyone, including designing, cutting the fabric, hand sewing, machine stitching, washing, ironing, presenting, and more. Anyone can start wherever comfortable and learn more from the others—and have a good time doing so!
To see the variety of beautiful quilts Barbara’s group has made and given, go to socalqov.org. To find a Quilts of Valor chapter near you, visit www.qovf.org. That site will also guide you in creating a new chapter, if need be.
054 Daisy Jabas—Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance—Providing Hope and How-To
Daisy Jabas, Registered Nurse, Certified Peer Recovery Specialist, and State Director for Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance of Tennessee, surprises people—not with her credentials but with a statistic: Mental illness is more prevalent than cancer, lung disease, and heart disease combined!
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance provides through their support groups a safe environment for individuals and for their families to share their stories and learn skills from the lived experience of others, as well as from medical professionals. Those who suffer discover they are not alone, there is hope, and life can and will get better.
Daisy also surprises people when she tells audiences that all of the people working in this Tennessee division of the Alliance are volunteers, including Daisy. The range of opportunities is wide, from helping get literature out about the program, speaking to groups, serving at events, calling back inquirers, transporting persons to support groups, working in the office, maintaining the website, to facilitating the support groups. Volunteers can choose short-term or long-term service options to fit their own interests, knowing that all contribute to greater well-being for those who suffer.
For more information visit www.dbsa-tn.org
68 Hours of Hunger—What Too Many School Children Face Each Weekend
Ending childhood hunger in America one school at a time
What kind of person would you be if week after week you were without adequate food for 68 hours? Executive director and founder of the non-profit End 68 Hours of Hunger, Claire Bloom tells us how you can join the fight to end the hunger too many school children face for the 68 hours between the free lunch on Friday and breakfast on Monday at school. Students are provided with 3 dinners, 2 breakfasts, and 2 lunches each weekend. Listen to how her 1700 volunteers in 42 local chapters all over the United States help 3000 students every week.
With nearly 16 million food-insecure children in America today, the unmet need is still huge. Imagine how well you would perform on Monday if youve not had anything to eat since Friday lunch! With this program in place, teachers report students come to school ready to learn and the disruptive behaviors of Friday due to food insecurity vanish. This program makes a difference in the potential success of each child fed.
You can be a part of this exciting program by joining a chapter in its mission or starting one of your own. Claires national office provides complete training so you and your friends can reach out to help students near you. Others have done this 41 times! The smallest chapter feed 3 students each week; the largest feeds 300.
052 Crys Zinkiewicz–Hershey, Here! at Saddle Up!
From Rider to Writer—With a Little “Help”
Passionate about horses, Crys Zinkiewicz found a great place to volunteer and then she discovered Hershey! Hershey is a go-to horse at Saddle Up!, a therapeutic riding center for children with disabilities. Known for his versatility and willingness, Hershey is also famous for his funny “smile” after a peppermint treat. Now he’s even more famous as an ambassador for Saddle Up!, thanks to Crys.
The two of them are Pony Pals, but they’ve also “collaborated” to write a book about Saddle Up! Hershey tells his perspective on his life at Saddle Up! and its various programs. Crys comes along to “fill in the details.” The proceeds from the resulting 148-page book go to support the organization, but even more importantly the book and Crys’s speaking opportunities raise awareness of the “magic” of horses in programs across the country like Saddle Up!
With a background as an editor in a publishing company, Crys volunteered her professional skills to meet the challenge. She also pulled together a team of people (designer, photographers, marketers, web designer, business manager, and even musicians) who donated their time, talent, and professional experience to create the book.
For more about Saddle Up! go to saddleupnashville.org. Be sure to watch the video on the home page. You’ll meet Hershey and Crys, and you’ll learn more about this amazing organization.
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051 Julie Kramer–Adult Literacy Council
Volunteers Teach More Than 1,700 Adults to Read and Succeed Yearly
Julie Kramer is high on the Nashville Adult Literacy Council (NALC) for its two main goals: Teaching American adults to read and teaching English skills to adult immigrants. Working with classes and through mentoring, nearly 600 volunteers teach more than 1,700 adults each year to read and succeed.
Isolated by the need for a new language, immigrants can turn to NALC for assistance. Becoming more proficient enables newcomers to gain access to the larger community by being able to talk to and understand grocers, doctors, potential employers, and so forth. Learning English allows parents to help their children with school. And the NALC’s citizenship classes facilitate the family’s move toward citizenship.
Not being able to read also isolates thousands of adult Americans. Nearly one in eight Nashville adults can’t read at a functional level. Inability to read labels, complete an application form, comprehend a bill, understand a child’s grade card or homework, and so on limits persons’ economic quality of life and also affects their physical and emotional health and family and social relationships. Depending on others to read is both inefficient and humiliating. NALC classes offer remedial reading for those seeking to enter high school equivalency classes.
Volunteers make the difference. Find out more about the program, apply to volunteer, or check the monthly training schedule at nashvilleliteracy.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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050 Betti Lose–VITA Tax Prep
Joyfully Serving the Community—St. Luke’s Community House
Community volunteer, Betti Lose, enjoys a variety of opportunities at St. Luke’s Community House to help the many people served by that organization. In the course of a few weeks, she might do administrative tasks, schedule free Volunteer Income Tax Preparation (VITA) sessions, assist a senior citizen playing bingo, or shelve books in the large and inviting preschool library.
St. Luke’s mission is both to help low-income families, seniors, and individuals in West Nashville achieve their potential and to prevent problems that threaten the stability of families and community. The organization works on that mission every day, but January through April they specifically accomplish it by providing free income tax preparation for Nashville area residents with incomes of $64,000 or less. Trained volunteers prepare taxes at no cost to the taxpayer. Refunds are electronically deposited into the client’s bank account. These volunteers work with clients by appointment. Betti schedules those appointments.
More information about this vital VITA program is available at their website www.stlch.org. For more details, call St. Luke’s front office at 615-350-7893. Christie Bearden, Volunteer and Community Engagement Manager, can be reached directly at 615-324-8375 or email@example.com.
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049 Bill Farris–Habitat for Humanity
From Banker to Builder—Thanks to Habitat for Humanity
Bill Farris is always learning. Each time he volunteers with Habitat for Humanity he learns something—how to swing a hammer, use a saw safely, measure accurately…and it’s fun. He describes a day with Habitat as seeing “ants on crackers”…in other words, a swarm of folks helping to create a home! A retired banker, Bill now thinks of himself as a builder.
“Don’t think you can build a house? Join a Habitat group and see what you can accomplish,” Bill challenges everyone. Not only do volunteers have the opportunity to learn new skills, but also they can use their existing skills, including painting, landscaping, and even clean up, to finish out the construction. Men, women, and older teens can be part of the team, and the time commitment is flexible.
An ecumenical Christian ministry, Habitat for Humanity provides the life-changing opportunity for people to own affordable quality homes. Habitat family members participate in learning about home ownership and then invest “sweat equity” as they work alongside the volunteers. They too are gaining new skills, and they are also acquiring the dignity of seeing what their own work has achieved and an appreciation for the belief in them exhibited by the commitment of so many volunteers. Together, the families and the volunteers create safer neighborhoods for more children and facilitate a pathway of hope for those served.
Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville builds 32–50 houses a year in a four-county area. With that many homes to build each year, Habitat is always looking for additional construction volunteers. If you are interested in building as a group, or as an individual, please visit their website www.habitatnashville.org for additional information.
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048 Sherri Settles–Tennessee Donor Services
Improving Lives by Connecting People—Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation
Everyone has an opportunity to leave a legacy as a registered organ and tissue donor. As a donor, you can save and improve lives of individuals in need of a lifesaving transplant and those whose lives are impacted by tissue donation. Or you can volunteer as an ambassador, telling your story to community groups of how giving or receiving an organ or tissue donation has had an impact on you and your family. Or you can help get the word out through mailings, special projects, and participating in the big fundraising concert. Volunteering at any level helps connect people who have great need with those who can give of themselves.
Sherri Settles, staff with Tennessee Donor Services, talks about how volunteers, donors, and families make donation and transplantation possible. By mobilizing the power of people and the potential of technology, Tennessee Donor Services extend the reach of each donor’s gift, honoring their gift of life. Visit the Tennessee Donor Services website (tds.dcids.org) for more information.
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047 Ron Schlagheck—Meals on Wheels
Meals on Wheels—More Than Just a Meal
For Ron Schlagheck and his wife, the invitation to drive for Meals on Wheels came from their church. Volunteers at various churches often take turns preparing the meals. Other volunteers deliver them.
The recipients are usually homebound and are unable to purchase or prepare their own meals due to health and/or physical limitations. These individuals not only enjoy the hot nutritional meals, but also the visits from volunteers who care about them and make sure that they are doing well.
The recipients are not only receivers, but also givers. Kindness and appreciation abound. Ron and his wife continue to be amazed at the reception they receive each time they make their delivery!
In addition to Meals on Wheels, Ron’s days are busy volunteering in local community councils, University of Florida Alumni Association, STEM mentoring, AARP advocacy, and church projects.
For more information, visit a Meals on Wheels website.
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046 Tiffany Cloud—Alzheimer’s Association
Alzheimer’s Outreach—More Awareness Needed
Tiffany Cloud-Mann, Vice President of Programs & Outreach for the Mid-South Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, helps work on the global, national, and local levels to enhance care and support for all those affected by Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
The Mid South Chapter offers several educational programs for community members and families facing Alzheimer's. Locally, volunteers assist with health fairs and in the office preparing mailings and answering inquiries. Other volunteers use their expertise as speakers on behalf of the Association or as organizers for the big fundraising walks. Yet others get sponsors and make the walk.
At the state and federal level, the Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voice for Alzheimer's disease advocacy, fighting for critical Alzheimer's research, prevention, and care initiatives. The organization diligently works to make Alzheimer’s a national priority. In this interview Tiffany speaks to how volunteers can make a difference for this vital work, as well.
The organization provides caregivers and families with comprehensive online resources and information through their Alzheimer's and Dementia Caregiver Center and a professionally staffed 24/7 daily, a helpline (1-800-272-3900), which offers information and advice to more than 300,000 callers each year and provides translation services in more than 200 languages. For more information visit alz.org.
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