#13 – Volunteer With an Organization I Know Nothing About

Almost all of the remaining 30×30 entries have been planned out, but if you know anyone that wants to take me on a motorcycle, let me know. As I was organizing the list, I fixated on this item. Volunteer with an Organization I know Nothing About. I’m no stranger to volunteering. I did a year of it in San Antonio. I’ve fostered kittens, done city clean ups, helped collect canned food donations at an Indigo Girls concert, and built a church – among other things. You’d think I’d be all set with having done just that.

I researched one off volunteer options in my area. I didn’t really have a lot of time to take on a big commitment. Plus, some organizations, like Big Sister, have such a lengthy screening process that it makes it almost impossible to actually volunteer. I turned to Facebook for suggestions and I received some great ones, just not ones that fit with this project. At the suggestion of Jill,  I tried volunteer matching website, but it only turned up volunteering for a weekend with children that have just lost a parent or being a money manager for an elder service organization. My mom died when I was 17 and my full time job is working at a similar elder service organization. This was proving to be way more difficult than I expected.

Then, while updating a different entry on this blog, I stumbled upon an entry I began on May 6th. Apparently,  I already did this. Let’s all roll our eyes together and then let’s travel back to May 6th, shall we?

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Monday night around 8:30pm I am sitting around doing my usual rasslin’ watching when I see a post on Facebook from my friend Claire. “Oh SHIT! I didn’t pick up my books for World Book Night!” (That was me, not Claire – she is far more organized.)

I should’ve got up off the couch, put on non-Hello Kitty pajama pants and dragged myself away from shiny muscles for a few minutes to go DOWN THE STREET to pick up a box of copies of “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie, but I didn’t. Because I am a horrible person that is, currently, way to stressed out to care about anything else except my stress.

And that’s the problem. The whole point of #13 was to give back. But to give you an idea of just how stressed out I am these days, I think I have signed up to volunteer with about five other organizations. So my stress has it’s benefits on the community. You’re welcome, America.

So, why World Book Night? Well, because I could not resist the opportunity to give away free books to people whom may otherwise have no interest in reading this particular book, or any other book in general.

Out of all 30 books on the list, this was one of two I had read. I chose the Alexies book over Maya Angelou’s novel because it had a far greater impact on me and is not as universally known. I go through phases with reading. A good book can put me on a reading frenzy and a terrible book can turn me off to the whole idea of words for months. I’m not much of a fiction reader, but I do love memoirs/biographies/autobiographies. In fact, all the books I read last year were memoirs.

A few years ago I worked part time for an organization called Reach Out and Read which, to this day, has the distinction of being the first pure non profit I have worked for with measurable results. The idea behind Reach Out and Read is to establish relationships with pediatricians and have them distribute books to their patients, based on age level, to chart their progress by their reading comprehension. ROAR was able to obtain books in multiple languages for children and received numerous donations so that siblings would leave appointments with a book as well. The organization was growing rapidly during my brief stint there and I can only imagine how powerful an organization it is today.

Around this same time I had been working at a group home for teenagers when one of the residents suggested that I read this book. I spent the majority of my 22 hour shift laughing and sympathizing with Alexie’s novel. It was a book that turned me back into a reader (until One True Thing farted it’s way into my hands). I couldn’t think of a better book to distribute.

I figured I’d start at work by sending out an email and saying I left a few copies in the break room. The material is safe for work, so my director didn’t have a problem with the distribution. By the next morning I had emails from co-workers and a few people standing at my desk wanting copies for their children, grandchildren, friends, or even themselves. I even had to turn a few people away. I don’t care much for Harry Potter or Twilight, but I will say that those books changed the way adults feel about reading “Young Adult” novels. And like I said in my entry about The Great Gatsby, as long as you’re reading, who cares?

The feedback I received was great. Those that had had a chance to read the book had nothing but wonderful things to say. I even had a few lengthy conversations in the bathroom while people told me how hilarious/heartbreaking/imaginative/etc it was. I’m glad that I was able to do this. And I am incredibly thankful to all the authors and companies that waived their publishing fees to make World Book Night a success. I will absolutely volunteer next year and I encourage you to do the same. At the very least, find an organization that supports something you believe in and are passionate about. Then let us know. We’ll be better for it.

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