This is the first in a series of five blog posts featuring local volunteers in honor of National Volunteer Week. Nominated volunteers will be honored with a custom portrait on Friday April 11, 2014 at the Power of Good Show.
Powering Good in Her Community
Chimere is an East End resident, wife and a devoted mother of two boys who is passionate about expanding opportunities for children. She is a crucial part of Richmond Promise Neighborhood (RPN), a collaborative group of East End families, schools and providers working to improve the education and development of youth in the East End. RPN depends upon Chimere’s overwhelming positivity, hard work and expertise.
"My motivation for becoming involved with my community was that I started to pay attention to the next generation behind me. They were doing things that people like myself gave the appearance to look cool to do ,when we were the youth whom walked the streets. My mission became to help clean up some of the mess we help create. I know the kids are watching us an we all have to set examples.. So lets start to make the best examples."
The Youngest Volunteer
Give some advice to future volunteers.
"When speaking to other teens, I encourage them to get involved! I want others to experience the same joy and happiness I do by giving back to my community. I remind them that we are the future. After 4 eventful years with my project I have learned that just because I am young, does not mean I can not make a difference."
Ten year old Katie needed a topic for a 4-H public speaking contest and she chose hunger. She was shocked by how many hungry people live in the Metro area and how many hungry children are in Hanover. Help the Hungry began with her compassion and passion to feed people. Food drives, Plant a Row, gleaning, farmers' market promotion, Hunters for the Hungry, t-shirts sales and many, many speaking engagements and community events keep Katie collecting food. In three years she has collected enough food to provide meals for 14,000 hungry families, and counting. Katies has a County Wide Food Drive planned for Global Youth Service Day on April 12th, when she plans to take in about 2,000 lbs of food.
Reliable and Dedicated
"I have been volunteering since I was a Girl Scout, and it is something I naturally do. However, I must admit that I had to really look deep down inside for motivation during my first experience volunteering at B.A.R.K. (a rescue and adoption agency for dogs) a few years ago in the bitter cold of winter. It was freezing, and I was cleaning out kennels. I contemplated leaving, because I was genuinely concerned about my fingers and toes, but I stuck with it, not wanting to be the wimpy volunteer. I'm happy I stayed that day. It started out as being a somewhat miserable experience, only because of the weather, but it ended up being a very fulfilling Saturday. I have returned to B.A.R.K. since then, just not in the winter time!"
In the Pursuit of New Opportunities
What was your motivation to start volunteering?
"I’ve been volunteering in some capacity for over 20 years, but my most recent motivators have been the kiddos. When my boys were about 4 and 6, my husband and I made a conscious choice to focus on family volunteerism. This opened up a world of learning and growing together. We became “family voluntourists”, dedicating time for service on vacations (gardening in the Arizona desert is challenging!). This is a great way to connect with locals and gives kids a reference point for remembering their travels. Back in Richmond, we invited other families to volunteer with us, which is how Service Kids in Progress was born. Including the whole family in my volunteer endeavors has motivated me to step out of my comfort zone and try new opportunities."
James River Writers - Poetry in Action
"All through college and med school & even after, I did some sort of volunteer work-- candystriper, ESL tutor, classroom aide-- it was something you just did a couple hours a week to give back for all that you had been given. A contribution to society. And it made you feel good.
What I do now is somehow different. I don't see it as volunteering or giving back... it feels more needful and intrinsic to who I am... maybe because writing is something I'm so passionate about. When I decided to shoulder the responsibility of hosting what was at the time our small poetry group, it was because I knew no one else was going to step in and do it... and it was too precious a thing to lose. Since then I've seen first-hand how much it can really mean, giving poets a platform on which to share their words & souls, especially to those who are young to the art or (like so many of us!) introverted & scared to death the first time they step up to the microphone. I think we've created something very special with our poetry community here in Richmond, something that is both nurturing and inspiring, and I would hate to see it come apart.
And the James River Writers... well, they're simply an amazing group of people to be involved with-- so it was a no-brainer to start being more active in what they do. At heart, JRW's energy is directed toward a large-scale version of the community-building I do with poetry events. I never know what's coming around the bend, but it's really a pleasure to be able to help these folks out & more effectively spread their message in any little way I can-- it still doesn't feel like "volunteer work"!"
Building Hope in the Face of Adversity
Tammy has volunteered with Sportsbackers to help train those interested in participating in the Monument Avenue 10k for the past three years . She is a cancer survivor. She is probably the strongest person I know and a mentor to all.
"I started to volunteer because there was a void within myself that I needed to fill, I saw all of this need and felt that if there was something, even just a little, that I could do to help others, it only made sense to step up.
Volunteering provides an opportunity for me to give back what has been given to me. I don’t have much as far as tangibles but I do have time, energy, certain skills and experiences that someone else might be able to use. I feel that it helps strengthens our community and breaks down barriers of fear and misunderstanding. I’ve made lifelong friends and will have so many great, fond memories to last a lifetime.
It builds hope where there may not be any. I’ve seen the look of want, hope and the lack of confidence on a persons face and by the end of our time together, they are gleaning with excitement, positivity and self-worth. Very few feelings compare to the one you get when you know that you had something to do with that. It’s an even bigger and better feeling to see that they too, pay it forward and step up to pass on what they’ve learned.
I feel that those who are interested should just do it. There may be the fear of not knowing anyone, meeting new people or trying new things- but I promise, it’s going to be some of the best experiences that you can ever have."