When I read chapter 4 of Radical almost 2 weeks ago, I was convicted. I've lived in Nashville for about 5 months now and hadn't moved forward with plans to volunteer. So I decided that it was time to get down to business and figure out where to volunteer. I have many interests but I work full-time in a job that involves on-call work. Plus, I'm a social worker so I need to be sure that wherever I volunteer, I'm not being utilized as a social worker. It's all about preventing compassion fatigue and being good about self-care.
Here's my list of possibilities. There are pros and cons of each, which I won't spell out for you here. I'm praying my way through this list and this week I'll be sending out queries to a few. If the time commitments match up with my availability, then hopefully I'll get started in the next couple of weeks.
1. Soup Wagon with Salvation Army-Nashville- Feeding the homeless on Friday nights under Jefferson Street Bridge. They're looking for food donations, servers, and entertainment. The homeless have been on my heart for some time and this opportunity combines that interest with my love of cooking/serving.
2. Mercy Ministries- I actually applied to work at MM about 6 years ago during my post-grad school job search. They had no openings at the time and then I got my hospice job but I've always been interested in working with the population they serve. MM works with girls looking for healing from abuse, eating disorders, addictions, self-harming behaviors, depression, and hope for unplanned pregnancies. They offer a free, biblically-based program to girls age 13-28. They are doing remarkable work there.
3. Big Brothers, Big Sisters- My friend Casi, who works for BBBS in Illinois, kindly reminded me of this organization's need for volunteers. The commitment is once a week and day and time are flexible. I could see myself mentoring a little girl.
4. Special Kids- I just learned about this wonderful organization a few days ago and promptly added it to my list. Special Kids is a Christian organization that offers therapeutic rehabilitation and skilled nursing to children with special needs. There are so few respite or professional care options for children with special needs. I can't imagine how much parents appreciate Special Kids. This is completely up my alley, right?
5. Alive Hospice- You can take the girl out of hospice, but you can't take hospice out of the girl. End of life issues are still supremely important to me. Before I moved, I thought it would be important to get connected to a local hospice. I was already very familiar with Alive, thanks to my professional blog and a little networking I did before my move. I actually toured their residence a few weeks ago and was so impressed! I think it would interesting to visit with a family, help out at the residence, or assist with their bereavement programs.
6. Room in the Inn- This is truly impressive program for the homeless. There's an actual residence but also day services, classes/education, support services and more. It might be interesting to see if my community group could serve there together.
7. Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee- I've thought volunteering at a food bank would be interesting for awhile. It never worked out to do it back home but perhaps it'll work out here! Sorting and putting together food boxes = tangible way to help prevent hunger.
8. In2Books eMentor- This is such a cool concept to this book nerd! Adult volunteer penpals are matched up with a 3rd-5th grade student. Through the course of the school year, you and the student read 5 books together. You write an email about important issues in the book and then the student has a chance to respond. I love encouraging kids to read! And because it's all through email, I'm pretty sure I'd have time to read the books and respond. Books. Penpals. Encouraging students. Win, win, win.
Even if I end up not volunteering at a particular place, I'm considering whether I can give financially. They are all worthwhile organizations making a big difference in such different ways.
Anything else you think should be a contender? Anyone living in Nashville want to be my volunteer buddy? If you don't live in Nashville and are intrigued by one of these organizations, check to see whether they have a site in your area- many of them do! I'll keep you posted as I make my final decision...