I’ve been a lazy cat for the past three and a half years…
I can hear you laughing now. “You got your MFA degree during these past three years and you worked full-time at a bank and as a teaching assistant. Then you moved to L.A. and you never stop moving according to social media. In what world are you lazy?”
This world, my friends.
Okay, I’m being a little dramatic but let me tell you a secret about my current life in Los Angeles: I’m not as busy as I look. When I first moved to L.A. I was busy, running around, finding a new apartment, decorating said apartment, making friends, getting to know friends, seeing the city! Then things starting to dwindle down to a normal routine which included a lot of nights on the couch watching Netflix series and catching up on my favorite TV shows. Rather than utilize all the time that I have (now that I’m no longer a student), I sort of wasted it.
As I laid, spread out on my chocolate-colored leather couch, some nights, I felt lazy (that would be the definition of lazy though, right?). I used to be so involved, so busy, so productive! And not only that, but everything that I did do seemed to only be for my benefit. As I researched careers I may be interested in, I felt like I wasn’t searching in the right areas. I used to teach people English composition; I used to help teens stay active and be excited about school and their future at the Boys & Girls Club and local schools; I used to hang out with special needs youth–what happened?
I realized I needed to get something back that I had lost and the best way I could do that was to become involved in volunteering again. Volunteering used to be something I was so passionate about in high school and college and some time in graduate school I lost my way but, no worries, I’m coming home!
Today, as I waited for my sushi rice to cook so I could make cucumber/avocado sushi rolls, I started researching volunteer opportunities in my immediate area that I may be interested in. If you are interested in volunteering yourself, volunteermatch.org is an amazing site that features opportunities in so many cities across the U.S. (even in my little ol’ town of Wichita Falls!) Below are some of the awesome volunteer opportunities I may pursue:
1. KEEN (Kids Enjoy Exercise Now) http://www.keenusa.org/
Out of all of the volunteer programs I found, this one touches my heart the most. KEEN is an organization that provides exercise opportunities like sports events for children and young adults with physical and mental disabilities. As a person who grew up alongside my sister, a beautiful woman with mental and physical disabilities, I know all too well how wonderful it is to be involved with individuals with special needs. They have the biggest hearts and they’ll show you if you let them. Pretty sure I’ll be on the field with these amazing people soon!
(Helping my dad spread holiday cheer to adults with disabilities)
2. Memory Catcher Program at the Silverado Hospice and the Photography Opportunity at Priority Hospice Care
Five years this May my grandmother went into hospice during the last stages of her battle with cancer. Hospices aren’t the easiest places to be for patients and in some cases these patients don’t have many people to support them in their last stages of life which is why these two different programs caught my eye.
The Memory Catcher Program is extremely awesome because it is something that I already tend to do (without people knowing that I’m doing it, don’t tell!). This program captures the life of hospice and non-hospice patients by interviewing and recording the patients lives and then giving these histories to their families. How cool is that? Our grandparents have lived through so many changes in the world and their histories should be kept alive. Ask your grandmother or grandfather a personal question about their past and see the amazing and bright stories that pour out of them.
The photography volunteer opportunity at Priority Hospice is similar in that they are looking for someone to take pictures to give to the families in a sort of slideshow. Since I am interested in developing my photography craft (Oh, yeah, I’m a photographer now, too) I think this would be a great opportunity for me, especially since I’ve been obsessed with capturing the beauty of age in my art before.
Helping the elderly can be so rewarding and it can start within your own family. You will be surprised to know that your grandparents want to share their stories, they just aren’t sure if you want to hear them (and trust me, you do!)
3. WriteGirl, writegirl.org
This one is just up my alley as well. WriteGirl is an organization that helps empowers young girls through a mentoring program that focuses on creative writing. I got a MFA in Creative Writing right here–can we say “perfect”? I love helping young girls see their amazing futures and I love writing so this might be a great place for me.
I think an important step in searching for volunteer opportunities is discovering what you are good at and then figuring out ways to teach others that skill. Even if that skill is reading or speaking English (which you should all be pretty good at) or creative writing, someone out there could benefit from you.
4. German Shepherd Rescue
My family has a dog. His name is Rocky…and he lives in Texas with my parents. So, alas, I do not have a pet animal who lives with me in Los Angeles and I hate it. Dogs, my favorite pets, are so loving and caring and they want to snuggle with you (when no one else does lol). So when I came across this volunteer opportunity, it really caught my eye.
This organization rescues German Shepherds and all they need is someone to commit to two hours a week to walk and/or bathe these rescues. So if I can’t have a dog at home, maybe I can have a whole slew of them (at least twice a week). Rescue dogs need love too! My family has a history with the Human Society, such as volunteer-walking dogs and the adoption of our Rocky, while my brother walks dogs for his job at a vet’s office. It might be time for me to join in on the family business so to say. One of the perks of this organization is that it is located in the city that I work so I think I might share my lunch break with these cute German Shepherds once a week.
As you can see, it took twenty minutes to find four awesome volunteer opportunities that I would enjoy being involved in. Here are a few others I found that seemed interesting too: Bresee Foundation (Grant searching on databases to help underprivileged areas); Girls on the Run (an organization that helps mentor young girls in running activities); and Miss Amazing pageants (pageants for girls with disabilities; they are always looking for buddies for the contestants, to be with them through the whole process of the competition).
You don’t have to live in a big city to find volunteer opportunities. There are some superb organizations out there.
Take this one in Oklahoma City, OK, that I discovered when I visited in December.
The Curbside Chronicle is an organization that employs the homeless to sell this magazine, of which 50 % is written by homeless individuals. These magazines are sold for $2. Their mission is to provide the homeless with legitimate income, confidence, provide them a voice, and help end negative stereotypes about the homeless. There are 39 other “street papers” like this in America. Who knew this was out there? Hats off to you Curbside Chronicle for doing such an amazing thing. If you check out their website you will see the super sweet guy who sold me my magazine on the home page.
I hope to write about my volunteer opportunities soon. I’m sure they will be as fulfilling and fun as I remember. Volunteering is truly an amazing thing and in many cases it only takes one hour out of your week. Don’t use the “I’m too busy” excuse and don’t sit on your chocolate-covered couch thinking about what you could be doing. Get out there and do something. Start your own non-profit organization. Make it challenge between your family members. Make it fun!
It’ll be worth it. I promise.