Friday, June 4, 2010

Fit in a Fun Friday - Volunteering

Volunteering is a lot of fun usually.  What other job can you think of that lets you pick exactly what you want to do and appreciates the simple fact that you showed up and helped out?  This is why I plan to spend a large part of my retirement on volunteering with animals and the elderly.  The animals are really cute and I could not think of a worse fate than being lonely in my golden years. 

Here's my volunteering history up to this point:

I started volunteering in 5th grade on a regular basis.  Back then I cleaned up Galveston beaches and the roads near my neighborhood.  In 6th grade I volunteered at the city library and had a great time.  In 7th grade I played card games and dominoes with the residents of the local senior citizen's home and should have stayed longer.  In 8th grade I stupidly picked to help out with the county's historical museum (can anybody say "use that kid for filing"...sheesh).  I really enjoyed helping out, but then we moved to Holland in 9th grade and I shut down.

Depression is a weird thing.  I knew I didn't feel right, but I didn't really want to feel better either.  I just wanted to sleep and listen to music and ignore everything around me.  It took me a couple of months to peek out from my room and try to enjoy Europe while we were there.  Within 7 months we were packing again and moved to Argentina for 2 1/2 years.

After a year or so, I befriended my little sister's English teacher who ran her own English learning center.  I started volunteering as an English instructor for 6 and 7 year-olds until we moved back home.  You never respect teachers more than when you decide to teach a second language to kids that barely just learned their first one!  I also realized that I was a lot less moody when I was involved with others.

After we got back to Texas, I once again fell off the volunteering wagon and went to college for 4 years.  I had 2 or 3 part-time jobs the whole time so I just couldn't bring myself to find enough time to fit in helping others long-term.  I volunteered for a few clean ups and that was about it. 

Then I was a graduate and started my first full-time job.  All of the sudden, I had extra time again.  I discovered the Houston SPCA and started volunteering in the big dog section...they seemed the most lonely since puppies get all the attention.  I never told my husband, but we came very close to owning about 20 dogs that first month...including a 120 pound Mastiff "puppy" that just might have fit in our 550 square foot apartment...

We lived close so I could work 20-25 hours a week pretty easily for that 6 months, but then we moved 45 minutes away to our new house.  Now I only help answer phones for their telethons. 

Since I still wanted to help and we were looking for a second dog, I became a foster parent for Pughearts: Houston Pug Rescue.  For another 6 months I fostered and helped find a home for 10 Pugs and adopted our own Pug early on.  When my husband started graduate school, we took a fostering break, but I hope to restart this fall.  It helps that my allergy-ridden Pug feels better and probably wouldn't mind some company at this point since our Dachshund-mutt actively ignores him whenever possible.  :-)

In short, volunteering is a necessary part of my life.  I feel blah whenever too much time's like a mild addiction.  My plans for the future are to get involved with Meals on Wheels since I do miss spending time with the elderly.  Those guys have the best stories and sincerely appreciate a good conversation.  I never made anybody happier than when I gave a 95 year old woman the first manicure she had been given in almost 25 years.

Do you have any volunteer stories to share?  What organizations tug at your heart strings?  If you haven't volunteered, I'd suggest trying it at least once...the people or animals or whatever that you help are not the only ones that feel better.  :-)


  1. You are so right BFS, volunteering feels great! I have adopted a grandparent, marched in a million walk a thons, volunteered at the local hospital to help new moms, etc. As long as you make sure that you truly have the time to volunteer so you don't burn out and get frustrated, it will be a great experience. is a great place to look if you are trying to find somewhere to volunteer. I know there are other websites out there, but that is the one that jumps to mind.

    Great post!

  2. My volunteering has been somewhat more limited and not as rewarding. I helped put a roof on a habitat for humanity house and removed sod from a future flower bed for the boys and girls club. I also helped with parties for mentally handicapped people.

    The boys and girls club activity killed me the next day, I could hardly move. My forearms were in so much pain, that they were useless. That killed my desire to volunteer for a while...

    Now (and I know this is lame), I try to do more green activites... Collecting change for charity at work, saving pop can to be recycled, reusing paper, carpooling, etc...

    My wife does a lot of volunteering at my son's elementary school, and for some of the sport programs in my city.

    Sounds like you are a very busy person with all that you are involved in!!! :)

  3. I haven't volunteered in a while, although in the past I've done several different things. I spent years volunteering with our local Sister Cities organization: hosting exchangees, working volunteer security, food service, and clean up at large fundraisers for the organization, and being a board member. I've also helped out at Habitat for Humanity and the Ronald McDonald house.

  4. Everyday Tips, wow, you volunteer quite a bit! How do you “adopt a grandparent”? Thanks for the link as well!

  5. Money Reasons, your poor arms! I hardly ever perform manual labor, so I would have killed myself. Green activities are helpful too and not lame!

    As far as me being busy…not lately. Ever since we took a fostering break last summer so hubby could get busy with graduate school, I have done very little. I answer phones once a year for the HSPCA telethon. I also donate food to food drives, clothing to Goodwill, and money to Pughearts and public radio. My volunteer hours have dropped to almost nothing. I’m hoping to start fostering again in September when hubby is all done with school and starting a new semester as a librarian. I think we’ll be able to handle 3-4 dogs again after that…they rarely allowed us to foster just one Pug.

    We usually got the bonded pairs since we “only” had 2 dogs of our own and all the PugHearts ladies have 6-12 Pugs at a time. I think that is crazy but I try to be supportive. I’d go frickin’ nuts with 6 or more dogs at home…I did it for a week last year on accident (took care of two fosters and babysat 2 of our friends’ dogs in the same week without thinking about it) and nearly lost my mind. I don’t know how Caroline survives with 12-14 dogs all the time.

    Anyway, yeah, I’m not that busy with volunteering right now. I’m busier with my Pug’s allergy problems and my blog than anything else.

  6. Jackie, all of those are awesome! What did you do for the Ronald McDonald House? Do they build homes like Habitat for Humanity?

  7. I have done some volunteering over the years, including work for several organizations. It's a goal of mine to be in a position to have more time to volunteer and give back down the line. In the meantime, I pick my spots. Last stuff I did was for the American Lung Association.

    Giving is a great thing, whether its money or time. Somehow, when I spend time, it seems more rewarding and impactful - especially when done with no strings attached and just because you want to give.