“As a species, we’ve evolved to pitch in to work together. It’s easy to get lost in our work, families, and things we enjoy doing. But there’s a deeper satisfaction from contributing to a greater social good. And we all can’t have a job that does that.”
– Dannon Raith, on volunteering
Dannon is the second member of our team from Neenah, Wisconsin (Clearly, it’s a cheese state conspiracy) and our Teamworks lead. He organized our seven, neighborhood-themed projects over the past month, starting with the New Columbia neighborhood and ending today at Zanger Farms.
Blessed with an ever-optimistic outlook on life, Dannon’s road to Portland started in Neenah, wound through the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, traveled the film work trail to Seattle and finally down I-5 to Portland. His volunteering journey traveled an equally circuitous route starting with heavy volunteer traffic in student government at the U of W, a technically-difficult drive through Think Geek, a detour for an internship with HandsOn, and a caffeinated side trip at his favorite coffee shop, the Blue Moon in Milwaukee.
It was at the Blue Moon that he really started to see what community meant. He developed his skill at bringing people together where he organized open mike nights and other events for the business. “The Blue Moon was more than just a coffee business, it was like family. Like a community.” he said (paraphrasing).
This was his first experience leading a Teamworks team and won’t be his last, as he’s got another bike-themed project already in mind for September. Although he said that he’s not a guy who gets surprised very easily, he did tell me there was one thing that really surprised him about being on a Teamworks team.
“I was surprised how much more enriching the Teamworks experience was than just a one-off volunteer experience.” he said.
I concur, Dannon. … I concur.
“I got started with TeamWorks as a part of a project I’m working on exploring the concept of generosity,” wrote Catherine. “I was looking for a way to give back and connect to my community and giving financially wasn’t an option.”
Catherine is our native Portlander and an information-rich resource for all of the team about the various neighborhoods in Portland. Fluent in Spanish and energized with a can-do spirit, she works in outreach for the Portland Public Schools, helping families who are unfamiliar with the school system get a lifeline into uncharted waters. That in-depth knowledge of our city has prompted comments from several of our team members like,”I’m so glad Catherine is on this team. She knows so much.”
Her exploration of generosity has taken her to challenge herself with the Dāna Project, a fascinating project where for one year she is going to give 10% of her time to volunteering. It’s an ambitious goal to which I take my hat off. You can follow her progress here.
I asked her what she would do to encourage non-natives to get to know their adopted city of Portland better. She said,
“I would really encourage them to get to know the city’s history. This was something I rediscovered as an adult and have really started to understand some of the dynamics of the city more. I would [also] recommend Portland In Three Centuries: the place and the people by Carl Abott as a good starting point.”
In some ways every volunteer experience is an experiment in generosity. Often, an experiment with positive results.
Earl is a book-loving volunteer with volumes to give back to his newly adopted home of Portland. You can etch that in stone for this fun-loving, library hopper.
Earl was born in the Philippines, grew up in San Francisco, lived in Las Vegas, and moved to Portland where he thought, “… it would be an adventure to live in the streets and journal about it. But when I got here, it was raining so my whole plan changed.”
Although high school was his only other volunteering experience, the spirit of service in Portland infected him. Jobless when he arrived, volunteering was his saving grace. It opened the door to opportunity and he met a lot of really amazing people. Earl feels that volunteering also gives him, and anyone, the power to make the world “… a perfect version [of what] they want it to be.”
Earl doesn’t just talk the talk. He really does volunteer a lot. By the end of August he will have volunteered 200 hours this year with an august list of organizations - Friends of the Multnomah County Library, The Children’s Book Bank, and the Multnomah County Library. He also supports Write Around Portland, Schoolhouse Supplies, American Red Cross, Oregon Food Bank, Potluck in the Park, and Wordstock. A more in-depth look at his volunteering adventures can be found on his blog.
After our Teamworks’ EcoTrust project earlier this month, Earl told me (with a smile) that most of his volunteering was done indoors and that he joined our team to get outside and take his volunteering experience to new places. Ironically, he had just finished taking out the trash.
Just like a good book, or possibly a trashy novel, volunteering can take us to new places.
When you say ‘Director of Operations’, volunteering probably doesn’t spring to mind first, but that is exactly Ethan’s job title with Ideate, a software sales and consulting firm.
As a director, one seems like they should be going in some direction. The direction Ethan chooses to go is toward inclusion, not exclusion. He joined our Teamworks team to meet like-minded volunteers who wanted to do more than just give money to a cause. He wanted to give his time.
Ethan told me that one of the pleasant side-effects of volunteering with this team is getting the chance to meet people who are really dedicating their lives to making a big difference in their particular part of Portland. Whether it was Ed, the co-founder of Portland’s first non-profit grocery store, Village Market, Kristin, the voice of Cafe Au Play, or Lisa, one of the architects of the Portland Plan, these people have a real hand in making a sustainable difference in our community.
Prior to volunteering with Teamworks, another person that Ethan included in his life was a young man named Kenny who he met through the Big Brother program. Kenny’s mother had passed away and his father was in prison. Being raised by his grandmother, two of this young man’s previous big brothers had bolted a short time after signing up. Ethan, though, stayed with Kenny, meeting with him once a week, taking him to activities and trying to give him a positive role model. He stuck with Kenny until Kenny himself moved away.
Ethan confided that he really didn’t know how much impact he made in Kenny’s life. (After all, how many of us really know the impact we’re making?). He said that at least he gave Kenny’s grandmother some much needed rest every week which was worth something. I suspect that just by being there, Ethan gave Kenny much, much more.
That’s like our Teamworks’ team. What impact volunteering will have on our lives is unknown. But just by getting together and working for the common good, it will have an impact.
Teamworks (Conclusion To Part 2)
Teamworks has brought together a diverse group of individuals, having diverse backgrounds, to work on a diverse set of projects, with diverse reasons for joining. Together, we volunteer to meet new people, learn more about our community, explore generosity, go to new places, and find a deeper satisfaction in the way we pass the time of our lives.
As individuals, we’re disparate. As a team, we’ve connected.
Yesterday’s gift of time … Most of my time to give was spent giving as much as I could to shine a light on these fine volunteers. Friends who are doing good work in their community.
Part 3, the final installment of this series, is coming (hopefully) tomorrow.