The saint and I have been volunteering in our local Deaf community for the past few years. Recently we volunteered at a spaghetti dinner fundraiser. In the words of Po’s father from Kung Fu Panda, I’ve had the noodle dream. I made pot after pot of spaghetti noodles. It was a bit hectic at times, but overall fun and spaghetti were had.
I’ve put together some brief fifteen tips on volunteering from my experience. Have one of your own? Leave it in the comments section below. And pass that garlic bread basket over, would you? 🥖
- Dress nicely but comfortably, depending on what work and environment you’ll be in. Wear good, comfortable shoes as you’ll likely be on your feet a lot. You want to present yourself in a good image. Hygiene is also important.
- Show up on time or ten minutes early. Confirm a few days before the event that you will be arriving. Honor your commitment.
- Have the cell phone number of the volunteer coordinator/contact person. This helps when you get to the event and you can’t find the one unlocked door among dozens of locked ones…
- Be willing to work. Ask things like “What needs to be done?” or “May I help you with that?” However if you see someone has spilled water all over the floor, grab the mop and go. Sometimes opportunities present themselves. When in doubt, ask.
- Don’t disappear. Be present and available. If you’re taking a break, don’t wander off too far. Nothing is worse than when an event gets busy and you hear “Where’s so and so? He/she just vanished.” And lo and behold, you discover they’ve taken up the study of ants outside while everyone else is breaking their backs inside. Lovely. 🐜
- If you’re in a church, temple or other place of worship, treat the area with respect. I’ve been at a Christmas event held at a church where my husband overhead a group of older teens openly mock Christmas and Jesus. This was incredibly insulting and tainted the cheerful, family environment. Please, don’t do ever do this. You are there to work, not to pass judgment on a faith you may or may not agree with. Avoid sensitive topics and passing undue judgments.
- People are watching you, even when you don’t realize it. Keep that in mind with how you’re behaving. You are an extension of the organization you’re volunteering with, even if it’s your first time volunteering.
- Leave the place in better condition than when you arrived. This means helping with cleanup and resetting table and chair layouts. Everything goes back to where it was when you arrived.
- For events with serving food: understand now that some people can be very picky, aggressive and rude about their food–even at free events. Kill them with kindness and try not to take it personally.
- Don’t expect people to thank you or shower you with praise. Sometimes volunteer events get really busy and this gets missed in the shuffle. You’re there first to serve. And who knows, you may even get a free meal, leftovers or a t-shirt thrown in. Huzzah.
- Look around. Find items by yourself to help speed up work. Most community kitchens have cabinets and drawers labeled. When in doubt, ask someone there who’s familiar with the space.
- Smile and have a good positive attitude. This puts everyone at ease around you, especially if they don’t know you or are meeting you for the first time.
- Have fun. It’s good to socialize and connect with those around you while you’re working. But remember: you’re there first to work. You can always exchange numbers with people you meet to reconnect after the event.
- Take breaks when you need to and stay hydrated. Just let someone know when you’re taking ten.
- End your volunteer time on a good note. Say thank you, get any volunteer hours signed off on and go reward yourself with Starbucks or some retail therapy. Job well done, volunteer!
Have fun volunteering at your next event and good luck! Ker law! 🦉🍝