Paid with a Smile: Exploring the World of Volunteerism

Why, hello there, my friends, it’s Wednesday, which means, it’s mid-week and I’m hoping your week thus far, has been a pleasant one! We started off the week, here in Pennsylvania with warm, abundant sunshine, blue skies and low humidity, though things have headed in the opposite direction, with rain, humidity and below-average temperature (as stated by my favorite meteorologist, 6ABC’s Adam Joseph!). I’ve been trying to make the most of the week and still be productive despite the abysmal turn of the weather and have been successful for the most part (partially due to my growing, tasty cereal collection drawing me out of bed in the morning!) Anyhow, a television show I watched Sunday night is the impetus for my post this afternoon. Initially, I wasn’t sure I would post today, but I found my mind wandering back to Sunday evening as I watched that particular ABC television series. More on today’s musing in a moment, though. Allow me to debrief you with my eats this AM:

Breakfast (August 7, 2013):

1 container Fage Fruyo Pineapple Greek Yogurt: (Oh goodness, I never like to bash on a yogurt, but I feel I have a responsibility to be honest on my blog, therefore, I will share with my perspective on this yogurt: I was not at all a fan. It’s strange, because usually I LOVE pineapple yogurt! In my opinion, pineapple is one of the sweetest, most satisfying fruits around, one that is always a treat, especially when it is fresh, ripe and chilled. However, this particular pineapple Greek yogurt tasted very artificial and to be frank.. downright strange. The consistency was thick, as typically expected with Greek yogurts, but thankfully, it easily combined with the cereal, which was probably the only positive aspect about this yogurt. I’m curious though if perhaps other flavors of this yogurt variety might be better. Have any of you had it before?

1 cup Giant-brand Puffed Rice Cereal: (Maybe I’m imagining things, but for some reason, the puffed rice tasted better today for some reason; then again, it could just be me attempting to console myself, with the atrocious yogurt.)

1 cup Special K Multigrain Flakes: (Yay, this cereal has made its return! I know, I know, I have numerous boxes of other cereals, I haven’t really enjoyed yet, but I didn’t want to abandon my Multigrain Flakes! If you haven’t tried it yet, which is a possibility, since it hasn’t been on store shelves all that long, it is ideal in my opinion, with a subtle sweetness, crunchy flakes and tastes well either on its own or with other cereals.)

1 Banana (Still doing well with the bananas, I’m happy to report. Ideally sweet and petite!)

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Now, back to today’s musing. You may be curious as to what television program from Sunday I referred to above and now the time has come that I will share it with you: ABC Network’s Secret Millionaire. If you haven’t seen it before, now is the time to watch. This past Sunday evening was the Summer premiere and while it is late in the Summer season for a premiere, in my opinion it is a decent and imperative show to be watched by individuals and families, in general. In the past, I’ve caught a few episodes of the show, but this past week’s episode really stimulated my mind and had me reflecting on the past and in particular, an activity I used to engage in quite often in my teen’s and earlier 20’s.

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Unlike many other high schools through the U.S., my particular high school building housed grades 10-12, with 9th grade still in the middle school building. When I finally entered my sophomore year of high school, I was overwhelmed by the number of clubs and after-school activities to join. However, one in particular caught my eye, but more importantly, my heart. The organization was called: Greater Philadelphia. The premise of Greater Philadelphia was volunteerism, allowing students to engage in opportunities such as: serving at a soup kitchen, helping those with developmental disabilities, tutoring elementary school students, participating in walks (i.e. Diabetes walks, March for Dimes, etc), among countless other activities and activism.

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Within a matter of weeks after initially signing up Greater Philadelphia, I was heavily involved, tutoring at a local elementary school, helping out at a local Apple Fest, and also, volunteering on my own at a local American Red Cross Homeless shelter (helping out with child care and serving meals). Soon, it became a tradition for my friend and I to serve Thanksgiving dinner together at a local lodge, an annual event created by a local woman to serve those less fortunate. For the first time in my life, as a volunteer, I felt I had a purpose and was making a contribution. There was nothing better than to see a smile on the elementary school student’s face after they read an entire book to me themselves, or after they managed to solve an intricate math problem.

When I graduated high school and moved onto college, my dedication to volunteerism never faded, as I went on to pursue my own opportunities. Some of my pursuits included: serving as an office assistant and event assistant at Sunshine Foundation, an organization dedicated to granting “dreams” to children who are ill, as well as at a local hospital.

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Watching “Secret Millionaire,” the other evening nearly brought me to tears as I recounted all the moments of joy I experienced while volunteering. There is nothing better than looking around and seeing the smiles and impact fellow volunteers are making. As I watched the “secret millionaire” of the episode, a woman, who is the founder of the Auntie Anne’s pretzel franchise, go undercover as a volunteer, my eyes were glued to the screen as I heard the individuals tell their heartbreaking stories of strife and tribulations. There she was, not simply providing them with the funds to make necessary strides and changes, but actually seeing and experiencing firsthand what life might be like for them.

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A snapshot from “Secret Millionaire” with Anne Beiler, Auntie Anne’s founder

Being a volunteer taught me quite a bit as a teenager. Prior to volunteering, I would think nothing of begging my parents for a ten-dollar bill to simply buy a pair of earrings at the mall, a pair of earrings which would soon fall to the bottom of my jewelry box, being worn all of once, if at all. After serving Thanksgiving dinner the first time at lodge, my perspective permanently changed. Walking around to each table, serving the traditional Thanksgiving fare, I was abruptly stopped at the table in the direct center of the large meeting room. It was a woman and her children, a family who appeared vaguely familiar to me, yet I couldn’t seem to place them. Soon, my confusion was abated, as she informed me they were former residents at the American Red Cross Homeless Shelter. Almost immediately, my mind flashed back to months prior, as I initially made their acquaintance, spending time playing board games with her children and holding her newborn baby (actually, the very first time I ever held a baby.) How thankful I was, that particular Thanksgiving, for the comradeship I had built, because truly, with volunteering, that is the greatest payment of all.

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If you haven’t watched “Secret Millionaire,” I recommend checking it out, at least once. Perhaps you’ll experience a wave of nostalgia like me, or if not, be able to see the lives of individuals be changed for the better, which in my opinion, is always a pleasant sight to see.

QUESTION: Have you ever volunteered? If so, where?

2 thoughts on “Paid with a Smile: Exploring the World of Volunteerism

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