Archive for July, 2010

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Soup and a Smile Brings a Smile to Clients and Volunteers

July 6, 2010

My journey begins here…at the Volunteer Center of Southern Nevada.  Allow me to explain.

A few weeks ago I lost my job.  I was feeling down in the dumps…a little sorry for myself.  I was a statistic; a victim of the economy.  I spent a little time in thoughtful pondering, “What now?”  Well, I figured that while I am in the midst of my search for a new job, I may as well do a little something to help some other people who may need a little hand up.  See, even though I lost my job I still have a home, a family, and food on the table.  I have always been aware that there were people “out there” that were less fortunate I just never really dedicated a lot of time thinking about it.  I am thinking about it now.

So, I have begun a journey …a journey of discovery.   I want to discover who the people are in the Las Vegas valley that need help; what sort of assistance they need; what is available in the way of services; what I can do to help.  I am on a mission.  I am going to VOLUNTEER!  I’m not talking about dropping some spare change into a bucket or donating blankets to the local animal shelter or dropping off clothes and household items to the local charitable organization.  While all of those things are VERY worthwhile, and I will continue to do them all, this is different.

I had heard about the Volunteer Center of Southern Nevada from people that I know, so I went to the website, signed up and clicked on the link to search the calendar of volunteer opportunities.  WOW!  I was shocked at all of the available opportunities.  After reading some of the descriptions of the projects, I chose “Soup and a Smile”.  This is a project that provides a prepared meal to poor and homeless people.

This opportunity occurs each Wednesday through Saturday morning, early.  As the project is run by a faith-based organization, there is an optional morning prayer at 6:00 a.m.  Otherwise volunteers should arrive at 6:15 a.m.   The group of volunteers and organizers carpool to the site where the food is served.  Once the food is gone, volunteers can leave or go back and help with dishes.  Again, that is optional.

When I arrived at the kitchen where the food is prepared, I found that there were half a dozen giant pots of food already bubbling on culinary style stoves in a tiny kitchen.  Obviously someone had been preparing this food for hours before I ever got there.

Right on time, and with great efficiency, the organizers loaded the pots and all other supplies onto a trailer and at 6:30 about 8-10 vehicles convoyed to a lot where people were gathered, already organized into lines.  The food was set up, served and the area cleaned up by 7:00 a.m.  Some volunteers left at that time.  I decided to help with dishes so I followed the convoy back.  I was done by 7:30 a.m.

This is a project that is convenient for anyone to participate.  There are no special skills required, no heavy lifting, no prolonged standing, it assists a large number of people and it is a short term commitment.  The early start time, short duration and central location make it a good opportunity for someone to do before work, classes or appointments.

“Soup and a Smile” was the perfect first experience for a novice volunteer like me.  The organizers were efficient, informative, friendly and appreciative.  They work hard and they need help.  They provide what may the only meal of the day to hundreds of people.   They make a difference.   I will be back to help them.

Kathy Hamilton
June 2010

To participate in “Soup and a Smile” click HERE to sign up.  If you haven’t created an account to volunteer please register first at www.VolunteerCenterSN.org.  For other opportunities that impact Hunger and Homelessness click HERE

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Meet Our Newest Blogger Kathy!

July 6, 2010

My name is Kathy, I am 40-something years old, married for more than 20 years and ready to make a difference!   I have a huge heart and a strong desire to help in my community.  Now that my children are nearly grown, I find that I now have time to devote to the development of my community and its other residents.

I have lived in the Las Vegas Valley since March 1996.  I have a tremendous commitment to this community.   We have extended family here;  our parents, siblings, children, grandchild (soon to be plural), long term friends.  The Valley is, and will remain, my home.

My favorite aspect of volunteering is the feeling of value that the giving of time or services generates.  Having been in positions in my own life where a helping hand made the difference between surviving and not, there is a great satisfaction in being able to give back.  It makes a difference.

My favorite thing to do in my spare time is actually a dead-heat tie between two things.  First, when we have opportunity to get out of town, I love Love LOVE to go camping!  No clocks.  No phones.  No TV.  No smog.  No worries.  While I am camping, in the midst of all that fresh air and sunshine, I do my other favorite thing… I write.  As a member of Toastmasters, I write a lot of specialty-type speeches.  I also write in a personal journal each day which has inspired the writing of several self-improvement style articles written with the intention of starting a motivational blog as soon as I have an adequate supply of articles to accommodate a reasonable posting frequency.  

If I could create an ideal volunteering opportunity it would be to organize an event to promote self-esteem, counseling services, life skills, communication skills to at-risk youth, specifically girls, to show them how to find their own individual strength and not allow others to determine their value – to own their attributes.  Providing temporary financial, housing and educational assistance to young woman in dangerous or threatening circumstances would be a pipe dream of mine.  Someday, if I come into money or can generate the sponsorship, I will see that through. 

My favorite volunteer opportunity that I have been involved in so far has been to assist the son of a friend in completing his Eagle Scout project.  He recruited a group of volunteers to do some repairs to the outdoor dining area shade at St Jude’s Ranch as well as provide some other repairs and beatification to various areas of the facility.  In addition to helping him obtain Eagle Scout, which was an honor in and of itself, to provide this assistance to a facility that caters so wonderfully to children in need was priceless.   As rewarding as that experience was, I look forward to creating even greater experiences. 

The best aspect of Southern Nevada is the sense of community.  From the first week that I arrived in Las Vegas in 1996 I have said that it seems like the world’s biggest small town.  Before moving here, we lived in a small town in South Carolina for six months.  During that time, living in a small townhouse community, we never personally met even one of our neighbors.   At a store or a restaurant everyone was nice to us as long as we paid, but we were never embraced into the community.  Not even at church.  It was lonely because while everyone was friendly, no one wanted to be friends.  In extreme contrast, though, when we arrived in Las Vegas, it was a matter of about three days before we were having Barbeques with three or four families in the complex.  I think because there are so few people from here, it creates something in common for us all to embrace.  It creates a community.  I love it here.  It is home.

Kathy is the newest member of our blogging team.  She will be participating in various volunteer opportunities throughout southern Nevada and will be reporting about her adventures in volunteering.  Kathy brings enthusiasm and passion for helping others in need and we look forward to reading about her adventures and hope you will too.