Recently, in the Volunteering category…

My donation this week is to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. My sister was recently diagnosed with MS, and I’ve really admired her strength as she has adjusted and accepted the diagnosis. Despite painful shots and uncomfortable side effects, she has been remarkably strong and positive. She and her husband have even decided they’re not going to worry about side effects any more… they’re gonna stop putting it off and go on that cruise for her birthday! I’m very proud of my sister, and I hope any contribution I make can help medical research on treatments for MS.

Billy and I attended the Oklahoma Geocaching Spring Fling this weekend… and we had an amazing time. It was held in Red Rock Canyon State Park (Hinton, Oklahoma). Despite the park’s name, we somehow didn’t expect all the climbing — up the canyon and down the canyon — that we’d be doing. We were exhausted. That’s what made Boy Scout Troop 84’s service extra-special. They prepared and served this weekend’s food for the whole group. We gave them a little extra donation because they did a wonderful job. I suspect I’ll keep either that specific group or the United Way in general in mind for a future week’s donation as well.

We spent 2 1/2 hours yesterday picking up trash as part of Oklahoma City’s Litter Blitz program. We chose about a half-mile fenceline that runs along I-40, an area we pass every day on our way to work. Being between a busy interstate and a grocery store, the fence tends to get littered from both sides. The plastic bags and grocery coupon newsletters that were stuck in the barbed wire fence, constantly waving in the wind, bothered me every time we passed the area. Fourteen huge trash bags and two painful sunburns later, we’re proud to say that it looks great. I even found $11 in amongst the trash!

On a side note (one I had 2 1/2 hours to think about), why shouldn’t this grocery store be responsible for cleaning up the trash (plastic bags, coupon inserts) that is at least partially their fault? Corporations should give their employees the option of participating in a program like Litter Blitz, perhaps as a paid alternative to working their shift one day. I think all corporations should have that built in as policy: if you want to participate in a volunteer community program (of your choosing), we’ll give you up to 2 days off per year to do that. They could require documentation of the work, and surely they could receive a tax deduction for the salary they basically donated to the charity. The worker is happy because they get to choose their charity and feel fulfilled in improving the community. And it beats participating in a company-wide charity like our company just did. They chose a particular group and asked everybody to go along. They received criticism from a good few folks who disagree with the group’s policy on animal testing. They had a lot of people frustrated that co-workers were spending more time drumming up donations than working. And they probably lost just as much worker time. One might argue that the “teamwork” aspect is lost if employees are given the choice of doing something on their own, but given the amount of disagreement choosing one charity raises, I’m not sure anything is lost. And if you still wanted to keep some level of teamwork, you could sponsor several team events through the year — “if you want to spend one of your volunteer days on Habitat for Humanity, join us this Friday,” for example.

Of course, any time the world is depending on corporations to do “the right thing,” we’re asking for trouble. We’ve all seen about all we can stand of corporate “ethics” lately…

Since this coming week is the OKC Festival of the Arts, it seems appropriate to donate to their parent organization, Allied Arts. Allied Arts is also the parent organization for Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park, another of our favorite groups. Allied Arts was nice enough to give us a Star Card in exchange for the donation.

This week, I gathered up a little of this and a little of that for donations. I donated our old futon mattress, a patio umbrella, and a box of clothes to the folks at work who were holding an American Heart Association garage sale. I also noticed that the Staples folks were donating $1 towards an Oklahoma education fund for every printer cartridge that received. Since we just happened to need a new cartridge anyway, we swapped them out and took the old one to Staples. I suspect I’ll be doing this same thing again in a few weeks, seeing how full our garage has gotten lately!

I donated to the American Heart Association this week at work. We don’t necessarily approve of the amount of time our co-workers are allowed/expected to spend on this, our one and only work-sponsored charity event… especially with deadlines and big projects and the new blockage of the majority of the internet because “we’re all wasting too much time online.” But just because we don’t agree with some of the methods of our workplace, we shouldn’t refuse to give to a worthy cause.

In my case, I spent my donation entering two contests. The first was for four hours of landscaping help from one of our co-workers who specializes in that area. The second is for a 50-50 chance at a paid day’s vacation.

The landscaping drawing was held on Friday, and we actually won! We’re not sure yet when we’ll get together with him, but I think it will be good for our yard. I’d like to have someone with a little landscaping experience give us some pointers. The other contest will be held in a couple of weeks. Basically, it will result in either Billy or I (but not both) getting a day off of work. So far, my donations have offered great benefits!

Since my parents are going to be visiting this weekend, and since we’re spending the time until then busily cleaning house, I’m not going to even try to squeeze in an hour of volunteer work this week. So week three becomes my first week of donations. I’m counting the membership fee I had to pay Pets and People to volunteer for them (seem odd to anyone but me?) as half of this week’s donation. I also chose to donate to The National Arbor Day Foundation, especially appropriate since Oklahoma celebrates Arbor Day this week. As an added bonus, the Arbor Day folks give a free gift of several trees in exchange for the donation… so we can help the environment by planting those once we receive them. I noticed the dog park was completely tree-free. I wonder if they would appreciate a donation of a tree or two?

I volunteered at Pets and People today. Billy and I had hoped to do some work on their website, but the lady I spoke with said they didn’t need any help with that right now. She did say they could use some help taking digital photos of the cats. Sounds challenging! But I could use some practice taking good digital photos, so it sounds good.

Today I just spent time with the dogs though. They started me walking dogs in the puppy room. Cute little things! Some of them weren’t quite sure what to do with a leash. Most of them thought it would be a fun thing to chew on. My favorites were a little dachschund mix, a little Bernie look-alike who liked chewing sticks, and a little hyper dog (Jack Russell mix maybe?) that loved running and even did one of those characteristic jumps. I had just gotten to one puppy that refused to be walked — you know, the type that lays down and just looks at you with puppy-dog eyes when you try to drag it along — when one of the workers asked me to wash a dog that had just gotten adopted. That went remarkably well; they’ve got a pretty good setup and a spot to tie the leash so they little guy can’t escape. Would you believe they’ve even got a dog dryer!? You open the door, put the dog in, set the timer for 15 minutes, and viola — a dry dog! I kept thinking of the cartoons, thinking this little beagle was going to come out as a big fluffball. Billy asked when I got home whether I remembered to put in a dryer sheet… oops! That poor thing will be staticy all day…

Overall, an enjoyable experience. I’m tempted to spend all my volunteer hours there… but I do want to spread my time around some.

Billy and I gave blood today. It’s not much, but since that’s the main thing that spurred me to action, it seemed like a fitting place to start. You see, Oklahoma Blood Institute (they give out nice T-shirts) has taken to harrassing us by phone. Since we’ve managed to get off of most of the telemarketing lists, our phone seldom rings. We tend to like it that way. But OBI is a not-for-profit group, so they don’t have to abide by the same rules as telemarketers. After they left this week’s phone message, I contemplated once again whether to call and ask them to stop calling… but I really do mean to give blood, so maybe their reminders aren’t such a bad idea. Then I started wondering why I don’t give blood. There’s just not a good time… but that’s only because I don’t make time. Long story short, I decided to give myself an incentive to make time… and now, I have a bright shiny frog-themed T-shirt to show for it!