Well, I lost my phone in the woods (and therefore, my camera) so the beauty of this post just won’t be the same. A couple weeks ago was National Volunteer Week. Many people took time during the week to reflect on the meaning of service or make a difference in their community. What did I do? I got recognized! Now, anyone who has ever gone to workshops in volunteer management knows that recognition is high on the list of best practices for volunteer programs. You know, as an overworked (and usually underpaid) administrator, you’re supposed to ask your boss to add a couple hundred bucks to the budget for a nice celebration. Needless to say, it doesn’t always happen.
But, Big Brothers Big Sisters did a pretty good job this time. Capitalizing on the visibility of National Volunteer Week, they took the time to bring “littles” and “bigs” from across greater Portland together for a pizza party. Ok, so I know you’re probably thinking “Wow – that’s original. A pizza party?” Being as arrogant as I am, I was already preparing a rant on modeling behavior and healthy eating habits…and I didn’t even know about the “stuff-your-face-with-ice cream game”. But, I was actually surprised. Most of the pizza toppings were veggies and not only did we get to build our own, but the whole thing was a contest for which big/little combo could make the most original pizza. (Here is where pictures would have been handy). K. and I chose to make a face, which then morphed into something resembling a puppy, though maybe it was a bald old man. We were clearly outdone by the “creepy crawly” pizza – these ladies made centipedes and spiders with their toppings. Our neighbors did up a “flower garden” pizza with brightly colored hydrangeas made of red and orange bell peppers. There were also monsters, a pacman, and a “leaning tower of pizza” that stood a few inches high…pretty cool.
Following the pizza thing, we watched some of the younger kids do an ice cream eating contest. K. wasn’t up for me poking her in the eye with a spoonful of chocolate gooeyness, so we just watched and cheered for the frantic competitors. We still got a bowl at the end (and we actually got the dessert into our mouths, unlike the contest participants).
So, here is the real question: Did I really need to be recognized? Would I be a better volunteer because of a little free pizza? To be honest, for me, the answer is no. Sure, it is great to get together with other volunteers, but we just sat awkwardly at the table not knowing what to say. There were games and word searches, but we weren’t really encouraged to use them. K. and I had a good time, and the outing was free (probably the best part), so that means something. But realistically, my motivations for volunteering have little to do with a night like this – I get recognition every time K. and I spend a day together. That being said, there are obviously volunteers who are truly inspired by celebratory functions (yes, you still need to have the awkward conversation with your boss about increasing your program budget). Want to know what your motivations for volunteering are? My roomie (and fellow volunteer junkie) KM. passed on this Volunteerism Questionnaire – it only takes a couple minutes to figure out if make-your-own-pizza is the fastest way to your volunteer spirit.