On volunteering

Today is Memorial Day, the one Monday I’m guaranteed to have off this summer. I thought about going swimming, or having a cookout, and spending the holiday relaxing. In the end, I decided to spend the day at Club Nova, the setting where I volunteer sometimes, which serves as a community for people with persistent and severe mental illness. Instead of spending the day by the pool, I spent it in a kitchen, serving umpteen burgers and hot dogs and baked beans and potato salad to the members of Club Nova. It was hot in the kitchen, so much so that the plastic food-service gloves stuck to my hands, and by the end of a couple of hours of serving meals, I was exhausted. It was the perfect way to spend Memorial Day.

Above is a picture of several Club Nova events and settings – on the far left is the whole community in front of the Club House; on the far right is the thrift store where I volunteer most often these days, helping to sort and price items and organize the window display. Today I mostly put food on plates, but that also gave me the chance to catch up with good friends, people who make me laugh and always make me feel welcome. In volunteering with Club Nova, I have come to be part of a wonderful community, to do meaningful work, and to build friendships with people I am so grateful to know. The nature of volunteering in such a setting is that my time there is often a pleasure, and it’s always fulfilling. I did an internship at Club Nova last summer, and then spent a semester of Fridays in the Clubhouse kitchen, helping to prepare and serve hot meals at a reasonable cost. I find that there’s almost nothing so fulfilling as feeding people. I’ve also had the chance to help put together a Legislative Breakfast, to paint a mural, to work in the thrift store that supports the Clubhouse, and to work on an outdoor beautification project when we planted a garden, painted the decks, and cleaned up the Clubhouse grounds. Above all, I’ve gotten to sit with people and learn about their lives, listen to their stories, and build friendships that mean a great deal to me.

Sometimes when life gets busy I think ‘I don’t have time to work at the clubhouse,’ but today reminded me of why it’s so important to make time. I want to enjoy my life, to have fun and relax, but more than any of that, I want to look back at the end of my life and know that I was loved and loved others, as part of a real community, and that I did some good in the world. My time at Club Nova makes me feel that when i come to the end of my life I really will be able to be confident in those things. I would encourage anyone reading this, if you haven’t already done so, to find a community where you can participate as a volunteer, build relationships with people, and do some good! Happy Memorial Day, everybody!

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