Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Volunteer Profile: Elizabeth and NEDA

My friend Elizabeth S. is very passionate about her causes, which include politics, education, and healthy eating habits. However, like me, she had a hard time finding a volunteer opportunity that was both rewarding and fit into her schedule. Fortunately for both her and her chosen organization, she persevered and found a great fit. We sat down yesterday and talked about her experience (over the phone, since she lives in Seattle).

Where do you volunteer?

The National Eating Disorders Association, or NEDA.

Why did you start volunteering at NEDA?

I hate my job and was looking for professional experience in a field I’m actually interested in.

Well. You certainly don't mince words. What do you do there?

I answer incoming calls to their national Information and Referral Helpline. People call with all kinds of questions about eating disorders, some have eating disorders some are professionals, some are students. I try to answer their questions and if they are looking for treatment, I try to help them find a specialist in their area.

How many hours a week do you work there? Did you have to give up anything in order to have the time to volunteer?

I volunteer 4 hours a week and all I have to give up is a little sleep and about $3 for my weekly soy latte.

Mmmm.. lattes. So. What is your favorite thing about volunteering with this group?

The people who volunteer and work at NEDA are the most dedicated, enthusiastic people I’ve ever met. They are everything that is good about a nonprofit. I am inspired by their commitment. Also, I am lucky enough that every so often I make a real connection with someone on the phone and offer something that truly helps them.

How does it compare to your other volunteer experiences?

It’s the best. There is enough training and support from the staff so that I am able to offer quality service and continue to learn and grow.

Are there any organizations in the Boston area that do something similar?

The Massachusetts Eating Disorders Association ( is a similar organization. I don’t know if they offer the same sort of helpline but they have excellent services and resources for people with eating disorders.

Great. Well, here it is: The Corny Question. How has volunteering here inspired you?

The experience has made me realize how much I enjoy counseling people, especially young women. I have actually applied for graduate school and specifically chose a school that offers a dual Masters degree in both nutrition and psychology. With all of the trappings around eating and food in this country, you can't effectively and successfully address nutrition issues without addressing the underlying psychological ones.

Thanks, Elizabeth, for taking the time to talk to us.

No problem. I'm happy to do it!


John R said...

An interview…what a deck idea!

hannah said...

how cool is that?! love this post.