Thursday, January 22, 2009

Volunteering: Sara's Experience

I think people frequently don't volunteer because they're not sure how to do it, or if they'll have enough time, or even if they'll enjoy it. As part of OYFP's effort to help people volunteer, we profile volunteers just like you and me. Today we're talking with Sara Radin, a woman I work with at my day job, but who (like me), also volunteers.

Where do you volunteer, Sara?
Right now I am volunteering at the Whittemore School in Waltham as a reading volunteer. I also volunteered for the Obama campaign in the fall. In college I was my sorority's philanthropy chair and president of the BCAC (Breast Cancer Awareness Coalition).

Since Everybody Wins! is your most recent volunteer activity, why don't you tell us a little about that? Why did you start volunteering there, and where did you hear about the opportunity?
I started volunteering at Everybody Wins! because my mom is the school coordinator, and she told me how much everyone enjoys reading. Also, my employer has a program set up that allows us to volunteer during our lunch hour with Everybody Wins! called the Power Lunch program.

How many hours a week did you volunteer there? Did you have to give up anything in order to have the time to volunteer?
I volunteer for about an hour there each Friday, but it takes up about an hour and a half with travel time. I would not say I have had to give anything up; especially because it is Friday afternoon the workweek is generally winding down. Perhaps if I calculated it, I would give up some free time due to having to stay at work later on other days to get everything accomplished.

What do you do when you go to the school?
I read a book of the student's choosing for 30 minutes while she eats her lunch.

What is your favorite thing about volunteering?
Jaclyn (the student I read to) is always so happy to see me, and it is a great break from the workday, and a really fun way to spend lunch. You can tell that getting read to is something she really enjoys, and she made me a really cute Christmas present which made me realize how much of a different I made even just spending a half an hour with her once a week.

How does it compare to your other volunteer experiences?
In college, I had a sidekick (like a big brothers/big sisters type thing but specific to Colgate) but it really felt more like unpaid babysitting, so I much prefer the reading program. My other two experiences, as BCAC Co-President and Philanthropy chair, were much more about about creating and executing events for college students and club members - so more planning/fundraising driven rather than giving time.

What would you say to someone who is hesitant to jump on the mentoring or volunteering bandwagon?
Even if spending time with kids isn't your thing, there are a million ways to get involved. You can volunteer to make phone calls or stuff envelopes or organize an event. Whatever your talent or skill is, there is almost always a non-profit that could use your skills and expertise.

What have you personally (or professionally) gotten out of the experience?
I love having an outlet through work that allows me to spend my time doing a philanthropic endeavor. I really appreciate my employer more for it, and I know everyone is busy but I think people would really enjoyed it if they tried it. It has been a great way for me to dip my toe in the post-college volunteer pool, and has only made me want to do more.

So do you actually love reindeer, as your photo would seem to indicate?
Reindeer are fine. I would say I'm really more of a cat person, though.

Thanks for your time, Sara!

Our blog occasionally features sporadic profiles of volunteers in the Boston area and beyond. If you're interested in sharing your experience, please email

Related Posts: Volunteering at Lunch; Boys & Girls Club: An insider's view; OYFP's Intern; Sudan-Reach Women's Foundation Volunteer; Doubts about volunteering? Read about Fred

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