In Praise of Volunteers …

… And perhaps, more importantly, volunteer coordinators.

Once upon a time, I was a grassroots organizer.  This was before grassroots organizing became well-known due to President Obama.  As a grassroots organizer,  I lived and breathed and so appreciated volunteers.  And tonight, was vividly reminded of that.

As noted in an earlier post, I’m part of a co-op that brings fruits and vegetables into the neighborhood every two weeks (http://www.communityhelpingscoop.com/).  In the past, I have zoomed up, grabbed my bag of stuff and took off.  Well, the volunteers who coordinate our stop are going to have to stop doing it and they asked for people to help.  I said, I could help occasionally, but due to travel and other work commitments could not take on primary responsibilities.  That was a week ago.  Apparently another woman offered the same thing.

This morning, I got to the office around 6:30 am (normal for me) and read email.  A note sent around 5 am asked for our help coordinating tonight – everyone else fell through.  Well, via email, we agreed to wing it.  And wing it we did.

I arrived at the drop off point at the same time as the produce delivery.  However, I was not prepared for it since I did not know it was happening and proceeded to help unload the truck and divide the produce … in a black suit and heels in 100 degree heat (side note: “All season wool/cotton blend” fabric is not meant for manual labor when the heat index is +100).  My neighbors started arriving and everyone helped divide things, and that is when it got crazy. Keep in mind, I had never done this and was trying to coordinate a group of people.  I totally forgot about the chaos of volunteers.  Some examples:

We had a bushel of corn and 14 orders.  Question: How many ears of corn should each person get?  Answer:  Estimate, just be fair.

We had 2 big boxes of green peppers.  Question: How many pepper should each person get?  Answer:  Estimate!

We had two boxes of papayas.  Question: How should I eat that?  Answer: Really?  We need to discuss that now?

We had two bushels of apples (this is a trick question).  Question:  There is one rotten apple in here, what should I do?  Answer:  Well, throw it away.  Response: Isn’t that wasting it?  Answer: Okay, how about you go throw it in the ditch and let the animals eat it?  Response: Great idea! 

And on it went, in the meantime, I was trying to figure out special orders, and all kinds of other chaos.  Everyone was great, they jumped in and Apologies to the angry woman who did not get her box of specialty eggplants, not sure where they went.  I appreciate that you design systems for a living and thought ours sucked … I agree, we did not have a system, but we tried.

And, thank you, to the wonderful senior man who stopped to thank us and tell us we did a great job.

35 minutes passed so quickly and as I drove away, dripping with sweat, I was reminded of how great and challenging volunteers are … and thought about how important they are to making so many things in our world run smoothly, or maybe not so smoothly, but they make it happen.

And neighbors, next time, I’ll come more prepared.

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About cookbooksandceilithe

For the past two years, I've been working more than full-time while getting my MBA. Now, that graduation has come and gone, I want to indulge in two of passions - cooking and entertaining.
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One Response to In Praise of Volunteers …

  1. kbosin says:

    hilarious! And another reminder of exactly how far apart we are from the food we eat. One little break in the chain, and we rely on…..each other. Whoa. Nice story, Cynthia.

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