When I’m not providing program and social media support here in 3CE, you can find me at Hands On Greater Portland where I work and intern part time. A large chunk of my responsibility at Hands On is organizing and developing their TeamWorks program. According to Hands On, the “TeamWorks program offers volunteers the opportunity to make a slightly longer-term commitment to volunteering. Through TeamWorks, a team of around 10-12 volunteers work together on a series of projects over a period of a couple months, allowing them to get to know one another and gain a deeper understanding of community issues.”
In my experience, this model is a really useful way to dive deeper into a specific issue area, meet people with similar interests, and make meaningful connections to local non-profits. It’s also the closest thing to service learning, something that we’re a big fan of in 3CE, that Hands On offers.
Most recently, I helped develop and participated in the Intentional Holiday Service TeamWorks. It was focused on reframing how we think about the holiday season in order to maximize joy and minimize stress. The absolute highlight of the TeamWorks was volunteering at the Community Cycling Center’s Holiday Bike Drive. You can read more about the Community Cycling Center in my last blog post. I should note that this one of the most highly coveted volunteer shifts of the year. I emailed their volunteer coordinator nearly four months in advance to secure our slots.
The Holiday Bike Drive provides refurbished bikes, new helmets, and safety information to hundreds of low-income children in the Portland area. I had the privilege of serving as a helmet fitter at this wonderful event and had a great time. I have to say that I was initially surprised by how involved helmet fitting is. Children’s bike helmets are much fancier now (and much safer) than when I was a kid so it took some practice to properly adjust all of the straps and get it just right.
The event was also a lesson in cultural competence. Many of the families at the Bike Drive were immigrants and came through the various stations accompanied by a volunteer interpreter. I enjoyed seeing all of the different hairstyles sported by the young girls. I had to take care to fit helmets around buns, braids, beads, and head scarves.
By the end of the day we had given away nearly 500 refurbished bikes and new helmets. It was inspiring to see the joy on the faces of these children and their parents. In my mind, participating in events like this is what it really means to get into the “holiday spirit.”
If you are interested in volunteering with the Community Cycling Center, visit their volunteer page. I’d recommend getting involved with their Tuesday night volunteer shifts, attending a volunteer orientation session, and learning more about the classes, camps, and workshops they offer. If nothing else, you can buy your next bike from the bike shop.
I want to leave you all with my favorite story from the day. Some sneaky parents told their son that he was going to the hospital to get “a poke” (i.e. vaccine. The event was held in the beautiful atrium of a local hospital). When they arrived at the hospital, the parents told their son that he was actually there to get a shiny new bike, not a shot. As you can imagine, this was thrilling news.
So I challenge you all to get into the holiday spirit by going out into your neighborhood and meeting critical community needs. There’s a place for holiday gift giving, cookie baking, and feasting, but I challenge you to give gifts to a children’s hospital, bake cookies for home-bound seniors, and feast with the homeless at a soup kitchen or food pantry. ‘Tis the season to give back.
Kelsey Domann-Scholz is the Program Coordinator in 3CE and also works as the TeamWorks Intern at Hands On Greater Portland. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.