Volunteering: Do It for Fun, for Free, and in Secret (by Guest Blogger Boone Reavis)

Note: This post kicks off this week’s series of writing from former Capstone students who are checking in with us here in a discussion about how to stay engaged in the community even with busy lives!  My heartfelt thanks to all of the writers this week!

BoonePostMy name is Boone Reavis.  I am currently in my last 2 weeks of my Undergraduate degree at PSU.  I took Enhancing Literacy Capstone from Zapoura in the Fall of this past year.  During the time of the class I was working 32-35 hours a week, applying to a very competitive Graduate Program, taking 12 credits of classes, acting in the role of President in an active student group, volunteering 1 hour a week in an unrelated to the capstone role, raising a 3 year old boy and trying to stay married.    I include that in my introduction because I have been continually shocked at the amount I am able to accomplish.  That Fall term was really instructive to me on a series of levels.  Some positive, some not so much.

In the past I have spent very little time volunteering.  I have really placed a high value on “me” time.  I spent 5 or 6 years hanging out at coffee shops in my early 20’s.  I am now 34 and I have discovered that although the “me” time I used to have isn’t as high a priority to me anymore.  Now I have get an intense joy from helping others.  In the last year or so I have spent time volunteering with the Special Olympics of Oregon and volunteering at a residential care facility for folks who have survived brain injuries.  In addition, during my capstone I spent time tutoring high school kids at Parkrose High School.

I am pursuing a career in Speech Language Pathology and one of our scopes of practice includes literacy.  During my time at Parkrose High School I realized that I don’t want to work with kids.  Don’t get me wrong, kids are great, I love mine but I have a true passion in life that is more focused on eliminating isolation.  I discovered that I would find more satisfaction eliminating isolation when working with the elderly.  Integrating this passion into volunteering proved relatively easy for me.  I am so excited because the perfect opportunity came up for me and I wasn’t even really looking.  My wife and I are going to be a team of Long Term Care Ombudsman through the state of Oregon.  Our training starts next month.  This has been in the works for 6 months.  This means that we will be advocates for residents of long term care facilities.  How this is the perfect opportunity for me is that it is a volunteer position that my wife and I can share and support each other in.  Weaving this into my future educational and professional has been pretty seamless as well.  When I mentioned to a professor at my new grad school what I am doing she informed me of a grant that she was working on and has invited me to participate and work with Alzheimer patients.

This last year has been a rocky road for sure.  I only allow myself 23 minutes of tv a day (the Daily Show on Hulu) and there are times when I really resented having to show up to give my precious time to people who didn’t care if I showed up or didn’t show up themselves.  Those times sucked!  So did the times when I chose to not show up and didn’t have the courage to call and cancel.  No changing that but I will say that the times when I would show up and nobody else was there and if I didn’t show up, no one would have been there to help them.  Those times felt good.  There have been other times when I received a genuine “thank you” from somebody who has to use their energy very judiciously, meaning they struggle to communicate at all.  Other times when I got to reassure somebody that they didn’t look weird and belonged with the rest of us.  Those are the times I think of when I don’t want to show up to the volunteering commitments because it is so heartwarming to see someone participate in life when they were previously struggling.

I am really interested in hearing how your experience has been volunteering.  Have you discovered a special skill you didn’t know you had that you think you can apply in helping others while adding to your career path?  Or, like me, did you discover something about yourself that help you direct yourself away from certain opportunities and towards others?

One of the things I have discovered is that nearly every nonprofit you have ever heard of will need some volunteer help.  I recently (Friday) ran an auction for my student group and I depended on volunteer help for ALL the labor, creative and misc. help to make the evening a success.  If they weren’t around there is no way it would have happened.  What skills could you use to help an organization/cause that you are passionate about?

For example, did you know that you can run with young girl, if you are a woman.  An organization called Girls on the Run (http://www.girlsontherunpdx.org/index.html) help girls develop confidence, get them active and create social networks.  All you would do as a volunteer is run with them 2 times, one of them is the Starlight Run on June 1st.  But that is it!  As a volunteer you just run. You don’t need to know Excel or Power Point or anything else.

So what are some ways you can get involved in ANY causes?

Thanks and ask any questions that occur to you

I will leave you with one of my favorite volunteering philosophies:

We do if for fun, for free and in secret.

Warm regards,

Boone Reavis



16 thoughts on “Volunteering: Do It for Fun, for Free, and in Secret (by Guest Blogger Boone Reavis)

  1. Boone,
    I really appreciated reading this post. Often I wrestle with the argument (with myself) about time (or lack thereof.) I found that this term, albeit I was ‘forced’ to volunteer, I had more time to spend with or working on PYB when I make it a priority. Much like you I graduate this term, applied to grad school, work full time, and am married. Unlike you I don’t regiment my TV time that closely (I’m probably around 1 hour a day.), do not have a child, and had no volunteer time outside the capstone.
    It is really inspiring to hear other students (especially older students, as in us in the +30 age group) talk about how they are able to balance everything and still be able to give time to the communities that they live in. Although I start grad school in the fall, I plan on trying to volunteer at Cleavland High School near my house and tutor mathematics. Hopefully my schedule and Cleavland needs will align enough to make something like that happen.
    I do like to tell my friends that I volunteer. I have found that my friends sort of use me as a barometer of how productive someone can be when they want to. By telling people that I spend this additional time volunteering I have actually (and unintentionally) motivated some of my friends to go out and do something. (Other than wax poetic at the Albina Press.)
    Thank you for your insightful post.

    • Hey Kyle,
      It is great to get people out of Albina Press!
      Only kind of joking. I think it is great that you have inspired your friends to get out there and help people out.
      The title of my piece and the philosophy behind it more refers to my ego and how much I can get entitled to positive feelings. For me, when I spend my time I often want recognition for what I am doing and while sometimes it is appropriate most of the time I am just good with doing the good. When I start to feel entitled, I become less helpful. It is a weird thing with me but at least I have come to realize that about myself.
      The thing for me is that I do other “service” things that nobody knows about, not even my wife. It keeps me sane to get out of myself and strangely when I help others, I start finding answers in my own life to problems that I may have.
      I am impressed that you are going to Cleveland HS to tutor. I actually found, through the capstone, that I don’t ever want to work with high schoolers. So kudos to you! When I started looking at Grad school and the commitment I took a step back from the weekly commitment of spending time with the brain injury survivor because I expect to be pretty busy. Of course I still added the Long Term Care Ombudsman but that is a team effort with me and my wife so I hope to depend on her a ton. 🙂
      I wish you the best of luck with your volunteering. What are you going to grad school for? You might be able to find volunteering within the field you are entering…

      • Boone,

        I’m starting a MS in Statistics at PSU in the fall. I’m in a dilemma as I usually put WAY too much on my plate whenever I start something new as I usually underestimate the time commitments that certain endeavors require. I did find at my time at PYB that I really enjoy working with students at the high school age, I just think that it my talents could be spent better working with more advanced math. I am encouraged by people like you that are able to give selflessly. I never was that sort of person. This capstone class has been a whole new experience to me and I really have enjoyed it.

  2. Boone, I definitely know the feeling of “‘why commit my time to people who don’t seem to care”. Those times are always the hardest on me because when people don’t come, yes, I do feel like my time is being wasted, but I also feel like maybe there was something that I did wrong and that’s why people aren’t coming back. Either way, I always feel like crap on those days. But it’s the good days that makes up for the bad ones, and dwelling on the bad is never a good thing, especially when it comes to volunteering. When you give your FREE time and you have a bad day, you’ll probably end up not volunteering anymore because there’s no tangible benefit, meaning money, in it or you (at least, this is how I feel). But I always take a step back to think, as you have said, “if I didn’t show up, no one would have been there to help them” but not in an regretful way (you offer to help but didn’t and now look at what happened, aren’t you ashamed?) but in a way that’s more ‘you can help, so you do not because you have to’.

    To me, volunteering, like with everything else, takes time. It takes time to feel like you’re part of the community that you’re working in; it takes time for people to get to know you, and you them; it takes time. And giving up after the first day/week is you not allowing yourself the opportunity to see the impact that you’ve made or will make. Having a bad day, is having a bad day; quitting after that bad day is you giving up on yourself, not the community giving up on you. <== Just food for thought 🙂

    • What is so funny to me is how short my memory is.
      Without exception, every time I showed up to do what I said I would do when I said I would do it, I felt better. The sun shone a little differently, there weren’t as many jerks on the road, my kid didn’t have as many completely insane and unreasonable questions.
      And nearly every time I didn’t WANT to show up to do what I said I would do when I said I couldn’t seem to remember how good it made me feel OR that the good feelings I knew I would get didn’t seem worth the effort.
      My memory sucks for that!
      However, you are right, with enough time passing and relationship building I do get a better memory and things get easier to remember. Eventually it has become a Rule of Adulthood for me:
      Helping others makes me feel better.

  3. For me it’s about going to the school I volunteer at, talking to the kids, having a good time with them and allowing yourself to learn from them… the concept of “free time” is a silly concept. Nobody has free time – because time seeks its own fulfillment through us… time needs us, at our expense, to be fulfilled. Yes, I know I am doing my usual heavy-handed thing, but this seems to be quite true. What Boone said about learning something about himself should be obvious, in a good way – and it is perhaps a sign of our times, when we have too much society and not enough community, that this comes as a sort of surprise.

    In the beginning of the volunteer experience I found myself thinking about it as if I was giving up “my own” time. After a truly wonderful experience (and yes, Boone, I hear you! My life has been extremely difficult lately) at James John Elementary, all I can say is that the time I put into it is something that is being given to me… this time is being given to me, it really is the other way around.

    One thing I have learned as I’ve grown older (I am not quite 30 – will be 28 soon, but have lived in 4 different countries and got married at 22) is that the only liberation one can find in life comes in the form of a deep commitment. Freedom has a face, something that frees under the condition of a binding responsibility. People who never engage with other human beings in a deep way, believing themselves to be this way free from the demands of a vicious world, never get to learn what freedom really entails. This “inner” sense of freedom is to my view one of the goals of citizenship. A society becomes the most free when its members are the most responsible for one another.

    I’ll be going back to James John in the summer.

    • “Nobody has free time – because time seeks its own fulfillment through us… time needs us, at our expense, to be fulfilled” <== this Nelson, was beautiful, so poetic, just thought I'd let you know. And now that I think about it, I guess nobody does have free time: for me, there's always something that needs to be done but what I do/don't do in that time really defines what I'd call "free time".

      • Thank you Lisa! I always thought the expression “to waste time” should have a counterpart to make sense: to earn time. Time earned is time fulfilled…
        I guess this is the greatest lesson I learned this term.

  4. Boone,

    First of all I admire your dedication and time spent doing the things you love, even when you have days that arnt as rewarding as others. I have really struggled with finding the time to get volunteering into my schedule, when I am going to school, working and trying to stay social and active in my life. It’s a hard balance, and I definitely think it takes motivation and a love of what you to do stay involved, long term. I think once I am done with school I wont find it as stressful to try and find time to volunteer. When my weekends are free of papers and copious amounts of homework it think it will become more enjoyable and I will want to spend time contributing to my community. Luckily that time is coming for me quickly, I graduate this term and am excited to start looking at volunteering opportunities around my neighborhood.

    • Congrats on Graduating.
      I was shocked to discover during my capstone that one of my neighbors started organizing a neighborhood watch. As of this week she organized the neighbors and hung “Neighborhood Watch” signs. In addition there is almost a weekly neighborhood bbq or potluck. This is extraordinary because I live 3 blocks off NE 82nd and Fremont. What this means is there is 2 weekly stay hotels, 1 methadone clinic, 1 Marijuana dispensary, 3 adult shops and 3 fast food restaurants within 5 blocks of my house.
      A terrible neighborhood being changed by the initial effort of one person later to be joined by 22 people.
      The changes are extraordinary and way to much mention but I wish you luck and if you want any information from my neighbor just shoot me a private email and I will hook you up with her.
      warm regards,

  5. Boone,

    It takes a lot for someone to share their soul with others and I want to thank you for being able to do that with the world at large. I also admire the passion that you have for the things that you do, and the places that you volunteer with. A problem I have had in this recent year, before the capstone, was trying to find the time and passion to actually go out and volunteer. It was never in the forefront of my mind and honestly I didn’t really feel that I needed to get out and do things of that nature. This capstone has helped me to realize the good that I can do within my community, and the kind of good I can do as an individual. Thank you again for taking the time to post on this website and have a good day.

  6. Boone, it is good to hear that people with that much on their plate can still find time to volunteer 1 hour per week. I myself, volunteer a full day Wednesday at Creston K-8 school in special education as well as my time at PYB on Fridays. Although I do not work full-time, I have more time to volunteer and give back to the community whatever I possibly can. Being 30+ myself, I see volunteering as a chance to get a real understanding of the reality of teaching and the pros and the cons that the career has. i will be done with my classroom portion of PSU and will only have about 100 hours of internship left before I can graduate. Im currently looking into teaching english in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos. Without my experience as a volunteer, I do not feel that I would have even looked into this approach to education. Getting involved is easy, there are so many non-profits and schools that are in need of help, all you have to do is contact the place where you would like to volunteer.

    • This is so fantastic to hear!
      The people whom I know who are in a position to be able to do volunteering in lieu of a full-time job that they are more calm and easy-going person. There is something that happens to me when I do volunteering, I get an opportunity to stop thinking about myself and my problems or fantasticities(?). When I spend that hour with the brain injury Survivor, I barely remember why I was stressed when I got to his house. All my “first world” problems drift away and I get some peace. I think people who are able to dedicate so much time to other people; lose that “edge” that can be the difference between a relaxed person and a high strung person.
      So good for you.

  7. I think volunteering is a great way to get involved in a cause. It’s really important to figure out what you’re interested in or passionate about. There are so many volunteer options to choose from out there.  I prefer more educationally based and structured volunteering, so my Capstone choice was pretty appropriate.  Although I enjoyed my time at Parkrose High School and connected with some students better than I had expected, I will most likely not be returning. I’ll instead continue to volunteer at an elementary school in my neighborhood where I’ve been a reading tutor. Since I’ve spent nearly two years at the elementary school already, it works well with my schedule, and focuses on what I’m passionate about, it’s perfect for me.
    The thing that makes volunteering worthwhile for me is getting to watch students improve and learn. Knowing that the time spent with them will help them in some way makes the days when they don’t want to work, feel frustrated, have an attitude, are tired, or distracted a lot easier to handle.  There really is something great about volunteering. I’ll admit that volunteering can be a bit of a selfish thing. It adds some good variety to my life which would otherwise be full of not much other than work and unproductive downtime, but it’s still a good thing. I’m just trying to figure out how to encourage my friends to volunteer.

  8. Your story was very inspiring! I love reading about people who are making a difference in the world, no matter how big or small, and you are definitely one of those people. Volunteering is so important and it’s nice to know that you are still sticking with it after your Capstone. Through this experience I have found that I’m capable of more than I would have believed ten weeks ago. I have hated math since high school and have steered clear of the subject. But, I was forced into tutoring in math this term and it was actually quite rewarding. Seeing the person’s face once it clicked for them was great and you could just see the confidence boost that it gave them. You are a perfect example of someone who finds time, no matter what, to volunteer. I think that’s a great message for anyone and everyone, including myself!

  9. Hi Boone,

    Your post was a nice reminder of how busy people can be yet are still able to find a way to make more time to devote to other things. I am a full time student and I am already in my career (which is also full time). It is so easy to feel overwhelmed with the many facets of my life (work, school, family, social life) that I often forget that I am good at prioritizing and making the most of my time. It can be done! While there have been super challenging weeks and I’ve not done as much volunteer work as I would like, I have been able to be fairly consistent.

    One thing that I am extra thankful for is the opportunities that are available through my workplace. I work for a local not-for-profit and one of our core values is giving back to the community. We do this through volunteer work with p:ear and through a workplace version of Big Brothers Big Sisters. This allows people who have full schedules to still participate in community without feeling they are giving less than 100% in another area of their lives. I do realize what a benefit this is to work for a place that values not only their employees but also values the community.

    One way that I plan to remain active in the (global) community is to continue to participate in micro-volunteering through sparked.com. I have been exploring this throughout the term and it is incredibly rewarding and it is completely flexible with whatever my schedule may be for the week. Because most of this work is done for non-profits, they are so very appreciative of everything that micro-volunteers do for them. I continue to be surprised by how rewarding this work has been! I have also been sharing my experience with others around my office and I have gotten one co-worker to sign up and get started. To me, that feels like a victory!

    Thanks for sharing your experience!


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