One of my favorite places in America is Picher, Oklahoma, a highly toxic ghost town in Oklahoma near the Kansas border. There weren’t any opportunities to volunteer there (at least none that would be safe for me to do). I stopped in Miami, Oklahoma–the next closest town–at the Stonehill Grill where I spoke with Madison who pointed me in the direction of a local park. Another day outside, picking up trash, enjoying nature, and feeling good about the world.
Community Blood Center of the Ozarks
While hanging out in the Fayetteville, Arkansas area I saw a call for blood donations in neighboring Springdale. To tie together separate trips, the Community Blood Center in Springdale was instrumental in supplying blood to the residents of nearby Joplin, Missouri after they were hit by the tornado of 2011.
You might not ever know who is going to need your blood, but it’s safe to say somebody will, and it’s better to have it ready to go when disaster hits.
More about Community Blood Center of the Ozarks (from their website):
Since 1995, Community Blood Center of the Ozarks has met the transfusion needs of patients throughout the Ozarks. Each day, we deliver more than 250 blood donations to meet the needs of patients in the thirty-eight hospitals supplied by CBCO. Your donations and volunteer work make that happen. You save lives.
Community Blood Center of the Ozarks collects blood at Donor Centers located in Springfield, Mo. Joplin, Mo., Springdale, Ark., and Bentonville, Ark., and hosts many more mobile blood drives throughout the region each day.Hospitals in southwest Missouri, northwest Arkansas and southeast Kansas rely on Community Blood Center of the Ozarks donors. All blood and blood products transfused to patients in these hospitals come from CBCO donors.
Community Blood Center of the Ozarks is a not-for-profit organization and is committed to providing the highest quality blood and blood products to our area hospitals at the lowest possible cost.
We are part of an innovative awards program – the Life Points program – that awards donors for their efforts.
CARE Partnership on the web:
Back in 2011, Joplin, Missouri was the scene of a horrific tornado that leveled massive sections of the town. Many volunteers from all over the country rushed to the area to help with the rebuilding. Three years later we stopped by to do some clean up in Ewert Park. As luck would have it, there was also a local farmers market happening.
Was supposed to volunteer at the Salvation Army in Iowa City, but my contact there was out sick today unfortunately. Without her being in the office, I wasn’t able to volunteer there. So, I headed to Goodwill, bought backpacks, filled them with socks, hats, toiletries, food, and water. I passed out one of the bags to somebody in need, and, after talking to the gentleman, I also picked up a phone card for him. Keeping bags in the car is something I encourage others to do if they’re so inclined. You never know when you’ll be able to make a difference, so it’s best to be prepared.
Girls Rock NC
Amazing time volunteering with Girls Rock NC 10 Year Rally. So much music, art, design, and an astounding sense of community. It was an absolute joy to help document the day.
More about Girls Rock North Carolina (from their website):
Girls Rock NC is an organization in central North Carolina that works to empower girls, women, & folks of marginalized genders—through creative expression—to be confident & engaged members of their communities. We accomplish this by focusing on creativity, confidence and collaboration.
In our thirteen years of programming, GRNC has held nearly 100 music programs for girls in Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh. Our campers have gone on to perform in successful bands and have even take on leadership roles at camp. GRNC has roughly 120 active volunteers and a growing number of partners, sponsors, musicians, parents, activists, and mentors working together to build stronger communities.
GRNC is committed to social justice and seeks to amplify the voices of those traditionally marginalized. GRNC is an anti-racist and LGBTQIA+-inclusive and affirming organization and strives to provide a safe, visible atmosphere for all.
Girl Rock NC on the web:
When we started this project, one of the goals was to make sure to work with our existing framework of friends scattered across the country. Today we rolled into the Charlottesville, Virginia area and met up with Raven Mack. Together, we collected supplies for The Haven, a homeless shelter and services provider in Charlottesville.
More about The Haven (from their website):
The Haven is a multi-resource day shelter for people facing homelessness in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia.
We provide respite services for people who are homeless, or living in extreme poverty in our community, as well as supportive case management for guests who are eligible for programs to help get them back into stable housing.
Being homeless is a state of transition for most of our guests. We provide respite for the weary and transformation for the ready.
The Haven on the web:
We stopped by Manna Meal to help serve lunch with the absolutely awesome team there. Huge thank you to Leslie, Camellia, and Jean for all of their graciousness and love and for all of the work they’re doing in their community. We’re so blessed to have spent time with them.
More about Manna Meal (from their website):
Manna Meal Inc. (MMI) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that operates a soup kitchen located inside St. John’s Episcopal Church in the heart of downtown Charleston, WV. MMI thrives through the generosity and support of our community to provide a safe haven, no questions asked. We are not a government agency and rely solely on contributions from our community and grants that we write.
We have been feeding the hungry of the Kanawha Valley since 1976. Over that period of time, we have grown from serving a single person a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a bowl of soup, to a vital part of the community serving as many as 400 people each day well balanced nutritious meals.
We serve two meals a day (breakfast & lunch), 365 days a year, to individuals and families that include the homeless, mentally challenged, under-employed workers as well as people who simply cannot make ends meet.
“No questions asked,” is a cornerstone to our mission. We believe strongly that we do not need to ask any questions about your income, faith, or housing situation to feed you. Our mission is “so the hungry can eat”
Manna Meal on the web:
We stopped by Northern Kentucky University to discuss books, publishing, and current events. Thanks to all three classes for their participation and great conversation.
St. Vincent de Paul
I headed to St. Vincent de Paul in Cincinnati, Ohio to help with the food pantry. Joining me for the day was author/musician/Cincinnati native and one of my closest friends, Nathan Singer.
More about St. Vincent de Paul (from their website):
For more than 140 years, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul has quietly cared for those in need throughout Cincinnati and Hamilton County. More than 900 volunteers care for people in their own neighborhoods, visiting the homes of people in need more than 7,500 each year. In addition to providing immediate help with pressing needs such as food or utilities, we operate southwest Ohio’s only Charitable Pharmacy; seven thrift stores that provide furniture, clothing and household items to people in need; a comprehensive social service office; seven food pantries including the Edyth & Carl Lindner Choice Food Pantry in the West End; and the Ozanam Center for Service Learning.
St. Vincent de Paul on the web:
We had a few extra hours in the Boston area so we headed to beautiful Providence, Rhode Island where we picked up trash at India Point Park with our social media turned real life friend, Emily and her daughter Bridget. It’s such an easy way to make a difference, enjoy nature, and have a great conversation.