Blog Archives

I joined my friend Delilah S. Dawson at the TLC Humane Shelter in Dahlonega, Georgia. We spent time with cats and dogs who needed a little human interaction. To be honest, it was nice, having been on the road for a bit, to run around outside with the dogs and to quasi-nap in the sun with the kittens. Here’s an interview with Doreen Sanders, the head caretaker at the shelter.

 

TLC Humane Shelter on the web
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I was joined by my friend Jamie Mason in Asheville, North Carolina to distribute backpacks to those in need in Asheville. Backpacks contained water, food, socks, and some toiletries.

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I was lucky to have two opportunities to volunteer in Nashville. My friend Sara J. Henry joined me for both. We were joined by Zack Barnes for the second of the two.

Sara and I began the day at the Nashville Rescue Mission where we worked in the kitchen helping to prepare lunch for the Friday afternoon guests. Though I am not exactly “skilled” in the culinary department, I managed to peel cucumbers, chop cucumbers and tomatoes, and take part in the orderly assembly line of putting together meals (big thanks to my new friend Jill K. who showed me the ropes).

It’s really an impressive operation to see everybody moving so fast and in unison and with a palpable sense of compassion. The Mission serves up to 2,000 meals per day. It also provides a whole host of opportunities and programs to help people get back on their feet. Here is an interview with Samuel Bolton, Director of Volunteer Services at the Mission.

Sara and I then joined Zack at the YWCA Domestic Violence Shelter of Nashville and Middle Tennessee where we were greeted by our YWCA representative Mary (picture above is (l-r) Mary, me, Zack, Sara). We sorted and folded donated clothes that would be made available to the women and kids staying at the shelter as they begin their journeys to new lives.

If you’d like to donate to or volunteer with either organization, here’s more information.

Nashville Rescue Mission

YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee

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Many years ago I was a fairly regular blood donor. For whatever reason I stopped going. Occasionally, I’d tell myself to go, but didn’t.

But I also know that donating blood is a pretty important and simple thing most of us can do. It takes less than an hour, the pain isn’t really significant, and someday it might be somebody close to us who desperately needs blood.

I scheduled an appointment with the Clark County (Washington) Red Cross, made the brief drive from Portland, OR to Vancouver, WA, and donated. It was as smooth and easy as I remember (and I got free cookies!).

Here are some statistics from the Red Cross.

  • Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.
  • More than 41,000 blood donations are needed every day.
  • A total of 30 million blood components are transfused each year in the U.S.
  • The average red blood cell transfusion is approximately 3 pints.
  • The blood type most often requested by hospitals is Type O.
  • The blood used in an emergency is already on the shelves before the event occurs.
  • Sickle cell disease affects more than 70,000 people in the U.S. About 1,000 babies are born with the disease each year. Sickle cell patients can require frequent blood transfusions throughout their lives.
  • More than 1.6 million people were diagnosed with cancer last year. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment.
  • A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood.

 

For more statistics and to find your local blood bank, click here.

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I joined the Hoffmeister family of Eugene, Oregon to make burritos that we passed out to those in need.

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benleroybelocalWhile doing this project, I’ve had a few opportunities to check in with myself to see where I am and consider where I want to be. I don’t mean that strictly from a geographic perspective (though I would love to be somewhere not freezing, but that’s not my point right now), but more from a “ok, so you’re doing this, what are you learning, what do you want to learn?” approach.

Sometimes when you turn the microscope on yourself you find cracks and flaws you didn’t think existed or didn’t want to fully own. But I am confronting these things as honestly as I can as they arise. If I were to keep it to myself, it would simply be to try bettering myself. But I also want to share them with you, because I want to show that this is a truly human endeavor and I want you to know that if you’re dealing with similar issues, you aren’t alone.

The first time I called myself out on a shortcoming was when looking at volunteer opportunities I saw one to help elderly folks with shoveling their sidewalks and driveways. I might have creaky knees and wrists, buy I’m still pretty handy with a shovel. I kept reading for more details. It’s then that I noticed the neighborhood and thought to myself, “Oh, well, it’s kind of dangerous over there, I don’t think I want to do that.”

A few seconds later a voice in my head spoke up – “Why are you pledging to do volunteer work this year? You want to help, but only in nice environments where you’ll feel safe and in your comfort zone? Is that it?”

That resonated with me for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was my full understanding that this bad neighborhood also happened to be a significantly economically disadvantaged neighborhood. You know, the kind of place that needs help because resources aren’t as readily available? Which, if I was going to hold myself accountable, made me sound a little selective in my compassion as it relates to faith vs. deeds.

Though I did not grow up in a religious household and I do not identify with any particular religious school of thought (I have taken many lessons, some of them the same, from various books both holy and secular), I have an affinity for the Book of James found in the New Testament.

The gist of it, for those not familiar, is that it’s all well and good to declare yourself compassionate and wanting to help, but if you don’t actually go and do something about it, then really you’re just talking.

The last few days, as a reminder to myself, I’ve written “James 2: 14-17” on my wrist.

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can this kind of faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm and eat well,” but you do not give them what the body needs, what good is it? 17 So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself.

I pride myself on wanting to help wherever and however I can. In theory. In faith. This year will be a test. I hope that I will have a record of deeds by the end of the year to pass it. I invite you to call me out on it if you notice I seem to be doing softer things when it is clear there are other opportunities I’m missing.

Because we’re in this together. All of us. Even the people who aren’t reading. And the only way we’re going to end up in a better place is to be honest with ourselves and the world around us, and then do what we can to help.

Love not Fear,

b.

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I had to pick up a co-worker in Providence. After we left the airport, we drove around downtown Providence and Interstate exits to distribute backpacks filled with food, water, socks, toiletries, and warming items to those in need. It’s cold out there!

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brattleborovermontMy good friend (and hugely talented author) Sara J. Henry put me in touch with the Boys & Girls Club of Brattleboro, Vermont. I met up with Robert Nassau, the Board President and he walked me through the organization’s goals–keeping kids fed, helping with school work, providing a safe environment, building community, and many other things. It’s so important that the kids who will lead this world into future are given the necessary resources to tackle the challenges.

Robert introduced me to the club’s Executive Director, Beth Baldwin, whose dedication to the kids at the club is self-evident and contagious.

We gathered with the kids to discuss the importance of reading, how books can shape our view of the world and the people in it, and then everybody got a gift certificate to visit the local bookstore. The plan is for everybody to read their books and then have a pizza party to discuss what they’ve read.

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The plan was to distribute more of the bags Steff and I put together in Maine, but the weather was bad, and my familiarity with New Hampshire geography is sketchy. I was, however, able to find contact info for Hundred Nights Homeless Shelter, an organization helping those in need.

From their website –

Hundred Nights, Inc. is a community organization with two components. Our mission is to provide a cold weather shelter which offers clean beds in a safe and warm space from 7pm to 7am during the winter months to our neighbors in need. Concurrently we operate the Open Doors Resource Center which provides a welcoming space for people to gather for sustenance of body and spirit on a year-round basis.

I dropped off backpacks with Hundred Nights and look forward to going back to Keene in the future to learn more about the community and Hundred Nights.

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portlandmaine
The plan to volunteer in all 50 states during 2014 began in Portland, Maine as I joined up with my good friend Steff Deschenes to distribute backpacks to the homeless. We stuffed the backpacks with food, water, socks, hats, toiletries, a toy, medical items and a few other things for those in need.

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