Library Diva's Guide to Volunteering…

{May 5, 2011}   Mail Merge Nightmare!

Aren’t computers supposed to make our jobs easier? I have been struggling with doing labels in a mail merge for almost an hour. I dug in and was bound and determined to figure it out. I asked for help, I asked google, I called co workers who I had hoped had used it but the ones that I know use it are not here today!

I have about 24 volunteer applications that I want to send a post card to to let them know that I have their application, and what the process is from here…just a little thanks for wanting to help us, just a little we know you are out there and we’ll be in touch postcard…but I can’t figure out how to put a mail merge label on the darn thing!

It’s frustrating, but how?…oh…hello…there’s a pen…! How do I use one of those things? My hands are so used to typing, texting, swiping and touching that I’m not sure they’ll be able to form around a pen enough times to hand write 24 addresses…

Could I actually be giving a “thank you” post card a human touch? What a concept. Maybe my mail merge ignorance was meant to be…


{November 24, 2010}   Giving Thanks…

I saw one of our most loyal and dependable volunteers today, it was about  a month ago that Marie’s husband passed away. He was 92 years old. She may be in her 90’s as well.

On the day before Thanksgiving,  I always think of the people who have lost someone, who are struggling or who are just lost and wonder how they will spend their day. There always seems to be the people who are scrambling to have that perfect Martha Stewart dinner, others decide to have their families work at a soup kitchen, while others just do what they always have done  not fussing or striving for anything out of the ordinary.

I asked Marie how she plans to spend tomorrow and she said like she always has, at the Country Buffet. Her husband didn’t like all that traditional fuss and where can you take a group of people who can get what they want but the local buffet restaurant.

For me it’s all about family and spending time with them. I remember my job when I was little was to spread the cream cheese on the celery and dash the paprika on it. I think it was just my job to stay out-of-the-way but I was a master at it. If you are cooking at home, Martha Stewart or not, make sure you have lots of volunteers engaged in the day with lots of simple tasks. The more you get people involved, the more they will make a memory of it.

However you choose to spend your holiday, remember there is always something to be thankful for even if it’s just a memory.

{November 26, 2009}   Even a Volunteer Manager Volunteers

What better day than Thanksgiving then to share a story about volunteering! Great Volunteer Managers area Great because they are volunteers themselves. They are out there making a difference on their own, feeling the pulse of the people, finding their interests and sharing their time and resources.

I remember a few years back, I decided that during the Thanksgiving holiday, I’d make pumpkin pies. I’m not talking one or two, I’m talking Henry Ford Assembly line of pies~ enough to rival Sarah Lee herself! I baked pies for me,  the domestic violence shelter, the homeless shelter, a couple churches serving Thanksgiving dinner, and some mini pies for the Nursing home where my uncle would be living as his Alzheimer’s had become more and more difficult for my Aunt to have him at home.

After hours of preparation and baking, the pies were done, and they looked beautiful! I delivered them to their destinations and the last place I went to was my Aunt and Uncle’s house so I could sit and visit and bask in my baking glory. My uncle was in his leather chair and I sat with him for a bit while my Aunt cut the pie onto her china dishes. She served me and she sat and took one bite and SPIT IT OUT!

“What’s wrong???” I blurted out, startling my uncle from his snooze…          “It’s just a little bland..that’s all”, she quickly grabbed the china plates and went in to the kitchen, cinnamon, ginger, cloves…all came tumbling out of her cabinet. She scooped out the entire pie into a bowl, mixed in the spices and returned the mixture to the crust with a little spoonful to taste…             “Ahhh! There we go…Perfect!”. As if nothing happened we finished our pie and our visit and I went home.

When I came into my kitchen, pushed back by the mixing bowls was a mixing bowl full of the spices! I had left it out of ALL the pies! That moment, I realized ALL the people who were eating my pies!!! My BLAND, TASTELESS PIES! I was mortified….and then the Thank You Cards started rolling in over the next week…

“Thank You for taking the time to make us such a delicious dessert.”

“Just like my Gramma used to make”

“It was so thoughtful for you to think of us during the tough time we are going through…”

Kindness must be a spice of its own and even in abundance, you can never have too much. It’s the efforts that we give and the memories of helping others that we cherish.

{November 24, 2009}   Giving Thanks, a Handshake or a Hug

I had 35 messages on my voicemail this morning. About a month ago, a former employee stopped in my office to see me. She told me how much she missed the library, how she loves the library and how she’d love to work at the library again. I handed her a volunteer application and said, when you’re ready…come see me. She came in the next day, application filled out.

In the past 3 weeks, I’ve been able to dig out because of her. She makes my phone calls, she helps schedule orientations and interviews, she mails, she makes badges, she’s AWESOME and so pleasant and positive.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed you just sat at your desk and wondered where to start? Did you move papers from one pile to another pile? Check your email, look at your desk and pile them again? This morning, I wrote out instructions on a piece of paper on how she can help me with my phone messages, it was only a matter of minutes before that paper was swallowed up by my piles! I couldn’t find it. We laughed as I wrote out the instructions again…and believe it or not, while she worked with my phone messages and I went through the piles of paper on my desk, I never did find it!

As I sorted and organized she took down all my phone messages and I was able to dig out. This pile needed faxed, this pile needed stapled, this piled needed mailed. These applications needed their handbooks agreements, these applications needed filed….on and on…

After 2 hours, I felt a huge burden had been lifted. The volunteer and I looked at each other smiling. Should I shake her hand? Was just a “Thanks” good enough? I didn’t care. I grabbed her and hugged her and said “Thank You Thank You Thank You!!! I’m so glad you were here to help me today!”

She said, “You’re welcome! You really needed me today! It was fun! I’ll see you next Tuesday and we’ll do it again!” 

Believe it or not, I bet next Tuesday may be more of the same! It was a good day for me today! I hope your days are just as good as this one was!

et cetera
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