Library Diva's Guide to Volunteering…

{November 17, 2011}   Library Diva’s checking out…

In another week, I’ll cease managing library volunteers and begin my new duties in managing volunteers who assist the elderly.

It’s been a good run. 5 years of crazy stories as you may have read and 5 years of smiles and frustration but a good 5 years none the less.

I’ve always been a helpful diva. Just enough selfishness to make sure I’m good to go, but a lot of giving to help those who’s just had a bad hand dealt to them.

I’m ready, willing and able to help our elderly population. Life is hard enough and when we can make it into our 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, they are going to need this diva to help ease their burdens. Heaven only knows I’ll be there one day hoping someone will be able to ease mine!

For those that are visiting this blog, please continue to enjoy these little stories and snippets of my days as a Library Volunteer Manager, and for those that may miss the diva and all the antics that may seem to follow her, look for my new blog soon.

Haven’t decided on the name yet, but I’m sure “Senior Diva” will be in the title somewhere 🙂

Cheers~ Thanks for reading! Time for a Martini!


{May 24, 2011}   Answering the Call~

{May 21, 2011}   Volunteers are EVERYWHERE!

I supported 4 agencies that were all inspired and staffed by volunteers this morning in less than 2.5 hours. Whew!

First I went to a free stroke screen at our local hospital. I had thought that it was just an extra work day for the nurses and staff, but they were giving their time and promoting services. Very cool. (For those concerned about me. I’m high risk and I left in tears. Luckily, I was not immediately admitted, but I was told to contact my physician no later than Monday….Yowza….)

Feeling heart broken..over my health… I walked out and could see from the exit across from the parking lot of the hospital that they had set up a local farmers market with about 40 vendors across the lot…and me being me, I marched right over and set out to chat with several new friends and found out that through grass roots efforts and volunteers, vendors were set up and everything under the sun was presented. I went looking for garlic…since it’s good for the heart ….and found out mid June is the best time for fresh garlic…I’ll for sure be back for that. I saw one vendor selling herbs and next to it was a sign that said Master Gardner Sale at the Fair grounds…

I loaded my lettuce and green onions into the truck and then headed over to the Fairgrounds in town. You know how much I love the local Master Gardeners. They’ve worked with me at the library on our grounds so I just had to go support them…I purchased several varieties of Iris and was told instruction on how to replant them (DO NOT BURY THE RHIZOME!….ok…can you tell me that without the pitchfork and stern tone???)

Ready to call it a morning, I decided to go through town and saw that a road was blocked off. I was being curious and to my surprise saw people on beds racing down the street. It was a bed race to support our Boys and Girls Club. I had to cheer them on, so grabbed a decaf (my first step in heart health..) and cheered and chatted with my friends from B&G and the Parks Department.

Volunteers are everywhere! The more you support them in your community the more creative and fun things there will be in your community! Get out there and make it happen 🙂

{May 11, 2011}   …it’s all good…

If Nicky the Greek was up for Prom King of his Probation Classes, I’m sure he’d be voted in. He has been my top referral over the past several months. I can’t help to wonder and think about one of his classmates though, and although Kevin has finished his service with me long ago, I can’t help but think of how his life is and how he is.

Kevin’s son is 11 and has Trisomy 10, a pretty bad case of it as a matter of fact.  Kevin and his wife divorced about 6 years ago split custody of their 2 children, with the daughter that doesn’t have any special needs going to his ex and his son being cared for by him. It’s pretty stressful being the constant care giver to his son, losing his job, having to move in with his  parents, and no time for yourself so out he went on a rare night to cut loose and relax at the encouragement of his parents, he had one too many drinks and before you know it, found himself sitting next to Nicky the Greek in an alcohol class.

Kevin’s son had surgery recently to fuse his spine because of a bad curvature so I called Kevin to just check in. I signed off on his paperwork, and he still has a long way to go with his probation, but he had sat in my office and told me his life story and I listened like I cared. Now understand…I’m not wanting all these people I meet to embed into my life, but there has to be some sort of connection and follow-up in the kindness of the human spirit.

He was happy and thankful for the chat. I’m sure I won’t ever talk to him again unless our paths cross by chance, but I wanted to let him know I remembered about the surgery and wanted to make sure all was good on my end with his probation and to “hang in there”.

Sometimes we just need someone to say..”’re doing ok…things will be fine.” It can mean a world of difference.

{May 9, 2011}   burning bridges

As a Volunteer Manager, I pay attention to what people are saying. I listen to the volunteers and I listen to the staff. I hear the complaints of the staff regarding tasks and time management so I try to connect the volunteer with the set skills and ability with that staff member to alleviate some of that stress.

As I move out of “Management” and into “Coordination”, I’m finding that staff would rather eliminate the volunteers who have been helping them over the course of the past 4 years and re-absorb those tasks back on to their shoulders instead of having to build a relationship with them or heaven forbid, talk to them or “manage” them.

I sent an email out to several volunteers today saying we were undergoing a staff change and that their tasks would now fall under staff instead of volunteers. When I was working directly with it the past 4 years, it seemed to work out fine, lots of work got done, volunteers were happy, staff was happy. Now that I’m not doing it, no one’s doing it.

Its very sad. No one wants to feel that things will fall apart when you leave or aren’t there to head it up…although sometimes people want to believe that it might…they don’t want it to really happen.

I know this is part of my transition, but I’ve built relationships with the volunteers who are doing these tasks and now I’m the one that has to tell them and say goodbye to them.

I guess it’s better to hear it from me who has cared about them and what they have been doing for us then the staff involved now anyway. The staff would  probably burn that bridge and not look back.

I don’t get people some days…

{March 31, 2011}   Blind Faith…

I was doing a volunteer orientation the other day. We are all giggling and laughing and getting to know each other and it was fun. Before the tour, I began to take the volunteers’ photos for their name badges. Volunteers love their name badges. It’s their official step into our world. Don that badge and you’re all business.

I lined them up mug shot style and snapped away with my cell phone. A couple were blurry and we had to redo a few. I’ve only had 2 in the past 4 years not want their photo taken. Neither fell into the usual categories of those that did not want their photos taken. Not Amish, Not Vampire, Not without a soul I even point-blank asked if they were in the Witness Protection Program and they said no to all of the above. They just wanted their name on their badge. Fair enough. No Problem.

When I got to Darla, I snapped and it was a smidge blurry but nothing that would be noticeable. I had her look at it to agree and she said she couldn’t see it and she was fine with whatever I thought. I thought it was fine so I moved on to the next gal.

When I had finished, I told them they could leave their belongings and I’d lock up the room and we’d all come back to do our training schedules. It was close quarters all getting out of the door and I was busy locking it when I turned and felt a “whop” on my lower calf. I turned back around and realized that it was from Darla. It was her cane. She was blind.

My first thought was to apologize to her in hopes I didn’t make her feel uncomfortable in asking if she approved of her badge photo-which I did immediately. No big deal she said. My second thought, which I kept to myself was…how can a blind person volunteer in the library?

At the end of the orientation, I went up to her and asked her what she felt she could do for us and what she wanted to get out of volunteering with us. She wanted to promote library service for the blind or visually impaired. Books on Tapes, Books on CD, Talking Books, directional information, books clubs. She just wants to help. She wants to be out in the community doing something. She wants to be valued.

Mark Twain said “Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see”.

I see her doing some good for us. I have faith in her.


{February 21, 2011}   Who wants to volunteer? Eye Do!

This is a popular story in Volunteer Manager Circles…Enjoy…

The Lions Club supports an Eye Bank in Washington and Idaho; the Eye Bank performs over 400 cornea transplants each year. Frequently donated corneas from deceased persons must be specially packed and delivered by bus or train to the donor’s location, requiring a volunteer to pick up the package and deliver it to the hospital. One night, the program coordinator was desperate; she had a package on a bus to Spokane and no one to pick it up.  She frantically called the list of emergency volunteers…it was after 1 am.

She reached a very sleepy man and explained what she needed.  The irritated man told her yes, he had volunteered to be on the contact list but specified afternoons and evenings before 8 pm, and in good weather only.

“It’s 1 am and snowing here!” he protested. “I’ll do it this one time, but please, don’t ever call me again.” He got up, and as he was getting dressed, his 13-year-old son came out and asked what he was doing; when he learned that his dad had to “run an errand”, he asked to go along.

They drove in silence through the snow to the bus station, picked up the package, and drove to the hospital. On the trip home, the son asked what the package had been. Dad explained that it was tissue from the eyes of someone who had died, and that tissue was going to help someone else see again. The boy digested that for a moment, then said. “Gee, Dad, I never knew you did such important things!” The next day, the man called the coordinator back.

“You can call me anytime you need to,” he said…

{February 10, 2011}   an offer I couldn’t refuse…

“Nicky The Greek” came in to see me the other day. I call him “Nicky The Greek” because I admittedly do not make any attempt to pronounce his last name correctly. He tells me it’s Greek, he breaks it down into multiple syllables, I repeat it after him very slowly and when I go to speed it up, he raises his eyebrows in hopes that every attempt is better than the previous….which it is not.

I can count on a very large grin from him afterwards, his dark features and chiseled face all make it that much more entertaining for him and me when I call him “Nicky The Greek”. He likes it. He also does not fail to mention to me that he’s from Chicago at every opportunity. I’m sure if I needed someone’s knees cracked, having a “Nicky The Greek” in my back pocket may prove handy.

Nicky had a little trouble with the law and over a course of 4 visits I was able to set him straight onto the path of honesty and good intentions. This last visit I signed off on his probation for good and with that he gave me a big hug and said if I ever needed anything to just call. He told me I took good care of him and that he would make sure that nothing bad happened to me…

I gave him a big hug back and said…”Forgettaboutit….”

{January 18, 2011}   English Tea Party

I went to an English Tea Party the other night which was just fabulous! The volunteers of our Friends of the Library Shoppe were all invited to fellow FOL volunteer Sheila’s house to gather, chat, laugh and of course…drink tea.

What made the evening so much more wonderful was that Sheila is actually English. Before she came to the “states” (and found her husband while on holiday and stayed!), she was working around the corner from a little pub in Liverpool. At lunch time, a group of them would all go over to the pub and have something to eat and listen to a group of shaggy haired, young men in casual dress playing, and singing and laughing and chatting. After a while, she didn’t see them any more and just figured they moved on as bands do. She was quite shocked when she was watching Ed Sullivan one night and saw  them on the tele in matching suits!

Sheila scooted around the party in her  jazzy little apron, with tea cups and tea kettles and trays. I had some sort of warm grog which was sweetly perfect for a cold January evening. There was chatting in the kitchen, chatting in the dining area around the cucumber sandwiches and finger foods and chatting in the living room, next to a warm fire place. We talked book shop, we talked families, we talked tea. We also talked china and place settings. I love china. Delicate, patterned, shiny,  matching china…and Sheila had some beautiful pieces.

It was fun. That’s what its all about when you volunteer. Finding a connection in something that you enjoy and making and building relationships out of it. Friendships were formed and strengthened that night at a cozy English condo in the Midwest.

Now that we all know each other a little better, we may have to break out the Long Island Ice Teas…and try this party again…American Style!


{December 7, 2010}   Gone Too Soon

A few months ago, I had returned from a very relaxing vacation at the shore to find out that one of my young teen volunteers had taken his life. To say the least, I was in shock. I couldn’t believe or understand what had happened. Then the news picked up on the story and it became a huge media frenzy. He had allegedly been bullied over a course of time and felt overwhelmed.

Then came the news calls. He was a good kid and volunteered at the library. They wanted to find out more about the personal side of this young man. When the reporter came in to my office to talk with me, I told her that he was a normal kid, and was willing to share more, but she then asked if I would be willing to go on camera for the evening news about what he was like. No. No Way. I politely declined and ended our conversation. That’s not my thing, to have tragedy happen and then go publicly talk about it does not sit well with me.

After a few months, what I can do now though is let you know that he was a good young man. That he had the same teen angst that all teens do. Wanting a girlfriend, the latest pair of fashion sneakers, going out with friends, clubs at school, liking sports and other activities. He also liked to eat. My office mate noticed that he was ALWAYS hungry. He’d come in to my office, plop down in the chair, scoot it over to my fridge and grab whatever was in there, diet pepsi, pudding, string cheese and even a V-8.  He’d devour a bag of snack lays chips in seconds.

He liked it when I noticed he got a hair cut, and he even liked it when I brought him in to my office to reprimand him on getting off task or disrupting staff with his antics. When the news reporter left my office, I closed the door behind her and sat at my desk and burst out into tears. My Assistant Director called because I had left a message regarding PR procedures, but I decided on my own that I didn’t feel right about talking about it. She asked if I was ok. I said I wasn’t ok. It was sad. I was sad.

Losing volunteers to me is like losing a staff member. I care about them, they are my friends and the relationship is very different from a manager/staff member. It’s personal. It’s intimate. My office mate helped me through it all by saying, “while he was with us, we were good to him”. And, I agree~we were good to him and he was happy here…

She did add…”boy, he sure liked to eat…!”. That made me smile. He did like to eat… 🙂


et cetera
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