Thursday, March 22, 2007

A Day on the Water

As the Director of Hands On Gulf Coast, I don't often get the opportunity to spend an entire day working in the field. Usually, there is the crisis du jour to attend to, or there's a very real need to address administrative issues so the organization can continue to operate.

Last week, Anne Kotleba, asked me if I wanted to come to her most recent project. She has been working with Gulf Shores National Seashore in Ocean Springs, MS for the past couple weeks. She and others have led groups of volunteers to rebuild picnic tables, put in grills, rebuild fence line, and put signs on some of the islands to warn visitors of nesting birds. The Rangers and Resource managers love us for what our volunteers have done.

Today I finally took the entire day to participate in the service that all our volunteers get to do. Though it was a pretty light day of work - we just put a few flags into the sand to mark a trail and watched the rangers put two metal sheets on two separate trees to keep raccoons from being able to climb into the osprey nests and eat the eggs - I had a great time. More importantly, I relearned something.

The rangers were ecstatic that we were out there helping. Gary Hopkins, a 20+ year veteran of Gulf Shores, wanted to know how he could keep the volunteers flowing. Awesome. Sounds like a perfect opportunity for local volunteers to plug in. More interestingly, he and Tom were just so happy to be a month ahead of schedule. As volunteer work goes, we didn't do much, really. It was a super chill day for the four of us out there. For Gary and Tom, it was a productive day beyond their wildest imagination.

Their reaction makes me think about the impact of our service. Even the tasks that seem insignificant can have such a huge impact on the morale of the folks receiving them. I think this is an important lesson to keep in mind as we all try to help residents of the Gulf Coast recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina.

For every volunteer who turns their nose up at work with the Salvation Army, the Humane Society, the Boys and Girls Club, or de-molding, remember that your service has an invisible impact on those who receive it. All the work we do for the communities along the Gulf Coast is aids in the recovery. Every little bit helps. It's amazing how a little caring and effort goes such a long way to raise spirits and provide hope.

I relearned that important lesson today.

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