Sunday, July 01, 2007

Collected Random Thoughts

I have been meaning to get back to the blog for a long time. Ever since Carrie O'Neil left back in March, I wanted to write something about her departure. Now, three months later and about 15 people later, there are a lot more departures to write about. The most recent departures were Molly and Anne, preceded by George, Tosh, Heath, Luc, Falcon, Michelle Hamburger, Kate Magro, Ali McLean, Karissa (to ECD), Dan (to B&G Club), Elly (to the church), Guillermo (to ECD Hope) and others whose names are not coming to me right now.

The departure of so many people changes the nature of the place. Though it's sad to see our friends go, we know they're going on to do great things in other places. The experiences we have here at Hands On serve us well in meeting the challenges of our next big adventures, whether that's building a house, taking a road trip, going to a yoga retreat, or going to Africa.

I know that everyone who comes down to volunteer leaves changed by the experience they have here. The community of volunteers, the need in the Gulf, and the impact of the work transform people. I think the folks who chose to stay longer, or were able to stay longer, walked away with life enriching experiences that will guide them into the future. In whatever endeavor they undertake, they will excel.

Though we lose great friends, the world gains movers and shakers. As Kate said before she left, this is just the beginning.

To focus solely on those who have departed misses those who are still here and continue to grow and contribute. There have also been a spate of one-year anniversaries - Brian Deubert, Sara Hamilton, Marj R. (don't want to misspell your last name :)), Kristen Kernan, and Brannon Weeks to name a few.

Their dedication and the dedication of the new AmeriCorps members and long-term volunteers who work at Hands On continues to help the organization grown in its mission and its capability to serve residents of the Gulf Coast. The dedication of our long-time volunteers, AmeriCorps members, and staff cements Hands On as a go-to organization in the minds of the state, county, local, and neighborhoods governments and citizens.

This past week, Faith from the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund came for a sight visit to see how their grant money was being spent. The Fund gave Hands On money to match the AmeriCorps grant we received from the state. In return, we named six Bush-Clinton Fellows who come from diverse backgrounds ranging from local residents to recent college grads. For Faith's site visit, we had a round-table discussion with the Fellows.

It was reassuring and reinvigorating to hear how Hands On has provided these folks leadership and personal development opportunities that they would never have otherwise had. Each person had an overwhelming sense of having found purpose in volunteer service and having gained so much from the opportunity to live and work in the Gulf.

If I had a better memory, I would intersperse quotes that folks made. All I can relay is the overwhelming sense of pride that I felt and that Sara, Caitlin, Sheli, Eddie, and everyone else must feel when they hear the folks they mentor say what an impact Hands On has had in their lives and in the trajectory of their lives. We all have had a hand in shaping where each other is going. That's the great part of this volunteer community.

With that, I'll wrap up my random Sunday morning - now afternoon - thoughts. Every work place has its challenges and frustrations. Sometimes we get wrapped up in the set backs and let our anger build. It just takes a day at the park, listening to volunteers talk about their experience, or just chatting with folks on the work site to realize this is an awesome place that gives folks opportunities they would never have elsewhere.

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