October 16, 2009

Lending a Hand

Volunteering never fails to be rewarding.

This past week I have been back home in Minnesota training for work.  A requirement for our training program is that we somehow give back to our community by volunteering an afternoon of our time.  My group was asked to go to Bridging Inc. - a non-profit organization that "provides the economically disadvantaged with a one-time gift of quality furniture and household items."  Basically, people and families that need household items for a variety of reasons are referred to Bridging Inc. and get to "shop" at the on-site warehouse for everything they need.  The place was packed with donations, old and new (12 semi-loads of furniture and housewares are donated each week).  Pretty cool!

Stores such as Target, HOM Furniture, and other local places will often donate overstock items, and a lot of these items require some assembly.  Our job today was to assemble some small entertainment centers.  Sounds simple, right?  Definitely not the case.  These entertainment centers required the most ridiculous assembly I have ever seen (think Ikea on steroids).  There was an instruction BOOK in place of the usual small packet, holes were drilled in all the wrong places, and 11 engineers were crowded around it all.  How many engineers does it take to put an entertainment piece together?  One would've been a lot more efficient.

Here we are, attempting some sort of assembly line.  It was only slightly defective.

Despite a vast amount of frustration, it ended up being an afternoon packed full of fun (we even fit in a game of lawn darts and football on a patch of grass before we started building).  I gained more experience working with a team in a different type of situation, I learned that reading and following instructions isn't always as easy as it appears, and I developed some pretty awesome carpentry skills - just call me Bob.  But most importantly, and most rewarding, in four hours we were able to build...3 entertainment pieces, and help out 3 families!

Here's the finished product:  

What a beauty, eh?!  Lets just hope it doesn't fall apart in transit.  We may have ended up with a few extra screws, plugs, and pieces of wood...nobody was really sure where they were supposed to have gone...

I've always really enjoyed volunteering - but my experience has really only involved volunteering at races.  Helping out at races is never very strenuous - mentally or physically.  For me, it's just a helpful way to cheer for family, friends, random people with awesome names on their bibs, and socialize without having to actually torture myself :)

I had a completely different feeling after volunteering today.  Although the work was relatively tedious, and involved a significant amount of cooperation foreign to a select number of engineers, it felt incredible to know our 22 hands will touch at least 3 families in need.  Lending a hand is something I definitely want to spend more of my free time doing, and I plan to pursue this interest when I get back to California.  

I encourage everyone to find ways you can help out in your community.  I promise you will smile, feel like you did something significant (something many of us struggle feeling with our paid jobs), and meet some fun people.  And, if for some reason you don't enjoy the experience...you can't regret helping someone out, right?  Win-win.

I failed to mention I almost cut my thumb off on a sharp piece of plastic...no worries, though, Batman's got it all covered, literally:

All smiles here :D


  1. we've worked with second harvest here in so. cal. they let you hit the agriculture areas and pick the veggies and fruit left over by the first round harvest and the food is donated to needed families. it's hard work, but so rewarding.

    volunteering is such a rewarding experience for both the volunteer and the recipient. for the volunteer, it opens your eyes to the needs of the community and plants a desire to help more. for the recipient, it often fosters a desire to give back once their station in life improves.

    and, it's organizations like those, private, that tend to be the ones that successfully help those in need, not the government run ones. good on you for lending a hand.

  2. Way to go Andrea!! I wish I had done more of that kind of thing with you and Erika when you were kids. We did a few things here and there, maybe that was enough of a seed . . . keep up the good work, you have lots to give and a huge, caring heart. Love you, Mom