A Road Trip with a Twist {Volunteer While Traveling – At All Ages}

On a Friday morning at the end of June, 31 teens from New Jersey stepped off a bus in front of Raleigh City Farm. They had just begun a six-and-a-half-week trek across the United States. Raleigh was just their second stop on a trip with 26 destinations! The trip would take them to every region of the US—to cities like Chicago and Los Angeles and to the vast wilderness of Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. What brought these teens from New Jersey to an urban farm in Raleigh? They were taking part in the Great American road trip, but with a twist. The trip’s leader, Daniel Kaplan of USY on Wheels, explained that the teens were on a journey “mainly focused on leadership and social action.” Whether it involved working on a farm in Raleigh, serving food to the homeless in Chicago, or singing songs at a nursing home, these teens would certainly be leaving a trail of “good” behind them. Here at Activate Good, this journey piqued our interest. It was fitting that these traveling teens would come to us to find a volunteer opportunity. Their journey echoed the road trip of Activate Good founder, Amber Smith, who volunteered across the country on her own two-and-a-half-month trek. Also fitting, the teens arrived just as the first week of our Teen Leadership & Service Summer Program was wrapping up. That morning on the farm the NJ teens wielded pickaxes to break ground for new plantings and harvested blackberries. They also had a chance to learn about the farm and its practices. Daniel said, “The kids got really into it....

Summer of Inspiration: A Glimpse of our Summer Teen Leadership and Service Program

  On a Monday morning this summer, local teens came to learn how to be volunteer leaders. They started their day off with some inspiration: Zach Bonner wanted to raise money and awareness to combat homelessness. So he walked 2,500 miles from his home in Florida to Los Angeles. When his journey ended, he had amassed $75,000 to benefit the cause. With such an impressive accomplishment, would you be surprised to know that Zach Bonner was only 12 years old when he finished that journey? “Without knowing it was someone young, I would’ve figured that it was at least someone 30,” said Ryan. “It’s inspiring because there’s a lot of stuff you can do even at a young age to change things and help with the community,” said Alyssa. Ryan and Alyssa are two of 35 local teens who participated in one of two sessions of Activate Good’s Teen Leadership & Service Program. Zach’s story and others like it are helping to inspire them to pursue volunteer causes of their own. During the first session, in late June, the teens gathered at the Wake County Commons Building in East Raleigh to learn about local issues and hash out some leadership ideas. They had fun while also getting down to business. They socialized while eating lunch and tossed beach balls during breaks. They also delved into research about social issues in North Carolina and learned about local organizations dedicated to solving them. As the teens sifted through eye-opening statistics, they learned more about where their volunteer leadership was needed. Alyssa was surprised to learn that 83% of homeless children had...

Volunteers Bring Beauty to Raulston Arboretum

The JC Raulston Arboretum runs on volunteers. According to Kathryn Wall, their volunteer coordinator, they wouldn’t exist without them. From the receptionist greeting you at the visitor center to the gardener labelling plants in the garden to the instructor teaching schoolchildren about photosynthesis, a volunteer touches every aspect of this nonprofit. “[The volunteers] love creating beautiful places for people to enjoy,” says Kathryn of the 300 volunteers who contributed 10,000 volunteer hours last year.  Started in 1976, the JC Raulston Arboretum became what it is today because of the work of volunteers. For 20 years, until his death in 1996, the arboretum’s founder and namesake, James Chester Raulston, worked alongside volunteers to bring this habitat for native plants to what it is today. Activate Good volunteers got involved in two exciting events last year, Moonlight in the Garden and Raulston Blooms. Kathryn was happy to see some repeat volunteers come back for both events. Kathryn, who was raised on a farm, noted that the arboretum’s mission of bringing nature to Triangle residents, 7 days a week, 365 days a year is more important than ever. 40 years after the Raulston Arboretum opened, Raleigh has far fewer acres devoted to farming as new construction dots the landscape. “The green space will be more valuable than ever,” Kathryn noted. With more young people living in apartments, places like the arboretum offer a slice of nature for the many children who are removed from it. Last fall, the Raulston Arboretum revived Moonlight in the Garden, a two-weekend event that brings the garden alive at night. Kathryn decided to enlist volunteers through Activate...

Redeye uses the power of music to help local seniors

Have you ever had the experience of hearing a song that brought memories flooding back? Maybe that song was from your wedding or high school prom. For most of us, accessing those memories is easy. But for the millions of Americans living with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other cognitive impairment, those memories can be locked inside. Last month, Activate Good matched volunteers from Redeye with local nonprofit, A Helping Hand, to make a difference in the lives of local seniors suffering from these diseases. The goal: to bring back buried memories with music. All they needed were some iPod shuffles, headphones, and some music downloaded from iTunes. Together, A Helping Hand and Redeye used programming from the national organization Music & Memory to get started. Founded in 2013, Music & Memory “brings personalized music into the lives of the elderly or infirm through digital music technology, vastly improving the quality of life.” Through scientific research, Music & Memory demonstrated that music can help these people “reconnect with the world through music-triggered memories.” A 2014 documentary, Alive Inside, showcases their work by filming the reactions of seniors receiving these iPods. Music & Memory shows how one recipient, Henry, visibly enlivens upon hearing the music. It not only improves his mood, but has an amazing side effect: It brings back some of his ability to communicate. Family members and caregivers can now connect with him in a way that they thought was lost. Activate Good nonprofit partner, A Helping Hand, wanted to bring this same magic to local seniors. They had eight clients they thought would be perfect candidates for this program....

Service Learning for Young Volunteers: Kids can make an impact and learn, too!

Searching for fun ways to keep your child learning this summer while getting some exercise and helping to make the Triangle community a better place? Well, Activate Good has that trifecta wrapped up. Whether you have a curious toddler or an adventurous tween, we have a great volunteer opportunity to share with your child. Studies have shown that hands-on learning is both deeper and longer lasting. And when you combine this with the good feeling you and your child will get from helping people, animals, and the environment, you can’t go wrong. Have a look at a few of the ways you and your child can learn and have fun this summer all while activating good! Improve Fine Motor Skills in the Garden Looking for a fun outdoor activity for your two to five-year old? Join the Wildflower Watering Club every third Thursday through August at the Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve in Cary. Pick up your watering can, and learn about some local wildflowers! This is a great opportunity to work on those fine motor skills while learning the names of some wildflowers, working on those color words, and maybe even get the inspiration to plant some wildflowers in your own yard. While you’re there, why not go for a hike and check out the hemlock trees that make this park famous? Learn about Science with Live Animals Do you have a child age 8 or older who’s crazy about horses? Come down to Horses for Hope in South Raleigh to meet their stable of full-size horses, ponies, and miniature horses. They are open for volunteers every day of...