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....

On the Gratitude of Receiving and the Joy of Giving

Most of my adult life, I’ve had a profound sense of how lucky I am. I strongly believe in the power of volunteerism and acts of kindness to change lives, and that is because I myself have benefited tremendously from the generosity of others. I believe that no one gets anywhere solely on their own, no matter how driven they are to succeed. If you look closely, you will always see heroes who enable the effort. For me, volunteering is my way of expressing gratitude to those who helped me. It’s my way of paying it forward.  Humble Beginnings Like many others in North Carolina, I was raised in a poor household. During times of scarcity, my family got by with help from friends and relatives who gave us their leftovers and hand-me-downs. My father is a man of service, a Vietnam veteran, and a proud, hardworking farmer. He was also fighting a debilitating mental illness that was erratic, rendering him incapacitated for weeks at a time. Without even the slightest warning, he could descend into a terrifying black hole removed from reality. During those tumultuous times, my mother worked several low wage jobs, taking the higher paying night shifts when she could, to help us scrape by to prevent the bank from foreclosing on the farm. My brothers and sister and I did whatever we could as well—harvesting tobacco, even selling pumpkins and watermelons off the back of our pickup truck. At that time, when everything seemed impossible and we were close to losing everything, I almost fell into that black hole myself. Everything seemed hopeless. In the small community...

Volunteers Create A Winter Wonderland At AnimalKind’s ReTails Thrift Shop

On a crisp, cold Saturday morning, fourteen Activate Good volunteers met at ReTails Thrift Shop to work on a new project: decorating the window displays of the store. The ReTails Thrift Shop is owned and operated by Triangle nonprofit, AnimalKind, and volunteers were asked to create a winter wonderland display using snow-themed craft projects along with items found in the store. Supporting the AnimalKind Mission Outreach Coordinator for AnimalKind, Laura Walton, recently began asking volunteer groups to decorate their display windows to encourage passersby to stop in and shop. She also wanted the displays to inform the public of AnimalKind’s mission: …to end the unnecessary euthanasia of adoptable cats and dogs in North Carolina shelters. Volunteers created two 3-dimensional displays in two windows and two large posters for the adjoining windows. After introductions and learning more about AnimalKind, volunteers chose the projects they wanted to work on. Volunteer Projects with AnimalKind Some of the projects that volunteers completed while at the ReTails Thrift Shop included: Cutting out snowflakes Making paper penguins Building a snowman out of plastic bags And More! Volunteers worked steadily for two hours, chatting about the projects and coming up with ideas for the displays. Before the volunteers began, Laura explained how the Retails Thrift Shop would be moving to a larger location in order to accommodate more donations. One of the posters that volunteers created displayed details about the new location, the grand opening, and the types of donations that the store is seeking. Once their projects were completed, the volunteers hung dozens of snowflakes (which they had previously cut out). The volunteers then worked on arranging the displays using other items they had...
The Power of Volunteering as a Family

The Power of Volunteering as a Family

On Saturday, November 22, 2014, National Family Volunteer Day kicked off the holiday season with do-gooding. Here in the Triangle, Activate Good hosted service projects for families to come together as a unit to make an impact for local causes. Family Volunteering Efforts Here are the beautiful results from all of the families who came out to give back to the Triangle community: Socks, underwear, coats and more collected for kids in need 8-10 fleece blankets and 15-25 scarves crafted for the homeless Food packaged and sorted for the hungry 24 umbrellas made for kids in need 20 cards crafted for kids in the hospital 150 volunteers united as a family to help the community! Volunteering As A Family Below, we’ve collected some of the heartwarming quotes that Triangle families shared with us on National Family Volunteer Day. “[It was] a great family time together helping others.” –Marta S. “We are our brother and sister’s keeper.” –Charlotte H. “We’ve been blessed with so much. Family Volunteer Day is a chance for us to share our blessings with others.” –Julia J. “It’s been helpful for our girl scout troops. We’ve been searching for volunteer opportunities, and this gives us a way to connect.” -Lisa A. “It’s a chance to help others and be together with 3 generations of my family.” –Steve K. “It’s a way to be together and show our kids that you can make a difference in someone’s life – even by doing something small.” –Katie G. “We get to help the homeless stay warm on cold days. It makes me feel happy because the homeless people can stay...

Ten Years Ago, Today

Growth and progress feel so slow when you’re impatient to achieve a goal. That’s why it’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since I first set out on this path. Ten years that now feel, in retrospect, like they flew by. A third of my life. A third. In many ways I still feel like a child, wandering around, guessing at right answers, trying until I get it right, and often flopping. And in many other ways I feel like a wise old soul, looking back fondly (and with some amusement) at my fumbling 21 year old self. The one who put off going back to school to take off on a life-changing journey to change the world. On September 2, 2004 — exactly ten years ago — my best friend Heather and I stepped into my 2003 Chevy Cavalier, packed to the brim with clothing and foodstuffs, and drove west. The Volunteer Road Trip Before Facebook and Twitter were things, before either of us had any sense of nonprofit marketing or budgeting or fundraising, we left with about a thousand dollars in our collective pocket on a road trip around the country to do good. Glowing with idealism, we defined our mission: To change the world by spreading the message that people should help each other and causes in need. We’d do this by volunteering in every state we visited, learning from nonprofit and community leaders as we went, while proclaiming to strangers and friends we encountered along the way that if everyone rose up to get involved, we could truly alter humanity’s course. We drove west...

Celebrating By Doing Good: Veronica’s Volunteer Birthday Party

As the Volunteer Coordinator here at Activate Good, I have been fortunate to receive many positive messages via email about: Eye-opening volunteer experiences Gratitude from nonprofit partners when volunteers tackled much needed projects Messages from parents seeking ways to show their children what volunteering means Educators planning ways for their students to take on service learning Businesses wishing to donate to a number of causes and plan meaningful days of service for their staff Churches wishing to engage their congregations in hands-on efforts, And more! These messages are one of the top reasons I do what I do.  At the end of the day, it is uplifting to be surrounded by Do-Gooders, and I am so proud of the volume of dedicated volunteers in the Triangle and the many ways that they choose to give back in an effort to better our community. Celebrating a Milestone With A Volunteer Birthday Party One message that came through my Inbox a few months ago truly struck a chord with me, and I hope that by sharing this it will resonate around the Triangle and perhaps beyond. Veronica Ingram, an avid volunteer, emailed me seeking assistance in  planning something I hadn’t received a project request for to date. Her email simply said, I have a milestone birthday at the end of May, and I’d like to have a service project as part of that celebration. I was so excited that she had contacted me for assistance in planning her birthday-party-volunteer-effort, and it immediately made me feel inspired to copy her volunteer birthday party myself later this year. I asked Veronica:  “What inspired...