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The selfish volunteer

The selfish volunteer

by Rhea Silver-Smith

KING5.com

Posted on March 9, 2011 at 11:16 PM

The sun was shining when we arrived, which was a nice way to start the morning, but it was cold.  And incredibly early.  At least it was early for someone who worked the night shift last night.  Why am I here again?  Because my neighbor invited me to work on a garden for Community Harvest and I –forgetting how much I love my warm bed on March mornings- agreed.   I knew there were good reasons to be there, but they seemed a lot more important when I volunteered to come help than they did at 10 am that Saturday.  We did some brief intros, and the work began.  A group of 12 of us, on our knees, in the dirt.  Pulling up weeds, planting onions and garlic in the tiny garden on the side of a former parish school, on the grounds of a church in White Center.  As my jeans got dirtier, and I got to talking with the other volunteers, the reasons I was there became clearer and clearer.  Because groups like Seattle Works do an amazing amount of good for non-profits in our area.  Because Community Harvest has harvested and donated over 13,500 pounds of urban grown fruit and vegetables to local food banks since 2007.  But most of all, because it makes ME feel good.  As hard as it was to wake up that morning, I forgot about that completely by the time I left, grinning ear to ear.

Today, before work, I volunteered to work on a garden for Community Harvest of SW Seattle through Seattle Works.  My neighbor is a team leader for Team Works, which brings together groups of young professionals for one project each month, with a different nonprofit each time. They volunteer at parks, community centers, schools, and with all types of nonprofits.  Community Harvest is an incredible organization that helps provide fresh fruit and veggies to area food banks.  Last time Team Works worked with Community Harvest, they helped convert an old sandy playground into a garden.  This time, we weeded and planted some garlic and onions in that same garden, and packaged seeds for sale at West Seattle Community College.

Several of my friends and coworkers gave me kudos for “being a good person” for volunteering this morning, which I appreciated, but it made me start to think about why I volunteer, and I surprised myself with the answer.

By night, I’m an assignment editor at King.  I deal with the constant chaos of ever-changing news, stories, and deadlines.  By day, I am a volunteer at the zoo, a blood donor, and a happy participant in whatever other volunteer projects come my way. 
To be completely honest, volunteering makes ME FEEL GOOD.  I spend a few hours a week walking around the zoo telling kids cool animal facts, and I every single time my cheeks hurt when I leave from smiling so much.  I get to see cool animals, get outside, and make other people smile.  When I give blood, I leave grinning ear to ear with the idea that I just saved up to three people’s lives before even having my second cup of coffee.  It’s not like I’m about to quit my job and join the Peace Corps (although I’ve thought about it) to boost my own ego.  I just think it’s simple: DOING GOOD MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD!

So, get out in your community and make yourself feel good!  It doesn’t hurt to help make the world a better place while you are at it.

If you need a little help getting started, here are links to the groups I mention above:

Seattle Works: www.seattleworks.org

Community Harvest of SW Seattle: http://www.gleanit.org/

Puget Sound Blood Center: http://www.psbc.org/

Woodland Park Zoo: www.zoo.org

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