BeCominG MorE InVOlved
January 1, 2007 5:34 PM   Subscribe

How do I become more involved with my world? (Volunteering, etc)

New Years Resolutions aside, I would like to become more involved with my community/state. Partially inspired by a group of amazing people at a soup dinner party, partially by the new year, and the rest as a long standing desire.

I put 150% effort into work, and am feeling slightly burnt out, and like its not really worth it as much as it used to be. I would like to try and cut back and work my 40hours, and have a life outside of work, meet new people, etc.

I am not exactly sure what I am looking to do, but I don't want to go door to door fixing Windows 95 PC's. :) I have decent management skills, network/it/programming skills, bow staff skills, etc. How do I apply myself/become involved with local groups, be it paid consulting, volunteering for something (I don't know where to look locally for 'we need help' types of things). I have applied via email/phone to a couple local groups that I thought I might have something to offer, and was ignored/actively turned down/passively turned down.

I do have a 9-5 job.
posted by SirStan to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Why were you turned down?

If the existing groups aren't going to help out, perhaps you could work on starting your own local group of like minded people?
posted by drstein at 5:41 PM on January 1, 2007 might be a good start.

CyberSkillsVT in Burlington always needs help. When I lived in Burlington, I taught a few classes in basic applications for them. They paid okay too (for a non-profit!) But I had a lot of background in teaching technical material. CyberSkillsVT also does tech support for Burlington-area non-profits. It was one guy a few years ago and he was really overworked.

None of the people that I knew there are there anymore except for Harold, but in 2002/2003, the employees were great.

Also, don't forget about Recycle North. They are always looking for technically-oriented people to help out.

I don't know of much going on in Central Vermont, but Burlington isn't too far. :)
posted by k8t at 5:42 PM on January 1, 2007

Also, e-mail the computer folks at the local schools. I've always found people at Vermont schools really kind. Up in Shelburne they had a really good community organized set of tech classes that people taught. Perhaps something similar is needed at a school or more likely at a senior citizens' center.
posted by k8t at 5:44 PM on January 1, 2007

or, more simply
posted by k8t at 5:47 PM on January 1, 2007

K8T: Burlington is a bit far for me. I live/work a wee bit south of Montpelier. I taught some classes for a local tech center's adult ed program and it was decent, though could quickly become repetitive I think.

drstein: Not sure exactly. I imagine because of lack of resources internally to manage such help, or no perceived need for such assistance?
posted by SirStan at 6:18 PM on January 1, 2007

Did you try the United Way office in your area? They work with dozens of diverse organizations, one of which is bound to need some help. Even if they don't have anyone for you right away you can at least leave your info with them and surely someone will call soon enough.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:37 PM on January 1, 2007

The United Way actually sponsors our organization. I didn't even think about talking to their rep when they call.
posted by SirStan at 6:55 PM on January 1, 2007

If you like programming and computers, maybe you could get involved with a FIRST robotics team? There's a high school team in Randolph (30 mins or so away?). This is a mentorship program for highschool (and, using LEGO robots, middle schoolers) to encourage them into engineering and science by helping them build robots for regional and national competitions. It's a really great program and they always need more mentors. It's also seasonal - high school season starts next Saturday, actually - but many teams do year-round practica on programming, machining, design, team management, etc. You don't have to be a robotics genius; you just have to be willing to help kids through the thought process that goes into making things go. And programming mentors are often in short supply.
posted by olinerd at 7:10 PM on January 1, 2007

The FIRST robotics team mentor guy that I know swims at the pool with me and his wife was in one of my classes (and made the beeswax lip balm I use). That's a great idea olinerd. SirStan, let me know if you'd like contact info for him specifically, they live right in East Randolph. Looks like they're having some sort of kickoff event on Saturday at Gifford.
posted by jessamyn at 8:13 PM on January 1, 2007

Your computer skills would be extremely useful for nonprofit organizations. Almost all organizations are at very least looking for a volunteer webmaster, if not something much more involved.

The good thing about that kind of volunteer work is that you can find a way to work it into your schedule that works for you.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:17 PM on January 1, 2007

I highly recommend volunteering to teach literacy to those that need it.

I have been teaching adult literacy for a few months and find it to be very rewarding. I am particularly passionate about non-native English speakers having health literacy, because poor health literacy is "a stronger predictor of a person's health than age, income, employment status, education level, and race."

Look for literacy programs in your area and try it out.
posted by parilous at 9:25 PM on January 1, 2007

have you tried asking the folks at Black sheep books?

People working at infoshops like that usually know of many different community organizations that need things done.
posted by eustatic at 9:48 PM on January 1, 2007

There are lots of small ways to become involved in the community besides taking on a volunteer job. Consider: buying your food at the local coop or directly from local farmers; visiting the library instead of buying books off Amazon; taking your outgoing mail to the post office in person; joining the gym; getting a dog (an easy way to meet people in Vermont); frequenting the same coffee shop.
posted by kellygreen at 12:57 PM on January 2, 2007


I do all of those (mostly). I (frequently) buy my lunch @ the coop in town. I have morning coffee frequently at the coffee shop next to the coop. I ship my packages from the local print shop. I am a member of the gym. My landlord doesn't allow pets, and somewhat related to eustatic's idea, I frequent the Langdon Street Cafe quite a bit.

I suppose a large part of it is personality. I know two other transplants to the area who have done alot better interacting than I, and I figure that volunteering will force others to interact with me/me to interact with others socially, whereas the rest of your ideas really don't (Or I craftily find ways to avoid being social in them all).
posted by SirStan at 1:56 PM on January 2, 2007

Yo, SirStan...

I only have a minute, but was at that party and did not get a chance to chat with you. Hopefully, we can rectify that soon.

I have been involved in several local and national non-profit activities. I did the FIRST robotics thing, too, and it was fun, a little scattered, interesting, really fun to go to the contest in Manchester, NH, but between the schedule and financial constraints, not as much fun as it could have been. The people are great, though.

If you are going to volunteer, IMO, it is important to address the scale of what you want to do. Is it local or national scope that you seek? Vermont may not present the opportunity that best matches you.

Second, what is it that YOU can bring that they can't get themselves? That doesn't have to be technical smarts... it can be as mundane as enthusiasm and energy, imagination or thinking out of the box. Your tech skills will be an asset, though.

Also, consider that a lot of small, local, struggling, and unsuccessful enterprises (non-profit or otherwise) do not thrive because the participants are severely limited in capability. It comes with the territory. You could make the difference in critical mass for the outfits that have 'turned you down' if you persist.

A brief survey of what I know about you from your post and from our mutual friend says that you have a good stock of valuable assets to contribute. The challenge is going to be to find a place where YOU want to apply them, and along with them, bring the leadership that will get them applied well. Ultimately, a lot of the people that you want to help aren't going to be good at knowing how to ask you or how to assign you. You have to kind of do that for yourself.... as in..."Hi, I am SirStan. I see that your website could use improvement. I am going to sketch out and buiild a prototype for you that you can critique and I'll find someone to host it for free, too." That not only tells them that you are willing to help, it saves them from having to think about how.

In one case, I went to a national non-profit and saw that they had a continental scale project underway and were approaching the project with no large project management experience and insufficient funds. I volunteered to help with both and also brought enthusiasm and energy. (My strengths are in start-up.)

I think it's great you are so disposed and can't wait to see what you wind up working on. Drop an email, if you wish, and we will chat some.

Good luck!
posted by FauxScot at 2:32 PM on January 2, 2007

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