A volunteering story by: Jennifer Rachel Hay

Shawn maintained the graves at Crown Hill Cemetery. She said she was responsible for removing old flowers and debris from the headstone areas as well as the walking paths. She shoveled gravel. Pulling weeds by hand and using a weed eater to trim the gravestone areas and walking paths was another task she performed for the cemetery. After storms she also helped to maintain the grounds by removing fallen branches and general debris.
While volunteering at Goodwill, Shawn organized store room areas, and displays. Sorting through new donations and pricing them as well as putting the items on shelves or racks were other job tasks Shawn did for the organization. Cleaning bathrooms and dusting, sweeping, mopping the back rooms and general store room were among her duties also. She folded and straightened clothing from the dressing rooms, restocking items whenever necessary and generally kept the store tidy, including the office.
Shawn also helped out at the local Animal Shelter. The Animal Shelter put her cleaning skills to use by cleaning out the animals’ stalls along with the office and bathrooms for the building. Shawn informed me that she watered and fed the animals and mentioned feeding the dogs and giving them water specifically, being her favorite task at the Animal Shelter. The Animal Shelter also had large lawn areas that she helped to maintain as needed.

The Inspiration

Shawn is a single mother, and was enrolled in a college program for nursing students. She worked full time tending bar while enrolled in the nursing program and continued to do so until recently. She now works a more consistent hourly paying job with the aforementioned hours being day time rather than night time, which provides for more quality time with her son and daughter. During the time she was working as a bartender Shawn found herself in the unfortunate predicament of being in some legal trouble which she did not go into detail on. Shawn was court ordered to complete two hundred and fifty hours of community service. Shawn shared with me that she was pregnant with her second child during the time she was completing the large number of community service hours. It was her need to complete the court ordered community service and get her life back on track for the sake of her children that brought her to the status of a volunteer. Shawn stated that she inspired herself by her ability to simply complete the two hundred and fifty hours, stressing that she felt more inspired by herself for doing it all while pregnant! She implied that volunteering was not really something she had given much thought to doing as her life had been so fully occupied prior to her legal troubles, that she barely had time for herself. She stated clearly that she volunteered because she was required too and endured the tedious work that was mostly assigned to her through sheer determination to finish and put it behind her. She wanted very much to not only get on with her life, but also to start fresh, and volunteering was what she had to do for that to happen.

The Aha! moment…

Shawn expressed to me that she learned several valuable things from all those hours community service. First she learned that she never again wants to be in the position where the legal system dictates the where, when and how much of her precious time is donated! She also learned that volunteering can be a rewarding experience, even in such humbling circumstances as doing community service oriented activities by court order. Another lesson Shawn learned from her various volunteer tasks is she does enjoy helping the general public even when she finds the activities themselves to be tedious. The experience gave her a better understanding of her own strength and abilities. She found she has a wonderful talent for cleaning and organizing but would definitely prefer to use these talents when and where she chooses. She resolved to “not be in a position to work whatever, for whoever, whenever they want, for no money ever again”.

To summarize it in three words…

  • GOT, IT, DONE!

Why should you do this

Shawn said she is of the opinion that volunteering is worthwhile, but does not recommend anyone do it like she did. That is to say, she does NOT recommend getting in to a position where you are court ordered to do community service. She does, however, admit that the humbling experience was not without benefit to her personal growth. Volunteering because you feel the cause is worthwhile or very interesting to you personally is a completely different matter in her view. Shawn feels that volunteering your time, energy, and talents to a cause of your own choosing not only helps the public but yourself, and your family, it is actually enjoyable.

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