Moving mattresses can be rewarding. I never expected that. Whenever I’m asked which volunteer project on my road trip has been the best or the most rewarding—and I’m asked that often—I think of mattresses.
Before I left San Diego, I had lined up all of the organizations I would visit on the road between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. In addition to choosing organizations that welcome teen volunteers, I primarily identified ones that offered direct service. I have always preferred the hands-on volunteer experience and the rush of satisfaction that goes along with it.
Of course, I still enjoy direct contact with clients. Seeing the look of relief on the face of a food insecure mom at the Grand Central Neighborhood soup kitchen in New York as I hand her a tray, gives me immediate understanding that I have helped another person. Interacting with kids with disabilities at an after-school program at Friendship Circle in Michigan brings a big smile to my and their faces. Knowing that I’ve helped a homeless pet at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is even easier. Just give the puppy some attention, and I get unconditional love in return.
During this trip, I’ve also started to realize how important it is to do the behind-the-scenes work as well. Hungry folks on the soup line wouldn’t have their food if we didn’t volunteer at Three Square. That organization is the only food distribution hub in Southern Nevada and supplies food to more than 250 partners. Most new rganizations, Including Colorado Ocean Coalition, could never get off the ground without volunteers writing grants, setting up web-sites and spreading the word.
Which brings us to the mattresses. The Women’s Safe House, a 50 bed domestic violence shelter in St. Louis, recently received a donation of new mattresses. Looking that the old mattresses, I could tell that this donation was much needed and would be appreciated. My job, for almost an entire day, was to bring the new mattresses upstairs and bring the old ones down. No direct contact with the residents. I was gone before they even realized that the mattresses were there. But I knew that I had taken a small role in ensuring that these women and their children, many of whom have been through horrors I can only imagine, will sleep a bit easier now. OK, it isn’t a rush of satisfaction; it is more of a glow. From moving mattresses. Sure do learn a lot on the road.