Tag Archives: volunteering

Upping my expectations

While I was still teaching, but thinking of leaving the classroom while still young enough to do something else, I came up with a plan for whatever that something else would look like. I didn’t want to be “retired,” but rather do good work, with good people, for the good of the community. It became my mantra.

Unfortunately, no one wanted to pay me for that plan. Everyone was thrilled to have me “work” for them, but there was no monetary compensation. I have come to realize, as the years have passed, there has been little appreciation, either, for some of the “work” I have done. My time has been filled with lots of work, and lately it has become a burden. I’ve decided to go back to my mantra.

I’m going to seriously look at anything I do and it will have to be filtered through this lens:

  • Good work
  • with Good people
  • for the Good of the community

I’ve already figured out one volunteer position I’m going to let go. I’m also looking at some of the things I have taken upon myself that don’t pass the test. These past three months have been emotionally and physically exhausting. My anxiety levels have been high as I want to do every task I have accepted and do it very well.

Yet, I am realizing that there are people who do not appreciate this. I’ve often said, if you have volunteers working for your organization, show gratitude. Tell them how much you appreciate their service and show them. Don’t take volunteers for granted. Same goes for people who show kindness to you. Be appreciative, and if you can’t be, then don’t expect the kindnesses to continue.

When I was teaching, we asked a lot from our community members–field trips, mentoring, guest speakers, donations of food and materials, jobs for students. I always sent thank-you notes. I had students write thank-you letters any time someone did something for them. We wrote press releases and mentioned these people. We put their names on programs. We provided references to other businesses for those who were so kind and generous. Any time I could, I mentioned those who had done so much for us. Seems like little to expect from those who are given so much.

My time, my talents, and my treasures are valuable, and I’m going to be more serious in how I spend them. Good work, with good people, for the good of the community.

Planning is overrated

Plans. I had a whole series of plans for when I left teaching. Please note, I was not calling it retirement. The plans called for starting over. I would move to a new city. I would get a job with a nonprofit. Maybe in microfinance. I had done much research into this area. Even attended a conference or two and spoken with many already working in the industry. Because of my small teacher pension that came with health care benefits, I didn’t need a large salary or benefits. With years of marketing experience I saw myself as quite hirable.

The nonprofits had other ideas, though. They saw me as too old. Instead, they were hiring fresh young things right out of college. I tried volunteering, and the agencies thought I did great work. But hire me? No. In two places I volunteered for weeks and months until the work was complete and I wasn’t needed.

Since I had the education background, and retired teachers did not seem a hirable commodity in microfinance, I decided to look into nonprofit education organizations. Again, sure, my skills were valuable, but for volunteering, not paid work.

The rent on our studio apartment that overlooked the Bay Bridge skyrocketed. Things were changing in San Francisco and an even younger crowd would soon be taking over the city. We packed up and returned to our house in Fresno.

After six years away from teaching, I am now happy with the word retired. No one is going to hire me. I’m going to be a volunteer for numerous organizations for the rest of my working days. I’ve come to terms with it. So much for those PLANS I made.

These thoughts have been swirling in my head since I met my friend, Lynn, in person, a few weeks ago. She was returning from a writing retreat and one of the participants had admonished her, upon learning that Lynn would retire from teaching in a year, to plan carefully for her retirement. The participant had not and had regrets.

I told her that it didn’t make much difference if she planned or not. Her plans, like mine, might not come to fruition. Having the plans and yet unable to carry them out has given me regrets. So, I guess it can work both ways.

One thing I said, over and over, before I left the school scene, was that I wanted to do good work with good people for the good of the community. I felt that in all my years at the inner city high school I had that and I wanted it to continue. Six years later, I can say that part of the plan is being fulfilled.

No substitute #2

The Ladies Who Lunch turned into The Ladies on a Mission this week. We met for lunch on Tuesday, and these gals loaded my car with an abundance of mission-building supplies. I asked our server to take a picture of the group to share with the 4th graders to show them who had gotten them all of the supplies.


From the left: Cathy, Jeri, Gladys, Diane, Delaine, Janet


One of the Ladies is missing from this photo, but she has promised to be there when they  come out to Columbia to view the finished missions and meet the students.

I delivered everything on Wednesday and handed out almost all of the supplies that day. After the final bell rain, and the 4th graders headed out, a group of 6th graders showed up at the door and wanted to know what I was doing. These kids knew me from the craft days I’ve done for the after school program. They wanted to know if I would be coming on Friday for crafts. No, I did that last week, and now I’m giving all my attention to the mission projects.

They talked about their missions that they made two years ago. They wanted to know why I hadn’t brought supplies to them. I wasn’t even around two years ago. This was the first time I had even thought of the need for such a project. Then they asked if I could be their substitute. NO.

That is one position I now know I cannot do. I have never wanted to be a substitute teacher even though I have been asked by numerous teachers (including the four first grade teachers whose classes I read to each week) to do them a favor and sub for them. After the last three days of intense work with kids, only four hours each day, I know for sure that I do not have the energy or wherewithal to do that work for an entire day. Sure the extra money would be nice. The district is paying $135 a day for a credentialed sub. But not that nice. It’s too much responsibility and too much hard work. I like being a volunteer.

On with the show, this is it…

Last week I had an understudy at one of the volunteer slots I fill. She had shadowed a different volunteer the day before, and the director of the organization recommended she also watch how I do this particular job.

When we were done, I laughingly said I hoped she had gotten something worthwhile from it, as I had noticed she filled a notebook page with notes, probably all things NOT to do since she had already watched another “veteran.”

“I learned so much I didn’t know, and I loved your enthusiasm. You were ‘on’ the whole time and kept your audience entertained.”

Ah, yes, entertainment. That’s what we do. Then I realized, that’s what I do every time I step out the door. Makeup, hair, wardrobe. I take on the role of whatever I am doing. I engage the audience with enthusiasm,  energy, interest. I watch for feedback and adjust my movements, language, spacing, to meet their expectations. Especially when one works with children, one must always be observant of their reactions and quickly adjust to meet their needs.

After pondering this for a bit, I also realized, this is why I am tired at the end of each day that I step “out on the stage,” or in other words, leave my house. Although I could do this for a full day when I was teaching high school students, it has gotten harder as I’ve gotten older. I need more ‘downtime” to replenish the supply of enthusiasm and energy it takes to pull off the “role.”

Makeup, hair, wardrobe. All in place. I’m ready for today’s “show.”

The merry month of May begins

May has started out just fine and dandy, and the whole month looks to be that way. Although warm here, in the 90s, we are promised a cool-down later next week. I certainly don’t mind the warm temperatures, and the sunny days make me feel great. The month will be so busy I may not have much time to enjoy my patio and backyard, of which you’ve heard so much lately, so I am sitting out here to write this post.

The school tours at Kearney Mansion started yesterday. I did three, back-to-back, for a great group of third graders from River View Elementary. The school is named River View, but there is NO view of the river from their classrooms. I really enjoy the tours, but when doing three, each one runs 45 minutes so I am speeding right along, not able to tell all of the stories. I finish in the dining room and send the group out the back door to their next station. Then I run through the house, gulp a drink of water to wet my whistle, and open the front door to let the next group into the foyer. They are always so excited to come in and see the house. I am always tired by noon when I bid the last group goodbye.

One of yesterday’s groups had a parent chaperone whom I had met this previous year at the inner city elementary school where I have been doing an after-school program on Tuesdays. He is a teacher there so I was surprised when he greeted me on the steps of the mansion with this school from a totally different district within our city. He had taken the day off from his teaching to go along with his son on the field trip. He was an excellent chaperone since he knows third graders so well. He was just as surprised to see ME as the tour guide.

“You certainly get around, don’t you,” he joked as we greeted one another. “The Good News Club and now this.”

“Yes, I’m very fortunate to be able to do all of these things that I really love, now that I’m retired.” He had not known that I had spent 21 years at the high school level. Speaking of which, I saw my old principal at a luncheon a few weeks ago. He too was surprised to hear of all my recent experiences working with elementary, and even younger, children.

“So, Delaine, how have you managed the transition from teenagers to little kids?”

I told him that it was startling to me how well it has all gone because I really love working with teenagers, but it’s as if God picked me up and moved me 180 degrees, and I’ve had a good time. I’m also really good with smaller students when it’s for such a short amount of time. I am pretty sure I could not teach elementary age children all day long.

I will be spending the next few days at the beach with my tiny grandchildren while their parents attend a conference. It’s a good way to start the month, don’t you think?

Should you go out in public after eating an onion sandwich?

It really is a legitimate question. My lunch today was a sandwich made of heirloom tomato, red leaf lettuce, red onion, sopressata, on a very substantial hoagie roll. Terry and I have a networking event to attend later this evening. I may sit in a corner and try not to talk!

Yesterday I spent the day at Fresno State University at an event sponsored by The Richter CenterFall Community Service Opportunities Fair, where students can learn about and sign up for a myriad of volunteer activities. I was representing Fresno Historical Society with the goal of finding young people who will volunteer to work at the Civil War Revisited which will be held again in October at Kearney Park. I was partnered with the volunteer coordinator for the Historical Society, Randi, and during this time spent together, working, we found that we had a mutual love for really good food.

The Richter Center offered a Subway Sandwich box lunch if we wished to eat during the event, but neither of us felt much compulsion to order it. Randi flat out hates Subway, and I only eat it if there is just no other way to stave off hunger. Yesterday was not such a day. We both decided that stopping on the way home for one of our favorites, white cake, would be a better way to get our nutrition. Yes, we had discovered that we both LOVE good cake.

I called a few bakery type places that would be on our route home and found one that had white cake. It was very disappointing. Not moist. Probably a couple of days old. The frosting was certainly nothing to write home about so I won’t write about it here.

Back to the sandwiches–Randi and I both like really good sandwiches and rather particular about what goes into them thus the disinterest in Subway. But with all that talk about sandwiches, I really wanted a good one today. A really good sandwich might just wipe out the bad cake memory so I picked up some ingredients at Whole Foods today, including the red onion, came home and made that really good sandwich I described in the first paragraph.

Now, I’ve got to decide what to do about that event tonight and my onion breath.

Continuing to work for the good of the city

When it came time to do my student teaching, the supervisor from the university suggested a high school in the neighboring town in a district known for its well behaved, high scoring, white students. I rejected his suggestion and requested the school on the opposite side of our town where the kids are poor, less well behaved, and minority. Although I got what I wanted, it made my supervisor very uncomfortable. He visited my classrooms twice and then told me he wouldn’t be returning as the students were very badly behaved. They weren’t. As I continued in the teaching profession, years later I would see students who made those first ones look like scholarly angels. I kept wishing that university supervisor could see what I was doing now.

My passion has always been for the less fortunate, the ones with fewer opportunities, the ones who live where many refuse to go. I want to change the world for everyone and that’s why I wanted that school across town for my student teaching assignment. When I recently wrote about a conference I had attended, City Summit 2013, DJan asked how I would be using the information I had gleaned from the workshops. The same way I have been using the information I have gathered for the past twenty five years, to build on my experience and my ability to help others. I want as much knowledge as I can get to use in all that I choose to do.


I have read many books over the years, attended many conferences, presented to many groups, taught in an inner city school, lead in an inner city church, cooked for a women’s shelter, raised awareness for a number of local organizations that help the poor, the downtrodden, the less affluent, all the time wanting to learn more about how to do a better job in making a difference. Terry and I have also volunteered in San Francisco, at Glide Memorial, Year Up, Emerge, and Rebuilding Together San Francisco. While living in San Francisco, the homeless were camping right below our apartment and so I packed meals and distributed them as I walked the streets.

My goal, upon retiring from the inner city high school, was to work for a nonprofit in San Francisco, helping those in need. I applied to every organization that had a job listing where my skills could be used. I got one interview out of the whole lot and was told I would be bored. Finally, I gave up, left San Francisco, and returned to volunteer in Fresno where the unemployment rates are high, the poverty rates even higher, and the needs are overwhelming. But, our home is paid for, unlike in San Francisco where the rent on our tiny studio apartment was $2400 a month, so I don’t need a salary. There are many agencies to whom I can give my time and skills.

This is a bit of advice I follow: Do not lose heart,; do not become faint. When you seek to perform a good work that God asks of you, you will always find an ample supply of God’s grace to sustain you.

This week’s project

A few months ago, while attending the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce monthly networking breakfast, I met a woman from Ronald McDonald House who was looking for volunteers to work with siblings of the hospitalized children who have to stay long term at our regional children’s hospital. Although not a task I was interested in, I knew of just the right person who would be interested.

A friend of mine, Gladys, with whom I worked for 21 years at the large inner city high school, had a granddaughter born with a congenital problem and had to remain hospitalized, in San Francisco, for nearly a month after her birth. The parents, and their other two children, were able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House there. Gladys wanted very much to return the favor, and she would be perfect for helping the siblings.

After much delay due to appointments and trips, we finally arranged a meeting on Monday with the volunteer coordinator. I went along to make the introductions, and to see the house for myself and what they offered. Gladys’s daughter-in-law wanted to help, too.

Corinna & Gladys chat with Ronald.

I did not realize that all cleaning and food services must be donated to the Ronald McDonald Houses as there is only a small administrative staff on site at each house. Seeing the kitchens in which parents could fix meals between visits to the hospitals, I realized this WAS an area in which I could help. The volunteer coordinator, Janie, said that hand-held, easy to eat foods were good for the families so they could take the food with them to the hospital. My Zody Red Wagon Pies would fit the bill.

Gladys and Corinna were planning to return on Friday to help with the siblings so I spent the rest of the week buying ingredients and preparing five dozen pies for them to deliver on their return trip.

I made apple, blueberry, blackberry, and peach: Peach pies

Some of the blackberry pies fell apart when I took them out of the pans so I sent them along to Gladys for her to enjoy:

The rejects

Upon my retirement, the girls in the business department gifted me with a cart which I used a lot in San Francisco. Since returning to Fresno, it has resided in the hall closet. It came in handy to transport the pies:

Pie delivery

Next time the girls go out to Ronald McDonald House, I plan to send berrocks. I’m glad they go on Fridays so I’ll have a whole week to work on the project.

All’s fair at the job fair

My husband and I were at Stanford University earlier this week for a job fair sponsored by Idealist.com. Although not smart enough to attend Stanford, I love the campus and the atmosphere and enjoy spending time there whenever possible. It was for that reason that I signed up for this job fair.

Idealist.com is a website for nonprofits and people who might want to work or volunteer for such an organization. The nonprofits list their needs on Idealist who then matches the openings to those who have registered with them. I registered a couple of months back so as to see what might be available for someone like me who wants to shift careers, again. I left industry 20 years ago to pursue teaching, and I have done that now for 18 years. I now want to shift again, perhaps to a nonprofit, but definitely to San Francisco. The job fair had many such organizations in attendance.

My husband and I enjoyed talking to different exhibitors and found that our skills could certainly be used. Many asked if we would consider volunteering, and we would. What really pleased us was a workshop we attended for people like us called Encores in Nonprofits. Here we learned that we are going about this the right way. We have given ourselves two years (they suggest at least a year); we are looking at a variety of jobs (they suggest collecting 50 job openings); we have volunteered and will continue to do so (that was the number one suggestion for all in attendance); and we want to look for internships.

Attending the job fair made me even more excited about what the next couple of years will bring and what we will be doing. Hanging out at Stanford made the experience even more enjoyable.