By Peju Ogunyemi
What is it to volunteer? What motivates us? Is it credit for a school requirement? Is it to help our fellow (wo)man? To gain life or job skills? To kill time? Whatever your motivation, volunteering is a way to help an organization fill needs they otherwise couldn’t meet.
I am about three decades into this life and started volunteering in high school. It was a requirement for graduation. At the time, I tried to volunteer for organizations or events that intrigued my interest and sensibilities. I don’t think I cared too much about the people per say. At least they weren’t the motivating factor.
Flash forward to 2006. I have graduated college, life is going in a direction I had not anticipated, and I decided New York City was destined for me, so I went. But the longer I was in New York and unemployed, the more I sank into a deep depression. It was then that my mother suggested I start volunteering. She said it would put things in perspective for me, make me more appreciative, introduce me to new people, and help me make connections. It didn’t necessarily do any of those things, I was still depressed, I didn’t really make friends or connections. But it did continue to foster my love of volunteerism. I didn’t appreciate it in the moment—it’s not always about what you can get out of something—but volunteering does give me warm fuzzies when I feel I’m better serving my community.
Cut to summer 2017. I was hanging with my friend who had some clothing donations for Jubilee Women’s Center. She asks if I can help drop them off. I’m not working, so I say sure. This is how I was first introduced to the wonderful organization of Jubilee Women’s Center and the work they do to alleviate the homeless crisis that affects women every day in Seattle.
I’ve been here a year as the front office volunteer; one of the first faces you see on a Thursday afternoon. I’m the point of contact for people calling in to make boutique appointments, learning about the housing application process, making donations, or just learning about the other services the center offers for low-income women. I will also be writing for Jubilee’s news blog, sharing my observations and reflections as a volunteer, so watch for more posts at jwcenter.org/news or at facebook.com/jwcenter.
My motivations for volunteering vary, but at the end of the day it is a way to give back to my community, be involved with organizations that are helping their city, and meet wonderful individuals I otherwise would not have the pleasure of encountering. I don’t know my influence or impact, I’m just hoping I’m bringing my special type of light into people’s lives. Starting with Jubilee.