Volunteering (04/25/07)

Dear Zelda:

I volunteer with my friend at a retirement home. One day we were doing our work and our boss came up and told us that we couldn't call Bingo any more (we volunteered for Bingo). The next day she came up to us and said that we couldn't pass out Bingo cards anymore. Finally, we started to get mad. The next and final day she said “I don’t want you to work here anymore, you're taking away our jobs by helping the residents up to their room.” We just sat there with a glare on our faces, but we haven’t stopped working yet. Should we?
Angry and Confused
Dear Angry and Confused,
“Community service”… it’s not just for hardened criminals on parole anymore. In fact volunteering your time and talent to do something that gives back to your community is one of life’s biggest rewards. It is generous and well meaning of you and your friend to help at the retirement home, and I’m sure it was upsetting to learn that your help wasn’t welcomed by your supervisor. Let me just say right off the bat: you are doing a wonderful thing, and if your boss is afraid that your hard volunteer work is cutting into people’s profits, that's her problem. Your work is improving the residents’ quality of life, and if it means less hours have to be worked by the staff, that just means that the care the residents receive is that much more affordable! But being right doesn’t mean your job is any fun when you've got such a nasty Nurse Ratchett breathing down your necks. So what’s a vivacious volunteer to do?
There are a couple of steps you can take. If you are doggedly determined to hang in there and help with the Bingo games, you will need to talk with the person in charge of the retirement home. It’s clear that your supervisor has some problems beyond the Bingo game, and you need to resolve these issues if you’re going to stay. Tell the director the circumstances, discuss the nature of the conflicts that have arisen, and see if you can all come to an agreement that works for you and for the good of the program. Perhaps there are already guidelines that govern the volunteer program. Ask about them, know the rules before you set up a meeting, and most importantly, don’t come into the meeting angry. Go in prepared with letters from people in the retirement home who value your work and who enjoy your participation, and also be ready to compromise on some issues.
Of course, you may not be happy with the results of the meeting, or may not feel that it’s  the best environment for you. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other volunteer positions out there that would be perfect. Take some time to do research into other volunteer organizations and opportunities in your community. Check out their web sites or brochures, and learn what each organization is trying to accomplish. Once you find an organization the interests you, arrange a visit and talk with the staff and with the management. Ask the organization why they involve volunteers, and how volunteers help the organization in its mission. It sounds like you’re the kind of person who commits fully to your job and invests a lot of your own passion and identity in your volunteer work; find an organization where that kind of spirit is celebrated, and avoid places where people feel threatened by new ideas and active participation.
There may be dozens of volunteer opportunities that sound great, but it is important to do your research and find the place that fits for you. Bring your heart and your sense of humor to your volunteer service, along with your enthusiastic spirit. When the fit feels right for you and for them, then you’ve hit the jackpot, and it’s time to shout “BINGO!”
Finally, we want to close by letting you to know that all the folks here at Team Zelda are very proud of you and your friend for the good work that you do, and send you big licks and wags.

Dear Zelda,

My dog, Gracie, is the sweetest thing you can imagine. I read in Ladies' Home Journal that you work with children who have learning disabilities. Can you tell me what you do and how you got started? I'd love to share my Gracie with children and maybe we could help them  learn to read too.

Well Read

Dear Well Read,

Gracie certainly may be sweet, but girl you don’t sound like any sugar substitute yourself. Very sweet of you (and Gracie) to want to help children. Who doesn’t love a cuddly, slobber-kissin’, lov-a-bull dog? (I know I do!)

You are correct, I do work with children through a wonderful organization called the Delta Society. (www.deltasociety.org)  It’s an international organization dedicated to promoting the power of animals to alleviate human suffering. They were kind enough to take this old dog and train and certify me and my owner as official “Delta Society Pet Partners.”  It’s one of my proudest achievements.

Sharing Gracie is a very kind gesture, and I’m sure you’ll find it incredibly rewarding for yourself and for those you help. My suggestion to you would be to start off with baby steps, and look at programs close to your area. Dog therapy groups are popping up all over the country. Check the Delta Society’s website and see if they have a program near you. Children love being able to read and interact with us furry friends because we don’t judge or laugh when mistakes are made, or when words aren’t pronounced quite right, or even if takes a while to finish a sentence. (We can be very patient.) Our attention and affection comes unconditionally, and expects nothing in return but the occasional pat on the head or scratch on the belly (a personal favorite… especially as mine is getting bigger!). Giving a child the opportunity to read without all the judgments or expectations that human beings tend to bring with them can help to break down walls, and allow the child to actually pay attention and LEARN.

If you feel strongly about this and want to learn more, here is some contact information that can lead you down the road to finding out what can be done in your area:

Intermountain Therapy Animals
http://www.therapyanimals.org or 801-272-3439

Check out the R.E.A.D. program, whose mission it is to improve the literacy skills of children through the assistance of registered Pet Partner® therapy teams as literacy mentors.

Today’s baby steps in education are tomorrow’s giant leaps for our children!


PS...By the way did you know that this Saturday, April 28, is Bulldogs Are Beautiful Day? 
For more information check: www.bulldogsarebeautiful.com

Dear Zelda,
What will you be doing to celebrate your 11th birthday on May 1?
Dear Curious,
You are so sweet to ask about my birthday celebration.  I think Team Zelda is having a surprise party for me...but please don't let them know that I'm aware of their plans for this 'Party Animal.'  ZeeZee and Shane are celebrating their birthdays on May 1 as well so it will definitely be May Day, May Day, May Day.  On my birthday wish list are lots of tummy rubs and back scratches, along with a big healthy, low calorie DOG CAKE!
Life is always uncertain, so I will definitely eat my cake first.

Share this column with a friend!
Your Name
Your Email
Friend's Name
Friend's Email

Privacy Info: We DO NOT store your name, your email,
your friends name, or your friends email in any form.
It is ONLY used to generate an email message.