If you’re going to volunteer, is it really that important to know where you’re going? Think about it… have you ever volunteered without knowing? Whatever your reason for volunteering, you probably knew where you were headed. But that’s not the case for those jumping on the Give Back Bus. These die-hard volunteers only had a passion for giving back, even if they didn’t know what they were doing until they hit the road!

Thanks to a small group from Leadership Fox Cities, Volunteer Fox Cities is excited to bring the Give Back Bus to the Fox Cities. What’s that? A volunteering “blind date,” if you will? Sounds a little crazy… but we have our reasons. Read on!

The idea is that these brave volunteering adventurers would be enlightened to a new nonprofit, program, or cause–something that might be happening right in their backyard–and in turn, they might become a regular volunteer, donor, advocate or supporter… and much more. In the least, the Give Back Bus’ immerses you in new thoughts and ideas, and might remove any existing bias.

On Saturday, May 19, 30 volunteers hopped on a decked out LAMERS school bus without having any idea where they would be going… just that they’d be giving back. They signed up online, received a super-secret email about their pick-up location, and showed up! Sure, sure… we bribed them with breakfast, lunch and a t-shirt, but we know they were just really excited to hear where they’d be going.

When it came time to depart on the Give Back Bus, it was time to tell them: We’d be headed over to the Community Early Learning Center–a multi-agency center that helps to ensure that by age 5, children of the Fox Valley have the foundation to achieve their full potential. Of course, cheers erupted and we were on our way–who doesn’t love the idea of helping children?!

It was a quick ride full of laughter, excitement, and even a few nervous smiles–most of our participants didn’t know one another. But before we even reached the end of Thrivent’s long driveway on the way to our destination, friendships were already being made. One bus-goer even commented that they appreciated the new relationships they built over the course of the day, the most.

When we arrived, we split up into groups and completed five different projects over three hours:

  • Painted over a large, faded mural so the kids can paint a new one (we can’t wait to see what they do with it!)
  • Weeded and spruced up a butterfly garden that had been neglected for over five years (the children released butterflies the week before)
  • Cleaned and sanitized over 40 chairs and tables in the cafeteria
  • Stuffed and collated a mailing that goes out to all new parents at  hospitals in the area
  • Constructed new garden beds near the playground area (the kids will learn to grow their own fresh fruits and veggies soon!)

As we finished up, we were able to sit down and enjoy lunch together and debrief on the day. Marchelle Moten, Director (Advancing Early Childhood for the Fox Valley Region), noted that there are five different programs that work together at the center, serving over 300 children per day. Her efforts ensure that the state of Wisconsin organizations are working together to further their mission. The debriefing really allowed our volunteers to take a deep look at they impact they had on the organization. Lastly, the Leadership Fox Cities Small group was proud to offer a $250 donation to the Community Early Learning Center, to help further their important work even more. It really was the cherry on top of a perfect volunteer morning.

In the end, we were so happy to see that sometimes–volunteers just want to help. They may not care what they are doing, or where they are going, and we’re happy to now have the opportunity to take willing volunteers on a mobile mystery adventure that they won’t forget! Volunteer Fox Cities plans to hold about one community Give Back Bus ride per month, and another option for companies to take their employees out on a volunteering adventure, too.

It takes a special person to blindly give back to their community, but here at Volunteer Fox Cities, that is our hope–that the people of our community will join together, even in the unknown, to help make their community a better place. They’ll take a chance–learn new things, meet new people, and open their eyes–to a new way in which they can help improve their surroundings.

 

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