In just the past week alone, I have been blessed to have the opportunity to work with four amazing charitable organizations through the work that I do at the University and in my personal life. A major part of sustainability is forming a sense of community and strengthening society. What a true gift it is to give back when we can. I’m often skeptical of donating money to organizations, but there are so many ways to give back without even spending a dime!
Organizing the annual Move-out Cleanout program is one of my favorite things to do each year. Move-out time is crazy, and students are focused on getting out without extra baggage. But why throw out usable goods that could help someone in need? For this program, I have chosen to continue to work with the same two organizations the past several years for very different reasons. Planet Aid is able to handle the volume of shoes and clothing we collect and has the manpower to empty our ten collection boxes on campus, three days a week to help keep campus clean during this busy time. The clothes donated are kept out of the landfill and are repurposed into something new, or sold in developing countries where the demand for used clothing is high. But, the non-perishable food collected through this program stays right here in Rochester. It is a real pleasure to work with the Open Door Mission of Rochester who does a lot of really wonderful things to help people in our community. The food goes directly into the hands of those who need it. I have a great deal of respect for this organization and have developed great working relationships with its people. It’s a truly great feeling. Last year’s Cleanout collected 2,379 pounds of food and 17,429 pounds of clothing! We’ll know how we did this year within the next couple of days and will share that information soon!
It’s also been really fun to coordinate celebration parties for the winning departments of this year’s Eyeglasses Collection and Competition. With all the programs I have tried there have been some that did not work out quite as planned, and others, like this one, that have gone way beyond my expectations. We started off with a mail-in program twice per year. Over a few collections it really grew and I started to notice that departments were sending in boxes from multiple people within their organizations. One department even decorated their box. In discussing this with Karen Guarino of the Lions Eye Bank at Rochester, she suggested that I hold a formal departmental competition. And with RecycleMania happening at the same time as our March collection, I decided to do just that. The enthusiasm, creativity, and competitive spirit brought to the table has been really exciting to be a part of. The the Lions Eye Bank at Rochester is affiliated with the Lions Club, who cleans, sorts, and packages the glasses we collect. Usable glasses are then sent to those in need. This year we set a new record by collecting 1,221 pairs! Look for our next collection in August.
The Lions Eye Bank at Rochester is dedicated to providing ocular tissue for transplantation, medical education, and research. As a registered organ donor, it’s been amazing to hear a few personal stories from University employees of how organ and tissue donation has touched their lives. Outside of work, I am a firm believer in recycling life and donate blood regularly through the American Red Cross. To me, giving blood is such an easy way to give back. All you have to do is find the time and then you just sit there for a while to potentially save a life!
Outside of work, I also have started bringing my daughter along to volunteer at a mobile food pantry organized by a church in my neighborhood in conjunction with Food Link. Through this event I get to hand food out directly to people who need it. We chat, we laugh, and I’ve gotten teary-eyed a couple times from the gratitude expressed. One example is when a man coming through said to my daughter, “Thank you. I’m glad you are helping with this. I hope you never end up in this situation.” He told me I was a good mom. At the time I didn’t know how to respond, but it resonated and I thought a lot about it. My response now is, “We all go through hard times but in different ways. We never fully know someone else’s story, but we can choose to be there for each other when needed. And we can only hope that someone will be there for us too.”
Image by Max Pixel