Wednesday, December 18, 2019

2019: A Year of Service
In 2017, I volunteered many early Saturdays working with the team at Discovery Place, and rediscovered my love of working with children and teaching people new things. When I had moved to Italy, I fell off the volunteer train as there were not many organizations that were doing that kind of work in Bruneck. When I moved to Milwaukee, I wanted to take up regularly volunteering my time again but due to all sorts of excuses, it never came to fruition. I had volunteered once in 2018 - sorting food at Feeding America around the holidays. 

So in January 2019, I decided, along with taking up meditation, that I would volunteer my time at local organizations on a much more regular interval starting with Discovery World, the science museum in town. I handed in my application, had my interview, passed the background check, and started working there very quickly. And over the past year, I can honestly say that taking that jump into regular volunteering has changed my life for the better in so many ways that I would like to share.

At first, I started with afternoon shifts at the museum working with the kids on small design projects. As I felt more comfortable in the environment, I volunteered to help with workshops, Girl Scout sleepovers, and other small tasks. I started to venture out into similarly related volunteer opportunities like judging the Milwaukee Public Schools Science Fair and volunteering my time for a Girls in STEM Day found in a STEM Forward newsletter. I checked Eventbrite, one of my standard places for looking for things to do around Milwaukee and found several great organizations to work like Newaukee, Seek the Good by Good City Brewing, and Live Milwaukee. Working with these organizations exposed me to different places to volunteer and meeting leaders of organizations that led to more volunteering opportunities. This lead me to teaching a workshop of my own design to a group of students on the Science of Face Masks, something I've always wanted to do. It became part of my weekly planning routine to actively search out places where I could help others or service the Milwaukee community.

By the middle of the year, I was trying to drag anyone who would listen to me to volunteer or putting up posts on social media on what I was doing to try to inspire others to come serve out community with me. Because for me, these volunteer opportunities were showing me a completely different view of the city I had lived in for over a year. With each different activity, I learned more about Milwaukee and the people that live here. I learned more about the environment and what we could do to keep it safe. I learned about how we handle the homeless and less fortunate in the area. I learned that around me was the thriving community full of people that want to better the area but do not always have the resources to do it.

When driving to see my grandpa in Brooklyn after Thanksgiving this year- I was struck by a quote painted on a mural in Shirley Chisolm State Park - "Service is the rent that you pay for room on this earth." Service to your community does not always equal donating money to organizations and never seeing where it goes. Service to me is giving something valuable for the greater good of people. My time is valuable as I get paid to work every weekday and yet I am always willing to not go out on a Friday night, wake up early, and go help better the community for a few hours. Choosing to spend your time like you spend your money is a choice and donating even 1% of your time per year is easy thing to do. Over the course of this year, I volunteered around 1.5% of my total time and that completely changed my outlook on this city and its inhabitants.

By the end of December and some help from my Google Calendar, I came up with my Service Stats:
89 hours to Discovery World helping young people fall in love with STEM like I have
10 hours to Urban Ecology Center Root Program ridding MKE of invasive species (Seek the Good)
8 hours to helping out people interested in attending Milwaukee Maker Faire
7 hours to GEMS Day 2019 helping where needed and learning how to run a STEM day
6 hours to judge MPS Science Fairs and interact with a ton of fun children interested in science
4 Hours to Black Arts Fest in MKE helping kids draw and learn about their heritage
4 hours to The Gathering to help prepare a meal and feed the less fortunate (Live Milwaukee)
3 hours given to Milwaukee River Keeper cleaning up an area of Milwaukee (Newaukee)
3 hours given to The Big Clean MKE cleaning up an area of Milwaukee (Seek the Good)
3 hours Power Gurls teaching my first STEM workshop - The Science of Face Masks
2 hours Joe's Run, Walk, or Roll  helping walkers finish the course (Seek the Good)
2 hours River Revitalization Foundation planting native plants in the forest (Seek the Good)
1 very happy and fufilled Taylor Lacey

My meditation teacher always invites us to challenge ourselves instead of telling us what to do to solve our problems. So I invite anyone who reads this essay to seek out something in your community that needs help and give some of your time to it. It could be volunteering at the library, cleaning up trash in a local park, or working with kids on homework. Whatever you decide, know that even an hour of your time has changed something for the better.

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