Perils of Volunteering (trying to)

You know it’s a rough economy when you can’t even get a job that doesn’t pay.

…Or maybe the Red Cross is anti-mullet.

I applied to volunteer at the local Red Cross chapter. They told me to get a background check at I went there, paid the $15 to get the volunteer check. Then filled out their application packet and tried to arrange my 20 minute interview. Turns out there’s a special, free, “Red Cross” version of the background check I needed to do. I expressed to the local volunteer coordinator that they might want to change their instructions to prevent potential volunteers from wasting time and money.  After receiving several looping errors when submitting the form, my pristine background check finally made it to them on the day of my interview.

I did the interview, and while I’ll not divulge (any more) gripey complaints, I’ll say that I was interviewing them as much that they were me. I got the rejection letter a few days later and emailed them to ask if my extruded disc had anything to do with it, and if I’d be able to volunteer after I get that fixed. Their response:

“After conferring with our Exec. Director, [REDACTED], it was decided that “your skills and interests don’t match our current needs”.  Your physical limitations were not a factor in our decision.  We will keep your contact info. on file. Best wishes in your future endeavors. We have no doubt that you will be a great volunteer for another local organization, if that is your choice.”

Part of me wanted to ask them… On exactly which “skills and interests” should I be focusing, should I decide to yearn to be a better Red Cross candidate? Man, I swore no more griping… damn. But seriously, if the Athens Ohio Red Cross chapter is so well staffed that they’re turning away college educated, self-employed, Red Cross certified babysitting expert, almost able-bodied volunteers, then good for them. I just find it hard to believe that they couldn’t benefit from my skills, effort and time.

TESL Volunteering

My last volunteer effort (in 2008) was teaching English to Chinese immigrants.  My students all worked at my favorite restaurant (sushi!) I made a flier (or is it flyer?)  offering free English lessons. I came to their shop at 11 PM one night a week for a few months. We all had a good time and learned things. Alas, they work seven days per week, usually more than a dozen hours a day, 364 days/year. Eventually classes became a yet another burden in their busy lives. Or maybe they were picking up more than enough English from their days and nights interacting with customers and an hour or two a night of watching late, late TV.

Or maybe they fired me because nobody wants me to work for free.

I’m beginning to think that people will only let me work if I allow them to pay me. It’s a paranoid thought that makes *some* sense in the marketing world. (I.e. people value things more when they pay. Give it away and people don’t think it’s “worth” as much.) So I’m turning away good paying work in my fields, but can’t find a good volunteer gig.

I considered writing a letter to my local paper about getting turned down by the Red Cross, but then realized it might open a flood gate of “Hey, come volunteer for us!” requests. And for other, more obvious reasons… I didn’t write that letter. (Is writing this blog any different?) (A little, I think.) So my buddy Roman at a great Athens Ohio marketing joint has an idea for a charity effort. I think I might help him with his vision.

In closing, I love what the Red Cross does for the world: Disaster relief, community education and blood drives to support the vampire mafia. And I’d decided to turn them down. (Far from impressed with their budget handling.) They just didn’t give me the chance. Maybe they knew my interests better than I did. Oh, and apparently that time I was busted smoking pot in 1994 is no longer on my record. Or maybe, just maybe, society no longer thinks it’s a big deal for college students to toke the wacky weed. Even Obama did that. That makes me almost presidential. But Michael Phelps… that hairy potter can go to hell.

Dan Dreifort now volunteers for a few lucky local and national charities.

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