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In Their Own Words: Marcella Houghton ’12.5

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

“In Their Own Words” is an ongoing series featuring the experiences of Middlebury students at their summer internships. This summer Marcella Houghton ’12.5 interned with the State College Area Food Bank in State College, PA.

What did you do?

Twice a week I assisted Bill Zimmer, the home gardener growing crops for the State College Food Bank, and worked at the Food Bank on alternating days. In addition to harvesting and maintaining the crops he was already growing, I assumed responsibility for planting and harvesting a bed of green beans. When the State College community garden got in touch with Bill with an interest in donating to the SCFB, I contacted and met with the garden intern to set up a system for community gardeners to donate their extra harvest. By the middle of the summer the garden had a cooler set up behind a shade cloth, where gardeners could donate and where I would pick up donations weekly.

At the food bank, I served as an all-purpose volunteer. Every distribution day I joined the morning crew with set-up, shelving, and receiving and sorting donations. I joined the new set of volunteers that came in on afternoons, and helped distribute food to clients. I drove the food bank van on errands and on donation pick-up runs. I also set up a recycling system for torn, dirty, or otherwise un-re-usable plastic bags. After broaching the idea with volunteers and the directors, I found and labeled a bin for the bags. Curbside recycling doesn’t include plastic bags in State College, but since the food bank regularly visits grocery stores, whoever’s driving the van can deliver the bags to the recycling receptacles outside of each store.

What did you learn?

Working at the food bank corrected some assumptions I had unknowingly harbored. I’d previously thought food banks relied almost exclusively on individual donations or food drives. But the SCFB receives the bulk of its items from federal and state programs, the South Central Food Bank in a nearby city, tax-deductible donations from grocery stores, and purchases of new groceries on the food bank budget. I was surprised to learn that clients of the SCFB are eligible for groceries only 8 times per year. No chance of surviving off Food Bank groceries alone, contrary to my previous notions.

What are your plans for the future?

My perception of food assistance programs shifted after this experience, hopefully giving me a better sense for how they operate. Working for the food bank widened my eyes to the complexity of social service programs like the SCFB. I also observed among volunteers and people I spoke with a concern that clients might be able to “cheat the system” and get more food than allotted. I’m inclined to think of this anxiety as a misunderstanding; however, whether people “cheat” often or not I believe that programs should strive to treat clients with compassion rather than suspicion, and I realized just how important it is to cultivate that attitude among volunteers in a program like this one.

This summer I discovered an interest in managing volunteers, when I realized I was often in the position of delegating tasks to new recruits. Volunteering every other day gave me a crash course in many of the daily tasks, and it was rewarding to connect a task-less volunteer with a task and attempt to streamline the day’s to-do list. I found it refreshing to interact with many small teams on a regular schedule (the Monday morning crew, the Monday afternoon crew, etc.) and get to know the rhythms of each group of core volunteers. I could see myself in the position of a volunteer organizer in a similar program.

Think this experience sounded pretty cool? Check out opportunities like this and more on MOJO.

United Way Days of Caring

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Below is information about this year’s United Way Days of Caring. As you may recall, Middlebury College is proud to help sponsor this event by providing paid time off (meaning you don’t have to use CTO) if you chose to participate on a day you were normally scheduled to work.  In order to ensure proper operational coverage, please obtain your supervisor’s approval before signing up. 

“We invite you to be part of our 18th Days of Caring Thursday, September 20 and/or Saturday, September 22.  Join us Thursday with a United Way breakfast provided by the Middlebury American Legion then volunteer at a school, library, or nonprofit agency during the day. 

If you can’t join us on Thursday there are plenty of projects that need your attention on Saturday the 22.  It’s a great time to volunteer with your family or friends.

I have enclosed a volunteer opportunity list and registration form (links below).  Feel free to make additional copies.  Volunteers are matched on a first come, first served basis.  Please return the registration forms, by fax or by mail, to United Way by August 31.  Please return a signed liability waiver with your registration.  A volunteer assignment confirmation letter will be sent to you on during the week of September 4. 

Jobs are still coming in, so please feel free to check the updated list on our website www.UnitedWayAddisonCounty.org.  We’ll also update the list weekly to let you know which jobs have been filled.

 One change this year is that we are asking you to sign a liability waiver (link below).  Please complete it and return it with your registration form.  If you have any questions, please call the United Way office at 388-7189. 

Thanks to you and many other volunteers who have volunteered over the years.  I look forward to spending the day with you again this year.”

- Helen Freismuth, United Way of Addison County

Volunteer in June 2012 in Ghana for Community Water Solutions

Categories: Midd Blogosphere
Interested in volunteering in Africa?  Want to learn more about the global water crisis?   Looking for experience working in the field? The CWS Fellowship Program is a three-week water education and leadership training experience in Northern Region Ghana. The purpose of the program is to teach individuals about the global water crisis, and inspire them [...]

WORKSHOP: Meaningful International Research, Civic Engagement, and Internships

Categories: Midd Blogosphere
Thinking about studying abroad or pursuing international service work, research, internship, or other form of international immersion experience? If yes, then broaden your thinking and enhance your preparation by attending the following workshop! Meaningful International Research, Civic Engagement, and Internships: Charting a Course to Plan, Fund, and Implement Out-of-Classroom Projects Wednesday, February 16, 4:30-6 p.m., [...]

Community Water Solutions Summer Fellowship in Ghana

Categories: Midd Blogosphere
Kate Clopeck is a recent graduate of the Technology and Policy Masters Program at MIT and co-founder of a non-profit, Community Water Solutions, that works to bring safe drinking water to rural villages in Ghana.  She joins us here again at Middlebury to talk about the Fellowship program. CWS recently  launched a new fellowship program and would [...]