Monday, February 28, 2011

Walking the Last Lap

Leah Miller, 5, gets her face painted during
the Walk for Warmth.

It's the last day of February. I'm nearly done with my project and yet I feel that instead of wrapping up my journey with gusto, I am walking the last lap.

Last week, I didn't volunteer. While there have been weeks when I have doubled up, I am disappointed in myself -- again. Sometimes, it is hard to find the variety of volunteer opportunities this part of year. At least, that is the case for any outdoor events. And last week, family priorities trumped my volunteering.

I tried to make up for it this week, by quite literally walking. I walked laps for Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency in the Walk for Warmth fundraiser. Money from the event goes to provide emergency heating assistance. When news leaked out Friday that OLHSA might be losing a lot of federal funding, I knew that I needed to highlight all the good OLHSA does.

The first time I visited OLHSA was when I wrote a story about the head start children who were getting Christmas toys by a local Optimist club. Many of these children would not have had toys if it hadn't been for this organization, and it was difficult to not feel touched by the childrens' happy faces.

So, I called up Adela Piper, the head of PR, and asked if I could come help. On Sunday morning, not feeling super great, I grabbed a backpack and filled it with my notepad, camera and water, and headed over to The Palace of Auburn Hills. There were many volunteers ready to help. Genisys Credit Union supplied about one-hundred-fifty volunteers for the event. OLHSA employees added another fifty.

Because OLHSA had it pretty much organized, I decided that I would have to make up my time with money, so I threw in some coin and decided that I would walk.

Before doing so, though, I interviewed volunteers and walkers. Joe Wozniak stuck out, making the lead for the news story that I 'volunteered' for work. Within six months, he had lost his wife, his job, and his home. He went to OLHSA for help. And while he is still trying to turn his life around, he makes a point of showing up for this event, and remains optimistic.

I also was able to chat with Eileen Hawthorne and her daughter Megan. Eileen works one day a week at OLHSA. She is one of those people who just sends out positive vibes. She reminded me of my husband's aunt, Carol. Whenever around Carol, people seem to feel at ease, and just talk. Both women have this charisma, and they also help people when they can. It was energizing to meet someone else like this, and it made walking about three miles go a bit faster.

To donate to OLHSA, visit

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cruise Control

So, I've definitely been phoning it in these past few weeks.

I have been faithfully volunteering, but I haven't done a great job of documenting it in the blog. In fact, as much as I like my project, it's been a tough month and I am looking forward to April.

Feeling like this also makes me feel like a big load of crap. I'm nearly finished with my project, so why has it made me feel drained? I'm wondering if the gray skies are making me care less, or perhaps I'm just overwhelmed with side projects. Maybe it's laziness?

Regardless, I need to share what I've been up to.

Nearly three weeks ago, the headlines (including the OP) screamed "Snowpocalypse." Even though the storm was pretty minor, I knew that most places would be closed, making it hard for me to get my volunteering quota filled.

So, last week, I took on two gigs to make up for it. But, I only worked about four hours total. Lame.

I went to Gleaners, which I love, to help sort through big bins to distribute a variety of food and other items. This was a new experience, because I had never seen what corporations donate. Besides some odd items, such as Speedo swim goggles, Christmas lights and purses, personal items like condoms, lotions and nail polish were all part of the mix.

I popped in before work and and volunteered for about an hour and a half. I loved it. I don't have to make small talk, I get some exercise, and quite frankly, the staff members are probably some of the best people to work with. They make it easy -- almost too easy, because I was a half-hour late for work. Don't worry OP editors, I worked late to make it up for it.

On Saturday, I drove to Fenton for the Polar Bear Plunge. I had contemplated diving into the icy water myself (the money goes toward the Special Olympics of Michigan), but I realized that if I got sick, I was going to really be in trouble. Besides, I've taken on Lake Superior in early April. I have nothing to prove.

But did have fun on the sidelines -- albeit the soggy mess of water that kept creeping toward the onlookers. Seniors and teens alike dressed in hula skirts, polar bear masks and even an appearance from Cousin Eddie from "National Lampoons Christmas Vacation," replete with bathrobe, stogy and the RV hose, jumped.

My job for the day was to document the happenings and shoot video, which I did. And I e-mailed it to the event coordinator, but the e-mail keeps bouncing back. So, now my presence feels even more negligible. Instead, a huge thank you should go out to Walgreen's, who sent more than forty volunteers to help out.

More polar plunges are taking place this weekend. Check them out here. The funds raised really do make a difference to the athletes taking part in the games.

For this week, I still need to volunteer. I think I will be headed back to Gleaners tomorrow morning since I am taking an impromptu trip north this weekend. I need something convenient. But, hopefully, for the rest of my experiment in philanthropy, I will be more engaged. There are still so many places I haven't helped out at yet, and I am running out of time.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Rockin' with the Oldies

Photo courtesy of  Larry Hartwick.
Seniors know how to work the dance floor.
This post comes two weeks old, but it's worth mentioning. The Soc Hop at the Older Persons' Commission in Rochester was a retro way to spend my Friday night.

While the music, clothes and food were the only elements that I needed to have a good time, a nice bonus was having my gal pal, Jacquelyn, there with me.

When we arrived, we checked out the women who were donning capris and full skirts, and the men who were showcasing leather jackets and duck-tail hair.

After meeting with Meg Baker, we  were quickly put to work, and received some paper wedge caps to help us look a bit more authentic at the refreshment table. I must have a big head, because mine kept slouching off.

Our first duty was to keep the coffee flowing — or I should say, the decaff flowing.

After a couple of requests for regular, I started replying, "We only have decaff tonight. We know how you guys get with caffeine! You tear the place apart."

This got a few laughs, and thankfully, Jacquelyn is patient, because she had to hear it about twenty times, and that tends to get stale pretty quickly.

After refilling the pots of coffee in the kitchen with a paper cup (there was an odd instant coffee maker and I ended up making a mess) and carrying carafes of water back, the line dwindled.

We headed down to the dance floor, and tried our skills at hula hooping. I have hula hooped before, but the hoop was weighted. These were so light, I could barely keep any of the hoops on my hips. One of the senior staff members put me to shame. After tiring, I took a few hoops around to the wallflowers to get them out on the floor. And, I actually got a few women to try it.

Of course, I had to get in a couple dances with Ralph, who says, "Music is the universal language."

He's right and he's smooth on the dance floor. He's inspired me to look into taking dance lessons. We both agreed that the art of dance is dying.

After the last song, we moved upstairs and started the tear-down process. The great thing about the OPC — other than that it finally opened up to adults fifty and older – is that it offers such a variety of activities. From kickboxing to knitting, OPC aims to engage all seniors. And the OPC also seeks volunteers to teach some of these classes. I strongly encourage checking out this gem in the city of Rochester.

To learn more, visit the OPC at