Days after MLK Weekend of Service 2019 has come to an end, Dr. King's message of giving back has still remained at the forefront of our community. Hands on Greater Portland, a volunteer program of United Way, has brought in thousands of volunteers over the years, and they have all played integral roles in adding value back into our region by providing their dedicated time. We sat down with volunteer leader Camille Bell to hear about what motivates her to be part of this important program.
When and how did you get involved with Hands On Portland?
I first started volunteering with Hands On Portland between 2010 and 2011. I was working a lot of hours with a stressful job and knew I wanted to volunteer, but didn't have a ton of time to commit. I discovered Hands On Portland online and loved their Volunteer Calendar. It was perfect for me, I could sign up to volunteer for a specific day and time. It also gave me the opportunity to try different aspects of volunteering & to find which organizations were a fit for me and my interests.
What motivates you to volunteer? What do you get out of it?
I wanted to start volunteering when I first moved to Portland. I thought it would be a great way for me to meet people and learn about different causes in my new city that I could help out with. Hands On Portland allowed me to choose different non profits to work with and find the opportunities that were a fit for me. Volunteering means so much to me, it has provided me with a community of friends that I will have for the rest of my life, it gives me a sense of pride and accomplishment by helping others.
I have found over the years that volunteering is really my way of doing self care. When I am feeling stressed or frustrated, it something that always makes me feel connected, grounded and I leave with a more positive outlook.
Which cause are you most passionate about volunteering for? Why?
The cause that I am most drawn to is working with individuals affected by food insecurity. At Jeans's Place, the women are responsible for their own meals. Many are saving for an apartment and don't know where their next meal will come from. I believe feeding someone a meal is such a special way to connect. It provides comfort, nourishment, and gives them the opportunity to sit and relax for an evening. I also teach nutrition cooking classes with the Oregon Food Bank, where we educate individuals how to shop and cook healthy food on a budget.
What are your responsibilities as part of your volunteer work?
My responsibilities for being a volunteer leader at Jeans Place are: developing a menu, e-mailing volunteers the ingredient assignments & cooking & serving 40-50 women dinner. More importantly though, it's welcoming every new volunteer and regular, making sure everyone feels welcome and a part of something bigger than themselves and, of course, having a productive and positive experience.
Of what contribution or achievement are you most proud of as part of volunteering?
I am proud that I have been so consistent with my volunteering for so long. Sometimes life can get busy with work, family obligations, health issues, travel etc. Volunteering has now become such an integral part of my life that I make sure to always make time for it and I have now been working with three different nonprofits for almost 10 years now.
Does anyone if your life play a role in supporting your involvement/someone who inspires you to volunteer?
Every time I volunteer I am so inspired by my fellow volunteers. There are so many people that work so hard and find time to give back to so many causes around Portland.
Can you share an anecdote or an experience during a particular volunteer project that really moved you?
I have had so many memories of thankful participants that have meant a lot. Lately, though, I have had more and more volunteers tell me that I inspired them to volunteer more or become volunteer leaders. Its such and honor to be an inspiration to fellow volunteers.
What would you say to people who would like to volunteer or donate to a social cause?
We are all so busy with life obligations, but I encourage everyone to find an organization that your passionate about. Helping others and showing people kindness and compassion can not only change their perspective, but your's too.
Between now and February 15, Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon will match your gift to United Way’s Hands On Greater Portland program dollar for dollar up to $15,000. This match is a great opportunity to create twice the impact in connecting more volunteers to more projects each and every day.