My Volunteer Life

I had agreed to move to Montpelier for a 3-5 year span, before we moved on—hopefully to someplace bigger and more metropolitan. I’d been living here for three years, always with one foot out the door the moment we made it big, or won the lottery, or [insert fantasy here]… After that time, I could no longer deny that we were here to stay for longer than anticipated. I started looking around for ways to meet more people and volunteer opportunities. I’d like to say this wasn’t a resignation. Once I changed my mind about my present situation, and accepted that I needed to hunker down if I was to be happy, I felt a lot of frustration lift from me. As I walked around town, I tried to find out where I fit.

Initially, I wanted to “do something” with literacy. Bookstores and libraries were my favorite places. But I didn’t really care to teach. Or do something as mundane as shelve books at the local library. I wanted something meatier. Most places I found needed ushers, ticket sellers, envelope stuffers or board members.

I had also thought about volunteering with Montpelier Alive (aka MDCA), the downtown revitalization organization. I’d had some experience with the Brattleboro group, BaBB, and thought at least, it would be interesting to see how this one operated. Plus, I’m a downtown girl. I didn’t know much about the organization or what it did. My own inertia kept me from approaching them.

So I was fortunate enough last September to be working at the shop when Montpelier Alive’s Executive Director Suzanne Eikenberry walked in and introduced herself. She’d come to meet the new owners and invite their membership. I asked her about volunteer opportunities. She mentioned something about selling buttons, and perhaps doing some mailings. I probably crinkled my nose. I know I shook my head.

“How about office work? Something I could add to my resume, perhaps?” That’s when she suggested helping her with the weekly e-mail newsletter that I now write. Once I was trained on the process, I was able to work on it from home. It’s now how I spend my Mondays, cutting and pasting and rewriting press releases and calendar items, so it can arrive in inboxes on Tuesdays. I love it.

I’ve been writing the newsletter since last September, and through this one task, I’ve learned about organizers, presenters, artists and activists simply from the listings they send along. The list has grown by a third, with open and click-through rates higher than the industry standard. I’m pretty proud of what I do, and receive compliments here and there.

Actually, I won an award.

“Congrats on your award at the Montpelier Alive meeting!”

Montpelier Alive’s Annual Meeting and Awards Ceremony was held last week in the Christ Church outdoor courtyard, complete with hot dogs and burgers. I was told it was the best attended meeting so far. I was surprised to see some folks that I knew. And a contingent that likes to be known as my “fans” came to support me. They promised to clap the loudest.

“thanks for all your hard work”

I received the 2010 Outstanding Volunteer Award “for bringing her leadership to Art Walk, Poetry Alive, & the weekly Montpelier e-mail newsletter”. It all started with a newsletter. I had inquired about Art Walk along the way. While getting recruited for the Promotions Committee, I found out about Poetry Alive. In that way, my life has been like a series of connect the dots. I’m glad I volunteered myself, and kept saying yes to opportunities that excited me.

“Looking forward to the next art walk – you’re doing a great job”

I have increased participation and visibility for both the quarterly Art Walks and the annual Poetry Alive projects. These are still rather young projects. They have a ways to go, I believe, before being fully developed. Because of this, I hope to stick around Montpelier for a few more years to nurture these projects.

“glad to hear the poetry alive event will happen again”

Truth be told: Montpelier Alive is a great organization to work with. The board members and volunteers are very open to suggestions and willing to put in time and energy. Everyone gets along really smoothly and the end results of our efforts are very high quality. If you’ve thought about volunteering your time or supporting Montpelier Alive, I would highly recommend it.

If you are not yet receiving the e-mail newsletter, please sign up here. You can also find Montpelier Alive on Facebook and get updates in your feed. Find me on Facebook and current on everything I’m working on. If you’re a regular reader of my blog and want to support what I do, become a Kachingler and check back here often.

Quotes are from notes I received in my e-mail box this week.

3 thoughts on “My Volunteer Life

  1. What a great piece about the power of volunteering. You put in a lot about what you got out of the experience. Montpelier Alive has also gotten a ton out of what you put in. Thanks for all your hard work!



  2. Thanks for your inspiration! Also, even though I moved away from Montpelier about a year ago, I still read through the Montpelier Alive newsletter almost every week! I am hoping to bring the spirit, connectivity, and creativity of Montpelier Alive to my area in New Jersey. Kudos!


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