Passion to Action: Greenheart Staff Share Their Cares During Greenheart Week of Service 2018

Passion to Action: Greenheart Staff Share Their Cares During Greenheart Week of Service 2018

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

It’s that time of year! Greenheart staff members have been looking forward to Greenheart Week of Service all year. Our team dedicates an entire week to team up with community organizations in the city of Chicago to simply serve! It’s a wave of collaboration, team effort and commitment. We certainly have a full force of dedicated staff members here at Greenheart, ready and eager to take on some noble acts of service!

In honor of this Greenheart Week of Service, we would love to share the spirit of serving by acknowledging our staff who show us just how much we can achieve with a big heart and a helping hand.

Meet some of our staff by reading up on their incredible stories and discover the unique challenges and extraordinary benefits that go along with being a volunteer!

Nicole McCarthy
Service Learning & Outreach Manager
Greenheart International

Women in Action
“Until recently, I would have told you that my favorite volunteer experiences involve the outdoors- digging up urban farms with Heartland Alliance, cleaning up hiking trails with Friends of the Desert Mountains, or cleaning up the beach with Alliance for the Great Lakes. That is until I was placed as a GirlForward mentor for 15-year-old Hajar – a typical teenage girl on all accounts, except for the fact that she and her family recently resettled in Chicago from Syria.”

Within these first three short weeks as Hajar’s mentor, Nicole mentions that they spend much of their time together bonding over an entire list of fun activities while they’re together.

“I’m there to be anything she needs me to be, whether that’s a friend, confidant, or teacher,” says Nicole. “The beautiful thing is that this isn’t a one-sided relationship- she’s helped me as well! Her tenacity, intelligence, and positive spirit are truly inspiring. I’m looking forward to the rest of the year’s adventures together!”

We asked Nicole to highlight some of her intentions for her experience with GirlForward.

“The world desperately needs passionate people,” says Nicole. “I believe volunteering is a way to better our communities while simultaneously becoming more aligned with our own passions. Would I ever have sat down to dinner with a refugee family from Syria if I hadn’t started volunteering with GirlForward? Probably not,” Nicole explains. “And it has driven my passion for girls’ empowerment even further than I thought possible. I challenge and support anyone willing to open up their world through volunteering with new people, cultures, and causes.”

Katy Smithy
Associate Visibility Director
Greenheart International

Withstanding the Storm, Together

Katy set out on a volunteer opportunity in New York for an entire two weeks in order to revive the devastating destruction of Hurricane Sandy. She describes the time she spent there as fourteen emotional and life changing days while sharing some intimate photos from her experience.

This was Katy’s home for most of the 14 days (a cot inside a university gym):

Here’s a photo of a makeshift Christmas tree, handmade by some of the volunteers since many people decided to stay through Christmas:

Katy explains, “I volunteered with Red Cross to provide food to people who had lost almost everything… cars, wedding pictures, teddy bears, warm cozy beds but I will never forget the conversations I had with people when I handed them a warm meal.”

“It was a humbling experience to be able to help them during the worst moment in their lives,” says Katy. “I can barely put into words the lessons that experience taught me. By simply taking time to stop and help other people, it’s amazing the impact you can make not only on their lives, but yours as well.”

Bonnie Washick
External Relations Manager
Greenheart Professional Exchange Programs

New City, New Perspective
One of Bonnie’s favorite memories of volunteering was spent working with adult English learners in central Illinois through the group Project READ. After moving to central Illinois for work, Bonnie ran into some unexpected transformational challenges.

“My research took up a lot of time and my friends in the area were doing the same type of work, so even on social outings we would end up talking about work! I came to feel like my world had somehow gotten really small,” says Bonnie. “Volunteering with adult English learners helped me break out of routine, connect with and learn from people whose daily lives looked quite different from my own. And then there’s the magic of finding commonality—that, like me, the people I worked with were looking to broaden their own worlds by becoming more comfortable reading and speaking English.”

Julia Rabin
Cultural Outreach Coordinator
Greenheart Professional Exchange Programs

Taking Action

Julia shares with us one of her favorite volunteer memories, which just so happened to be with Greenheart while working with Project Soapbox and Mikva Challenge.

“For 8 years growing up I was involved in the Speech team and competed through both high school and college at a national level,” says Julia. “I know first hand how powerful being taught how to overcome the fear of public speaking is, and how important it is to let young people know how powerful their voices are. It was so empowering to watch Chicago youth from across the city learn how to use their voices, stand up in front of a room of their peers, feel supported, and speak about topics that were important to them.”

The purpose in volunteering:
“I think volunteerism is a way to remind us to take a minute, step back, and make our communities better,” says Julia. “At some point we all have likely benefited from something in our community that would not have been possible without the work and service of a volunteer. It often feels easier to stay home, to stay in your routine, or to say that someone else will step up. However, I’ve found that every time I volunteer, I always walk away feeling enriched.”

Becca Sheehan
Development Assistant
Greenheart International

The Main Event
Becca has a rich history of volunteer involvement in the Chicago theater community. She’s helped with many events but her favorite is the Auditorium Theater’s 125th Anniversary celebration.

“I was a Production Assistant for the day, so I helped make sure that everything ran smoothly backstage and that our celebrity guests and other performance groups had what they needed,” says Becca. “I even got to watch Patti Lupone rehearse before the main event, which was so unreal – I cried a little!” She mentions, “Fun fact, Patti LuPone’s great-grand aunt, Adelina Patti performed on the same stage at the grand opening, 125 years prior to the event. They played a recording of her aunt to open the show, then Patti came in halfway through the recording and took over the rest of the song. It was absolutely amazing and it really speaks to the history of the Auditorium Theatre,” says Becca. Overall, I learned how important music and the arts are to the cultural landscape of Chicago, both in it’s past and present.”

It’s amazing how great an impact a few hours of volunteering can make. Surprisingly, there always seems to be more taken away and learned from a service experience than the effort and energy put into it.

Thanks for sharing your unique and inspirational stories with us! We are honored to have so many Greenheart staff members devoting their time and effort to helping others. Thanks to you, we are minutes away from achieving our all-staff record for the most hours logged throughout any Greenheart Week of Service! With that being said, if you’re a Greenheart staff member, please be sure to continue logging those hours in the Greenheart Club!

For more information on our week of volunteering, follow us on both Facebook and Instagram.

Happy Greenheart Week of Service!

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