Editor’s Note: Stacy Sternberg is the communications coordinator for The Patterson Foundation. “Sometimes, I choose to take off my work hat and put on my volunteering smile.”
“The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR) and The Laundry Project teamed up to hold #PopUpNeighbor events at SuperMatt Laundromat/Lavandería locations. Pop Up Neighbor events are unexpected opportunities where volunteers make real connections with individuals and families while alleviating the cost of laundry. For three hours, everyone who walked into the laundromat had their laundry fees paid, thanks to the generosity of The Patterson Foundation.
With appreciation for each volunteer, The Food Bank of Manatee, Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County, Manatee County Public Library, UnidosNow, MCR Health Services, Bradenton Marauders, Manatee Community Foundation, All Faiths Food Bank, Sarasota County Libraries, Literacy Council of Sarasota, Sarasota County Emergency Services, Baltimore Orioles, Community Foundation of Sarasota County, and Current Initiatives, communities were strengthened through caring. Together, we connected with nearly 100 families and completed 802 loads of laundry during the first two events.” – Beth Duda, director of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
— Flexing some underused muscles —
Dad, Mom, and their youngest daughter, ME! are bonding through volunteerism. They’ve come over this evening for the Pop Up Neighbor training webinar — ready to endure takeout from my favorite Peruvian restaurant with the best ceviche in town. They are playing along, allowing me to help them flex their “trying new things” muscles.
— Swish swash swish swash —
The volunteer meeting in front of SuperMatt Laundromat just finished up. We’ve stepped inside. It’s surprisingly quiet for now. Dad leans forward, balancing with both hands on the cane centered in front of him and whispers to me, “That lady is disappointed.” I look over to where he’s eying in disbelief. He’s already talked to her.
SCGLR’s event officially began at 10 AM and will have a hard stop at 1PM. She’s been here for a while, folding up one of her last loads. We don’t know her story. What we do know is that she spent $10 on her laundry, and that is a lot for her.
Dad takes his cane and pokes my shoe, reengaging my attention. He leans forward again and softly speaks, “Can I give her $10?”
I lean in toward him. “Dad, the event formally began at 10 AM, but I am not going to tell you to not give her any money. Do you have $10?”
“No… not on me. In the car. Tell you what. You give me $2.50, and I will put in $2.50. Well give her $5 for her clothes that are in the dryer…”
I am delighted that my parents were inspired to “feel the good” and volunteer after reading several uplifting stories from SCGLR’s blog library.
15-minutes later I find my dad. Looking into his eyes with a questioning look, “Dad…?”
He replies, “She smiled.”
— The not-so-subtleties of the neighborhood —
Napkin in hand held up to her bloody mouth, Josteinn, an 8-year-old firecracker, approaches my parents and me. She’s bit into something and her baby tooth is clearly loose. As she opens her mouth and juts her lower jaw forward, we can see there is another loose tooth close by.
My mom, animated and playful asks, “Has the Tooth Fairy ever visited you?”
“Yes, she left me 10 bucks!”
We all smile BIG, recharged by her positive energy.
Dad, the hit-or-miss jokester, replies teasingly, “Well, if you give me 5 bucks, I’ll pull out both your teeth, and you can get $20!”
Dad’s ‘math lesson’ leaves me and mom speechless and Josteinn almost laughing all the way to the bank! (No ‘dental’ procedures followed!)
— Not a joiner… so we thought —
Dad likes being around people. He plays horseshoes, bocce ball, and goes golfing with his buddies. Mom works, and that’s about it. She’s sharp as a tack, has a young soul, but it’s like ‘pulling teeth’ to get her to try making new friends with others outside the family. I’ve been slowly baiting her into volunteering for more than a year now with encouraging stories and age-friendly catch phrases.
None of us can know that at 3:18 PM, our hearts will be swollen with the joy only one can get by giving with no expectations. We will share our favorite highlights, including heartfelt hugs, encouraging a patron to go home to get the rest of her laundry, and smile together when we notice the dinosaur stickers that are now slowly beginning to peal up from the fabric on my shoulder. Without words, we know that each of us are all-in for the next Pop Up Neighbor event.
Can you visualize yourself volunteering for a future SCGLR event? Sign up HERE if you’re interested.