Volunteering: A New Old Experience

I decided a while back, as shown by its being present on my 30 Before 30 list, that I wanted to start volunteering again. While I was in school, I actively volunteered in many places and I loved it. It gave me something to look forward to between school and work and it allowed me the opportunity to have new experiences I never would have experienced otherwise. I missed that feeling and ultimately it has led me to this point.

For a long time, I had no idea where I wanted to volunteer or what I wanted to volunteer for. Did I want to volunteer continuously for a non-profit organization? Did I want to volunteer at a single event? I had no idea. I entertained volunteering at a local art gallery/theatre last summer, but decided against it as it wasn’t something I found myself passionate about. Earlier this spring I finally found that thing.

I have posted about Eldon House several times in the past few years here, here and here. It is a great place in my city, both a museum and something of a local landmark. The atmosphere is amazing and the programming there is both fun and educational. I’ve enjoyed every experience I’ve had, from Doors Open London to the Summer Tea Program.

In early April, Jay received an e-mail from Eldon House. He signed up to receive updates about upcoming events at the museum months ago. He sent me the email because there was an upcoming event listed as a Volunteer Information Session open to anyone interested in becoming a volunteer with no sign up necessary. I put it on my calendar to make sure I attended.

On April 11, I attended the session and I was very interested in everything they had to say. I was able to meet and speak with many of the important people involved with the museum. There were volunteer applications available at the session and we could take them home to fill out after the session was over if still interested. I filled mine out and handed it in on the spot. Speaking with the Vice-Chair of the Board and the Curator had me even more interested in the prospect than I was initially. They mentioned a committee consisting of both staff and volunteers for the museum collection and it intrigued me. There were other committees for other aspects of the museum as well. It is a new thing for the museum and the wrinkles haven’t been ironed out quite yet, but it was something I found very interesting and hope I will be more involved with it in the future. On April 25, I had my interview. It was very informal, very comfortable, and I left feeling good. I chatted pleasantly with my interviewers, handed in references, received my letter to get my background check completed and away I went. The following week I signed up for my first events. Two weeks ago I submitted paperwork for my background check to the local Police Service. Reference checks have happened as well.

A week ago Monday was my first volunteer event: the Victoria Day Picnic.

This first-time event for me was also a first-time event for Eldon House. Prior to this year, they had never held an event for Victoria Day. For those of you who don’t know: Victoria Day is a Canadian statutory holiday honouring Queen Victoria’s birthday. It happens on the Monday closest to May 25 each year. The event involved “meeting Queen Victoria,” tours around the house, and cookies and lemonade on the lawn. There were also Victorian era games set up on the lawn all around the house that the attendees could play. It was a three-hour event and there was a good turnout for a first-time event. My duties as a volunteer included helping to serve the lemonade and cookies, and engaging with guests and the games. The weather could not have been better that day, which was great as the meteorologists were predicting thunderstorms for the day. Luckily, the thunderstorms never came that day. I worked with two other girls, both in high school who were smart, kind and very helpful. The three of us worked well together.

It was a great event to get my feet wet with. It wasn’t too involved and it wasn’t really busy either. I could take time to get to know some of the staff at Eldon House and my fellow volunteers I was working with.

I will be volunteering next at a couple of events in June, and I am very much looking forward to it. It feels good to volunteer again, and do it somewhere that I enjoy and appreciate. I also look forward to all the new people I will meet. I hope this is the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship!

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