The first week of the Summer Fellowship Program was fantastic…and fast! Acclimating to a new work environment can be slow and precarious, but the staff at my nonprofit has been incredibly welcoming and I already feel like “part of the team.” Reflecting back on the whirlwind week as I sit down to write this blog post (my first ever!) I find myself trying to pinpoint what exactly has made the experience so enjoyable thus far. Was it the invigorating energy of the volunteers? The sincere extensions of help and guidance from the staff? The process of absorbing new and exciting knowledge? Yes, yes and yes! Each of these aspects contributed to an overall sense of community, a climate engendered in part by, you guessed it, food!
I was welcomed on my first day with a fabulous pot-luck lunch far exceeding takeout or microwave meal standards…and after all there is nothing better than a delicious (and free!) meal when you are a graduate student. During the lunch I was able to casually meet and speak with other staff and interns in a comfortable environment. Later on, indulging in homemade brownies significantly enhanced the typically mundane process of filling out paperwork. Mid-week, two other interns and I met at our supervisor’s house to spend the morning preparing dinner for a dozen volunteers coming in later that evening for an outreach project. My supervisor Stephanie was adamant that we could do better than pizza and pop for the individuals who were donating valuable time to help us. With our mission in mind we made Gazpacho, focaccia and cupcakes from scratch, an activity that truly allowed us to bond as a group on both a personal and professional level…an added bonus!
Previously having worked as a volunteer coordinator, I understand the importance of cultivating meaningful relationships with volunteers; they are truly the backbone of many organizations and so it was clear to me that the time and energy put into making the volunteer experience enjoyable would be returned ten-fold. Fueled by buttercream frosting, and most importantly a sense of appreciation, our volunteers worked hard and passionately. Building and nourishing new relationships with volunteers, co-workers and community members is one of my goals this summer and thus far I have found that aside from friendliness and forwardness, food is one of the fastest, and most fun, ways to facilitate this process.
Sara M. – Planned Parenthood of Central Ohio