J500 Media and the Environment

Volunteers sustain organizations by jenniferedw
July 26, 2009, 12:25 pm
Filed under: J840 Week 6, Justice + Outreach | Tags: , ,

After college I worked in a public relations position for a domestic violence shelter for about two years. I was somewhat familiar with homelessness due to my work there. I learned there that some women and children can become homeless due to domestic violence. And in my position I was able to share with others how organizations like the one I worked for helped make a difference.

The LCS volunteer I interviewed has inspired me to make a bigger impact.

The LCS volunteer I interviewed has inspired me to make a bigger impact. Source: move.org.sg

Even with that background, I learned many things about homelessness from our class. Dr. Mark Holter, associate professor in the school of social welfare at KU, helped open my eyes to the fact that homelessness is a relatively new concept — I had never considered the historical context before.

When our group visited Lawrence Community Shelter, we saw first-hand how volunteers help keep the shelter alive — and I would say that was the key thing that will stick with me the most in the future.

I knew previously that volunteers provide a huge boost to organizations. However I never really considered why volunteers keep coming back to organizations and how they stay so committed. After talking with Bob, a key shelter volunteer, for our final project, I learned how volunteering can impact not only the organization, but also the volunteer. I was truly inspired by Bob’s story and the impact the organization has made in his life. He helps sustain the shelter and the shelter helps sustain him. His work helps me tie back to the sustainability themes we discussed throughout class.

Since my interview with Bob I’ve spent time considering what I can do to make a bigger impact. I’ve been thinking about going back to the domestic violence shelter where I previously worked to spend time as a volunteer. I hope I can provide them with even just a portion of what Bob does for LCS.

-Jennifer E.


Building a Community, Educating the Future by marybethw

We constantly hear that youth are our future, but what will that future look like with the ever-increasing disconnect between our food and ourselves? A number of local, urban farmers are fighting that future, by providing youth an opportunity to relearn our food. During the summer you’ll find youth working the fields, rows, and greenhouse at J-14 Agricultural Enterprises, Troostwood Youth Garden, and Kurlbaum’s Heirloom Tomatoes.

At all three establishments, the education does not just happen while digging the soil. Joe Jennings, at J-14, has a rainy day “classroom” where youth can learn widely about biology, ecology, and botany. At Troostwood, Ericka Wright’s workers receive stipends for school materials and some have continued the lessons learned in the garden while in college. The Kurlbaum’s have used their tomato profits to put one of their children through school and they have plans to start scholarship gardens, the profits from which would go towards college tuition.


By working, whether as volunteers or as a summer job, both the youth and the community benefit from these operations. Studies show that youth reap many positive benefits from volunteering. The communities also reap benefits from urban farms. In providing fresh produce the farms provide health benefits and the local economy receives a boost when food dollars stay in the community.

With these and other urban farms, perhaps our food future is not as bleak. The youth who work these farms know where their food comes from, what’s in it, and how tasty it is. Perhaps they can then spread their knowledge; as Troostwood’s Wright says, “Out of the mouths of babes….”

~ Mary Beth Woodson, Group 4 blog post

Youth volunteers photo credit.