After graduating from my student affairs master’s program and moving up to Maine for my first full-time professional job, I found myself looking to get involved with fulfilling endeavors to make the most of my spare time. A colleague recommended checking out the events put on by a local non-profit, Bangor Greendrinks. They put on monthly social gatherings where community members come together, enjoy local food and beer, and talk about sustainability in action. It was a perfect fit for me since I was new to the area, wanted to meet people, and wanted to connect with a cause I was dedicated to.
I went to their social events for several months straight, and when the board members noticed this, they invited me to sit with them on their leadership team. I didn’t have a specific role like secretary or treasurer, but I was proud to be a part of the organization and the decision-making process. Everyone who works with this non-profit volunteers their time outside of their full-time jobs, college coursework, and lives. We all bring different experiences, perspectives, and skills to the team, and we have impacted positive change in our community after only five years of putting on events and gathering donations. Such events and fundraisers can also have live music to make the ambiance more pleasant.
What I really like about being a part of Bangor Greendrinks is the social aspect but also how through the events we host, we help people come together to make a difference in their community. A lot of times, we can feel powerless to impact the world around us, but through simple gatherings once a month, we help people realize their potential to influence change. We’ve installed bike racks around town to encourage more riders and fewer cars, we’ve installed “hydration stations” in downtown outdoor concert venue to encourage concert-goers to bring their own reusable bottles (and to drink more water), we’ve helped our local homeless shelter purchase and install a dishwasher to reduce their waste of plates and utensils, and we’ve continually highlighted great local establishments and organizations that are doing their own awesome work around sustainability every day.
I encourage folks out there and get involved, just like we always encourage our students to. We have unique skills, perspectives, and experiences that can be highly valuable to non-profit organizations of any shape, size, or focus. Doing so will allow us to make good use of our spare time, feel nourished and connected, as well as serve as a positive role model for our students and peers by embodying the values we teach.
I hope you can find some fulfilling opportunities to volunteer in your local area!
> BONUS <
Podcast With Dean Kenneth Elmore on Student Engagement Efforts