by Johnesha Harris, AmeriCorps VISTA | photos courtesy of Volunteer Odyssey
(above photo: Hope House volunteers sweep and throw away trash outside the house and clean up the playground area.)
Despite Memphis being known as one of the most financially giving cities in the country, there is a low volunteer rate which makes it difficult for nonprofits to serve their communities. But the abundance of money cannot overshadow the need for residents’ personal time and service in their community. Most opt out of volunteering simply because it is time consuming or because it is hard to find something they want to stick to. What once was a tedious task of filling out paperwork has now become as easy as signing up for a social media account all due to the hard work of the Volunteer Odyssey staff.
Started by Dr. Sarah Petschonek in 2013 after she embarked on two eye opening volunteer projects, Volunteer Odyssey offers anyone in Memphis a quick and easy way to get connected to and stay involved with nonprofits across Shelby County. Their mission is “to develop a pathway to volunteering that enriches our lives and communities”. That is exactly what they have been doing for half a decade now, working to help residents become regular helpers in their neighborhoods and throughout the Greater Memphis Area.
The Volunteer Odyssey team uses VolunteerCompass, an online platform that maintains an up to date calendar and listing of volunteer opportunities. Anyone interested in volunteering can view events in the city and sign up in a few simple clicks. The objective is to find volunteer opportunities that capture your interest and hopefully, after attending and participating, encourage those involved to not only come back but invite others to join in. Their VolunteerCompass site allows people the ability to interact with others that are volunteering at the same places. The site also shows other events the nonprofit has that might grab the user’s attention.
Volunteer Odyssey hosts unique volunteer opportunities to reach numerous potential volunteers and highlight nonprofit partners. The first is VolunCheers which is a monthly after work happy hour volunteer event where beer and snacks are provided and volunteers spend an hour volunteering and socializing. The Volunteer Odyssey team also hosts Pop Up Volunteer Parties which are for people who have hectic schedules but still want to give their time. Volunteers are encouraged to stop by these parties to share as little as a few minutes of their time giving them the satisfaction of feeling they contributed to the cause; even a few minutes of a person’s time makes a difference in the community.
The bigger events such as the recent Service Challenge Day are a part of Year to Volunteer– an initiative that is paying homage to the MLK50 question “Where do we go from here?” and is in accordance with Memphis’ upcoming Bicentennial Celebration. Year to Volunteer is shepherding in a culture of volunteerism with the goal of engaging 10,000 volunteers, generating 85,000 hours of service and fostering over $2 million dollars in economic impact from May 2018 to May 2019.
Are you ready to start your Volunteer Odyssey? A great way to start is by attending Mix Odyssey, Volunteer Odyssey’s annual cocktail competition fundraiser, on Saturday, March 2nd at Memphis Botanic Garden from 7-10pm. It will be a night of enjoying ‘Great Cocktails for a Great Cause’ featuring 7 premiere Memphis mixologists, a Kendra Scott jewelry pull, and fortune telling to promote increased volunteerism in Memphis. Check out the Volunteer Odyssey Facebook page to receive updates on this event.
Visit volunteerodyssey.com to learn more about the organization and then head over to volunteercompass.com to sign up and start volunteering! If you want face to face interaction the team is always up for meeting future or current volunteers of the community. The office is located on 60 South Main St. and is open Monday through Friday 9am-5pm. If you’re interested in learning more about Volunteer Odyssey, please send an email to ariana@ volunteerodyssey.com.