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April 30, 2012

It Takes One to Know One

David Boris, a delivery volunteer for more than 15 years, explains why he and his wife volunteer with Food & Friends and the reasons you should get involved.

David Boris and his wife have delivered
meals for more than 15 years.
Why You Should Volunteer 
Excerpt from:

….Look, what I’m not going to do is preach at you. What I am gonna do is tell a story; I like to tell stories.
Most folks have a cause. My wife and mine became AIDS because when we were first dating, we lived in a section of D.C. that had a high gay concentration and through the dog park, we befriended various guys, some of whom were HIV positive. Back then, when you were positive, it was pretty clear it was going to become full-blown AIDS and you’d be checking out in a matter of a couple of years.
So we would write checks, do our requisite AIDSWalk. You know, the simple stuff. Then one year, we stepped it up – committed to the Philly to DC AIDS Ride. 250 miles, 2 and ½ days, you agree to raise $1,200 per rider. We raised the money, we did the ride. And something happened. We both agreed that we needed more, we needed to commit to something on a regular basis. We needed to be closer to the cause.
During the Holidays, we decided to volunteer at a kitchen in D.C. that prepares and delivers food to homebound folks with HIV and AIDS called Food & Friends. As Jews, see, we don’t have a lot to do on Christmas Day.  Go to the movies, eat some Chinese food, play with your Hanukkah toys and go to bed early. Instead, we got our bags of food to deliver, put them in our car and drove the route and I remember saying to my wife, "We will be back here next weekend.”
The Boris Family
And ever since that Christmas Day in 1997, we’ve been delivering meals in the same neighborhood every Saturday morning through bad weather, job changes, the birth of two kids, and basketball playoff tickets. Why? My personal philosophy is that it’s easy to write checks and do a fun run. But what most people in need really need is your time.  To know that they’ve not been cast aside, to know they still matter somewhere to somebody.
Any person would want the same courtesy from his or her fellow mankind if he or she ever became seriously ill and needed assistance. The fact is lots of people could just use a bit of your time to make it a good day for them. Know how long that food run takes? About 90 minutes door-to-door, and that’s when I hit all the lights wrong and I have extra drops to make and folks aren’t home and I have to stand outside their apartment building waiting for no-one to answer. 
Things are good for you, for the most part, right? Got a job, got some money, maybe got a car, a girl, decent place to live. Guess what? Lots of people don’t. And regardless of your political or moral affiliations, you can still help them out.
Start With Something You Like. Like to paint houses?  There are community groups that paint and fix up old folks’ homes.  Like cats?  How about volunteering at the pound?  Enjoy working with kids?  That’s why we have Big Brothers/Big Sisters.  Point is, you’ll never stay with a volunteer effort if you don’t really care that much about the cause.  There are so many causes that can use folks to man the phones, fix cars, spend time with those less fortunate that even you video gamers can find organizations that can put your passion to good use.

Don’t Over commit.  Like anything, make a commitment that you can achieve. For example, say you want to add more green space to your town or city. Plantings happen all day every weekend somewhere around most cities. But it wipes out the whole day. No problem. Commit to planting for two hours every Saturday instead of all-day two Saturdays a year. Find something you can reasonably do, not an overblown affair that leaves you bitter.
Start Now. It’s so easy to procrastinate and say, "Sure, I’ll help collect used clothes…next month.”  Nah. Check out a few of the sites we recommend and do it now.  If you wait, you’ll lose your momentum and momentum’s always hard to regain.  Just ask any athlete how tough it is to regain your form after you lose it.
Volunteering Loves Company. I mentioned that all the volunteer stuff I’ve done has been with my wife, both before and after we got married. Got a girl?  Great way to do show her you’re a quality guy. Or go with a buddy. Doing anything new totally by yourself is hard. Having a wingman or wing-gal not only keeps you committed, but it gives you someone that you can share your experiences with over beers after your effort.
Yes, You Can Meet Women Volunteering. More women volunteer than men, according to a University of Virginia study.  Well, that right there just increased your odds since you’ll be in the minority. If you do something you like and there’s a girl there, chances are you have some compatibility. Volunteering is a social thing, so add it to your repertoire of going out to clubs and parties to meet new women.
Damn, That Felt Great! There is no denying that everyone in my volunteer group feel the pride, the satisfaction, the sense of accomplishment and contribution that work doesn’t usually provide. It’s about the time you put in and the reward of that isn’t measurable in dollars. You volunteer to give of yourself to the greater good. Work may feel like pushing a boulder up Mt. Rainier every day in the office, but the hours and minutes you put in volunteering are greatly appreciated by many. It feels real, real good.
Where Do I Go? The clearinghouse for volunteer opportunities is VolunteerMatch, which has every conceivable opportunity you can think of. You can narrow it down to your zip code to find every combination of ways to matter to others. is good for specifically environmental activities. And you can check out your local newspaper online because they all run articles on volunteering possibilities.
Me, I’ve decided Food & Friends isn’t quite enough. I’m already coaching a Special Olympics t-ball team and will get my dogs certified to visit war veterans at the VA hospital here in D.C. Once you start, it’s hard to quit. And that’s a good thing.
I lied, I did preach to you! But it wasn’t so bad, now was it? Hey! Knock it off with that eye-rolling!

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