Volunteer Journal #98 - LA Regional Food Bank

The trusty work boots at sunset. To my knowledge I have not been stuck in a freezer the size of a tennis court yet, so this was a first.

I was in the gleaning room of the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank, going through thousands of pounds of salvaged food from restaurants, grocery stores, and manufacturers.

Celebrating 40 years of service, the LA Foodbank has redistributed over 1 billion pounds of food to the needy. 1 in 6 people in Los Angeles are at risk for hunger.  Many of them have worked their whole lives, but are members of the working poor - those who must decide between rent and  food, or medicine vs. lunch and dinner.

Physically, the building is imposing, looking like a Costco with pallets of food stacked from floor to ceiling. And the gleaning room - is freezing. My infamous knee high work boots (see pic) and nano puff jacket were almost not enough. I needed a hat and gloves.

My group of volunteers was tasked with sorting everything, and throwing away any donated items without a clear expiration date and ingredient deck.

LA Regional Food Bank

Most of the mountain of food was salvageable, however I was not sad when I had to make the call to trash several hundred pounds of an unmarked butter substitute/margarine.  To be fair the margarine company probably didn't want to print the ingredient deck because it's nasty.

What was fun? Climbing on top of a mountain of food to pass packages down.  Hey, heat rises. I'm nothing if not practical, and a monkey-like climber.

It's tragic that we still need such a large facility because so many people live in poverty. However, I am eternally grateful that the LA Regional Food Bank exists, and that over 200 volunteers showed up, today and many days, to get food ready so many people in LA, including 400,000 children, don't have to go to bed hungry.

Volunteer Journal #97 - Angel's Flight

Princess is standing in for the kids.  Or more like sleeping in... On Wednesday night, after a long day at work, I found myself staring over a hand of Uno cards at a runaway teen.

I had come to Angel’s Flight near downtown LA to spend the night playing games. I ended up in one of the most intense, war-like games of Uno ever.  To be fair my opponents were tough and sophisticated. True survivors.

Angel’s Flight is a shelter for homeless and runaway kids between thee ages of 10-18.  Many of the children are fleeing abusive families. The kids are given food, clothes, and shelter, appointed case workers and therapists to help them cope with what they’ve been through.

The Uno game went on for 2 hours, a time during which I forgot about my work. Which is priceless.

Trucker hat kid = me

I don’t feel comfortable taking pictures of minors, especially teens forced to escape unimaginable circumstances.  A can briefly tell you about them because they were exceptional and interesting:

A 16-year-old former vegan, wanna be guitarist, who was thrilled that I taught him how to “count cards” in Uno. He was very proud to be starting college level classes soon.

The 11-year-old who had arrived at the shelter the day before.   He was tiny for his age and scrappy. His clothes were 3 sizes too big.

Playing games.

A girl in her final year of high school who couldn’t bother to play games because she had to finish her homework on the center’s tattered couch.

The 13-year-old who hid the fact that he started crying when, in the heat of Uno battle, another kid called him stupid (a crime that was reprimanded).

The only picture I took at this event are the Uno cards. I think you can understand.

Volunteer Journal #96 – An Extraordinary Senior

How many men? "All women should be married 2.5 times. The .5 is the most fun. If you know what I mean" - Sara, 93, Cheviot Hills, Los Angeles

Saturday morning I went to hang at a Cheviot Hills retirement center.  I was helping set up various games & activities when in rolled a 93-year-old-ball-of-female-awesomeness the size of a 50 lb. bag of sugar.  After she expressed her disdain for BINGO we agreed I would do her nails.

She picked a shell pink polish mentioning that "they" had just recently brought her here without letting her put on makeup or do her hair and nails. I am from the south - taking a woman above the age of 50 from her home without allowing her time to do hair and makeup is egregious. I had to ask questions.

LA 1929

The story that unfolded during Sara's impromptu manicure was extraordinary:

She was born in 1920, and moved to Los Angeles with her parents at the age of 9.  They took a train across the country from Washington D.C. and when they arrived in Los Angeles it was so tiny “it was a village” (see photo).

Sara's family lived in the Hollywood area and did their grocery shopping on Hollywood Blvd. They didn’t need a car because they rode the street cars everywhere.  I've only heard about these cars or seen ghostly remains.  The electric cars ran down the center of massive roads like Venice and Wilshire with passengers disembarking in the middle of the road.

Her family went to Santa Monica Beach on the weekends.  She says it was beautiful with no trash mucking up the view.

Rosie the Riveter

During World War II she went to work for Lockheed.  She was a riveter.  Yes, like Rosie.   She drove a Cadillac to work every day.  Meanwhile, her brother served in Europe, his last stop was Berlin before being shipped safely back home.

She was twice married but her husband had passed. She said that her second husband had been a good man.  The first one was not so much.  She told me that “All women should be married 2.5 times. The .5 is the most fun! Do you know what I mean?" Yes ma'am.

I finished her nails. She now had long beautiful elegant fingers with shimmery tips.

She asked me what I did.  I told her I was a writer and when she asked what I was working on now I told her about my new full length play.

She's hilarious!

Before I left she leaned over and gave me a kiss on the cheek.  Her eyes lit up and she said softly, “You must promise me you will keep doing what you are doing.  If you do you will be very successful.  And you will say,  'See Sara was right.'"  Then eyes twinkling she wheeled herself out of the rec room.

She had told me that she was the last of her family, so who brought her to the nursing home without her makeup?  The mystery is unsolved.  I'm simply going to have to go back.

Volunteer Journal #95 - Alexandria House

At war with the fridge Sometimes, when you walk into a volunteer project, whether it be a polluted creek, flooded house, or barren piece of land, you think:

“I can’t fix this. I can't. It's too much."

"It's not my responsibility."

"My apartment is a disaster, I should be cleaning that."

"I have work this afternoon, tons of it."

"I can't do anything to make this better."

Then you must get calm and Zen, because this is where you physically are, and if you're not going to try  to make it better in that moment who will?

Ick Smoking Nun Apartment!

I had to get Zen the Sunday morning I worked with Alexandria House, because the apartment I was helping restore was... for lack of a better word - gross.

Alexandria House is a much needed transitional home for single women and single women with children. To create more space they were renting some recently vacated apartments from the nearby Catholic church.

The apartment in question had belonged to a retired nun.  The nun had trashed the place, during... a dirty bender? Or many years of smoking and poverty.  I'm guessing the latter.

Alexandria House

And that is always my game changer… thinking how hard it would be for a single mother to ask for help. How much help you would need to get back on your feet, with children in tow. Tackling a grimy room seems small in comparison.

I focused on the kitchen. I'm comfortable in the kitchen, and being in one usually makes me happy. However, removing year old stains from the fridge was not happy (see pic at top).  I started to not like the smoking nun.  I liked her less when I was wiping soot from the walls.  Yoga breath. Peace. Go with God smoking nun.

At the end of the morning the home was in decent condition.  It would not be an sparkling oasis, but it would be a haven for a mom in her kids.

I heart Victorian Homes!

My reward for a mornings work - the requisite donut, and a tour of the Edwardian/Victorian headquarters of the Alexandria House, which was next to the apartment. Many families live in the headquarters.

I hearted the tour much. I LOVE VICTORIAN HOMES. Love the individual craftsmanship, the Dr. Suess like architectural details (like multiple staircases), and proper basements.

That’s one of the many fantastic things about the variety of volunteer projects I've done – sometimes I stumble across something I love and remember why again.

 

Volunteer Journal #94 – WriteGirl

WriteGirl There was a time when female writers were discriminated against and forced to change their names to George Eliot.

Unfortunately, that time is now.  Women are still the underdog in the writing world. For example, between 2010 and 2012 in Hollywood female writers made up only 9% of the scripts (written on spec) sold.

My parents chose the name Raegan so no one would know if I was a boy or a girl on a job application.  Out-of-date anxiety?  Nope, that choice has proven monumentally important time and again in my career. My personal experience is backed up by this Princeton study that found that female playwrights are more frequently rejected especially by... wait for it... female artistic directors!

So I’m going to support any group that encourages more young women to write.

More than just a 1960s Secretary

That's why I was thrilled to stumble across WriteGirl. WriteGirl empowers young women by matching them with female writers who mentor them in creative writing.

A large cafeteria had been commandeered for the WriteGirl workshop at which I volunteered. Among the areas each girl had to visit was a college counseling section, different brainstorming/writing prompt tables, and the greatest catering table I have ever seen at any volunteering event. I signed in, got a brief tour where I met many of the fellow mentors (all impressive credential female writers) and then was sent to one of the writing prompt tables to help.

At my table the girls, all in high school, were required to look at a map of the world with highlighted pictures and pick a location.  Even if they had never visited that country they were then to write everything about that area they could imagine. i.e. What's the temperature? What does it smell like? Who's there? What do you see? What do you hear?  How do you feel being there?

The Girls Plan Their Villas in Tuscany

The girls worked with very little prompting.  When they seemed stuck I just did what my teachers had done for me - I showered them with questions and encouragement reminding them, "There is no right answer.  You are the master of this little universe you are creating, so don't be self conscious.  Just write something down."

Again. Don't be self conscious.  There is no right answer.  You are the master of your universe. Just write something down.

100% of WriteGirl graduates go to college, but more than that it's important for girls to have female mentors who have played the game, written the words, and succeeded. WriteGirl infuses young women with confidence and teaches them that their opinion matters. So, for God's sake, Lean In Ladies!

And remember, as the women of WriteGirl say at the end of every meeting:

"Never underestimate the power of a girl and her pen."

 

Volunteer Journal #93 - Shoes For The Homeless

Shoes for the Homeless! This one was super easy!

Mission - Help get 1000 pairs of shoes to LA's homeless population.

Time commitment - 1 hour on Saturday.

Using my new LAWorks membership and their awesome events calendar (which I highly recommend every charity adopt) I found Shoes for the Homeless, Inc. in my area.  They needed volunteers to sort new or gently used shoes for the homeless on a Saturday.

Shoes for the Homeless was founded by Ira Goldbery, a Los Angeles podiatrist who has been in practice for 30 years. Ira works with the homeless regularly, and has seen many injuries caused by the lack of proper footwear.

My Shoes!

Ira is extremely organized. I got two emails confirming my involvement with the shoe sorting. When I showed up to sort shoes he gave me a quick 1 minute briefing.  That was it.  Then the 15 other volunteers, and I matched shoes, rubber banded matching pairs, and then sorted them by type.

In truth a bit of a ruckus did break out over whether certain types of ladies shoes were work appropriate or more suited to evening wear. I tried to stay out of it because I'm known to be inappropriate often.

It was over in a flash, and the shoes ready to be distributed to the estimated 58,000 homeless in LA via shelters like the Midnight Mission.

Side note - The number of homeless Veterans in LA surged by 23% last year.  I need to work with a homeless veterans group.  If anyone knows one please send suggestions through my Facebook page.

Volunteer Journal #92 - Midnight Mission Kids Program

Drawing in Chalk Out of all the charities I've volunteered for the Midnight Mission is by far one of my favorite.  They don't make you jump through too many hoops, they just put you to work.

When I found out that they needed people to play with kids at an after school program in South Central LA I was in.  I signed up for a two hour shift after work on LAWorks and drove over to the small park next to the apartment building where the kids lived.

Showing up at any new volunteering project is like showing up for the first day of a new school.  Are they gonna like me, what are we going to play?  I'm terrible at kick ball I hope we don't do that. I hope I'm not the last one picked.

I had lots of first days at different schools growing up, but I still get nervous wondering if any kids will want to play with me.

After a little awkward standing around a young guy named "Jack" (changed to protect little 'un), who was a bit by himself as well, decided that it would be okay to play horse shoes with me. Phew.  The rest of the evening went like this:

Jack: I think I won that game of horseshoes.

Me: Agreed.

Jack: Lets jump rope.

Some of the kids drawings .

Me: Okay.

Jack: Lets draw with chalk.

Me: Awesome.

Jack: I will draw a river going down the steps.  You will draw fish.

Me: Sure.

Jack: Let's play tennis.

Me: Cool.

Jack: Can you swing higher than me?

Me: Probably not.

Jack: If I put this toy around your ankle can you jump it?

Me: Ummm...

Jack: Nevermind let's go draw some more.

Me: Cool!

More sidewalk art!

Jack and I spent the bulk of the night drawing on the sidewalk in chalk.  We were joined by the other kids and they eventuallyy worked out a drawing contest.  Little introvert Jack, much like little introvert me, was included in the group.  Though much like me he also stepped away a bit to draw by himself.

So as not to get any little ones on film I handed them my iPhone so they could take the pictures.  After a little instruction they proved to be naturals. Those are their sidewalk drawing, and Jack took the picture of me sitting cross legged on the ground on the front page.

Volunteering Journal #89 - Tree Musketeers

Climbing Trees next to LAX. I had the pleasure of volunteering for an organization founded by kids for kids called Tree Muskeeters.

The young Musketeers plant trees, care for them, and hopefully pass on the lessons they learn to adults.

I always tell people that one of the best things about volunteering is how much you learn in the process - you can even get job training by volunteering.  My educational focus on this particular day was tree care (because some day I’m going to have fruit trees).  Since we were doing tree maintenance I didn’t think the arborist would mind being harassed.

The Tree Musketeers Arborist James was very accommodating as I peppered him with tons of annoying questions like “What is the tree that looks like it’s catching fire?”

One should never mention fire around a California Arborist.

When the panic subsided he said, “Oh the bottlebrush tree.  Yes, hummingbirds love that tree.”

She really likes trees

And I love hummingbirds so this is good.

He told me that he was in the park so often to care for the trees that the hummingbirds had gotten to know him.  They would give him an elevator greeting.

“What’s an elevator greeting?”

He said that they will swoop in and hover, considering him for a second, and then shoot straight up.

I then had far too many questions about hummingbirds.

I continued my question barrage at him and our teenage team leader Sammy as we pulled up weeds and grass in a two-foot radius around each tree and then put down a berm of mulch.  The mulch keeps the tree well hydrated, and also prevents weeds growing which zaps trees of needed nutrients.

Sammy and I put down mulch

It was fun.  I got dirty.  I climbed some trees.

Organizations founded with child volunteers in mind are few and far between.  Most groups will allow children so long as they are accompanied by an adult.  Never assume - always call ahead before bringing your children – for their safety as well as yours.

The Los Angeles War Against Public Gardens

Los Angeles Garden

One of the most touching projects I’ve done in the last 89 volunteer missions was the day I worked with LA Green Grounds. In April we planted a garden in the food dessert that is South Central Los Angeles.  Angel Teger and her family allowed LAGG to plant the garden in her yard and the parkways (area in between the sidewalk and street) lining the property. 

In late July the 8th District of LA slapped Teger with a notice to pull up the garden in parkways in 48 hours or else. I contacted Angel for her side of the story.

Tell me about the moment you got the notice from the city…

It was a very upsetting experience.  It was Monday, July 22nd and my son and I had just gotten into my car to run some errands.  I started my car and was about to pull out into the street when I heard excessive and aggressive honking right behind me.  I looked out my driver’s side window and there was a man standing there, with no badge or uniform to identify him as a city employee. He said “I need to talk to you about your garden.”

 I wasn’t sure what was going on.  He said that his supervisor had called him over the weekend, specifically about my garden.  He even made a point of identifying other planting violations within eyesight of our corner, but said that it was our garden that was a problem.  He told me I had 48 hours to pull everything out of the parkways.  When I told him that was impossible – my husband works during the day and it’s just me at home, there’s no way I could do all of that in 48 hours, he said he didn’t care who did it, that it had to be done, and if I didn’t take care of it he would come back and take care of it himself.

What were you growing in this problematic garden?

We’ve harvested chard, kale, eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini, mustard greens, string beans, honeydew melon, chili pepper, banana pepper, bell pepper, cucumber, tomatoes, bok choy¸ nectarines and strawberries.  The cantaloupe will be ready any day now.

Tiny ones plant Angel Teger's Garden

So the city wanted you to pull up a food-producing garden. What was the condition of your yard before the LA Green Grounds event in April?

Our property sat vacant for over a year before we bought it.  The land hadn’t been cared for in so long, it was hard as rock and overgrown with weeds. People would leave their trash on the parkways – fast food containers, beer bottles, dog poop.  It was awful.

What did your neighbors think of this rouge garden and city violation?

The response from the neighborhood has been overwhelmingly positive.  It started on our dig-in day, with neighbors coming by to show their support – donating food to our volunteers, dropping off bottled water, and even grabbing shovels and digging in right there with us. 

Since we planted it (almost four months ago), we’ve met so many of our neighbors.  Some make a point of taking their daily walks past our house so they can see how things are growing.  A lot of the neighborhood kids come by and pick strawberries or take zucchini, squash, cucumbers or tomatoes back home for their families. 

Every day that we are out in the garden – without exception – someone stops to tell us how much they love the garden, or how they want to do the same.  It’s been a wonderful way to connect with people.  After all, it’s food we’re growing out there – the most basic of human needs.  It makes sense that an edible garden would bring us together and grow community.

A fast growing protest started on Facebook when Angel reported her community created garden was being threatened. 

The LA City Council, without explanation, backed down from its demand that the garden be pulled up. Why do you think they really backed down from pulling up the parkway?

I’m not really sure.  I don’t know why they had such a problem with it to begin with and I don’t know why they backed off.  But, I think that support for parkway gardens like ours and the urban agriculture movement in general has grown tremendously. (A shout out here for Ron Finley and his TED talk which is what inspired me to get involved with LA Green Grounds and made this garden a reality.) 

After we received the violation, Ron started a Facebook campaign urging supporters to contact Bernard Parks, the Councilman for my neighborhood, and ask him to save our garden.  I know that made an impact because Councilman Parks’ office immediately came out to my home and got involved.  Then Steve Lopez’s article came out in the LA Times, drawing attention to the fact that the Herb Wesson, City Council President, had vowed to change the laws to allow for parkway gardens TWO YEARS AGO and nothing had changed.

Ron Finley

What can we do now to bring food justice to LA and the rest of the country?

A simple step is for the [Los Angeles] City Council to update the parkway planting guidelines to allow for fruits and vegetables.  But, after two years, they’ve been unable to follow through. 

The City of LA has a really wonderful opportunity here to promote better health and nutrition for its residents by allowing us to grow food and build community in areas that really don’t have access to good food options.  South LA doesn’t have to be a food desert.  We can change that. 

Our little garden has come to symbolize a movement that the City of LA should embrace – growing your own food to take control of your diet and health; building strong communities in which neighbors look out for one another and share resources; reconnecting with nature and taking care of our own little piece of the planet while we’re lucky enough to be on it.  These are all good things that are worth fighting for, but we shouldn’t need to fight.

What happened to Angel is not unusual. 

But just like in Angel’s case, city and governments can always be pushed by the people. 

Food Justice For Everyone

Volunteer Journal #88 - Central Kentucky Radio Eye

Listening to the radio with my brother... When I heard about a little radio station in Kentucky called Central Kentucky Radio Eye, which uses volunteers to read printed news stories for the blind I immediately wanted to help out.  Besides being from Kentucky, I like to read :)

I contacted them and they had another suggestion - why don't I tell stories from TheGoodMuse and some new ones to break up their regular news programming.

Thus followed anxiety where I pondered over the right stories to tell and then how was I going to record it without knowing anything about recording.

Then I realized I needed to get over it.  I was doing this for other people.  No time for ego trippin'.

So one night I sat down at my computer, hit record on the GarageBand program, and tried to keep the cat off the pages I was reading.  You can hear the results.  One take, no edits, just me reading stories about growing up in Kentucky, living in California, and some adventures - volunteering and otherwise.  I hope it sounds okay.

You can listen to it live 5:30pm EST on June 25th, 2013 HERE

or

Here's a link to the stories:

My SuperChangeYourLife Interview

I just did an interview with Stanley Bronstein from Superchangeyourlife.com . We talked about what gets me up in the morning, my favorite groups I've worked with, what happens when it all goes wrong, what poverty looks like in America, and much much more...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMCxqG5X3t0&feature=player_embedded

Raegan Payne SuperChangeYourLife Interview

My Wish List for the 100

Me & My Buds In Alaska! I’ve only got a few projects left on my way to 100. As I’ve suggested before I have no idea right now what I’m going to be able to do or how I’m going to finish this list.  It will get done though.

These non-profits are on my wish list both national and international. I’d love to work with them someday:

Green Bronx Machine - - Stephen Ritz is an inspiration. Teaching kids how to grow their own vegetables in school and helping them become entrepreneurs in the process.

Living Lands and Waters – This Illinois group travels up and down the Mississippi cleaning up the river.  It reminds me of Huck Finn.

Surfrider – I’ve worked with Heal the Bay lots (technical term), but haven’t gotten to this national ocean saving organization yet.

Always Vote TheGoodMuse

Best Friends Animal Society – the Utah Sanctuary – They originated the Puppy Mill Protests I participated in years ago.  They rehabbed the Michael Vick Dogs.

Gleaners Community Food Bank in Southeast Michigan – I’ve worked with Food Forward in LA, but this group feeds the needed of Detroit with really innovative programs.

The Taos Land Trust http://www.taoslandtrust.org/pages/volunteer_info.html - Because much of my family has settled around this haunting beautiful section of New Mexico.

I’d love to work with Veterans in Murray Ky – Serving meals, telling stories, whatever they need.  This is where my grandfather hung out before he passed on.

Be the Match – Marrow/Stem Cell Donation – After 3 years on the donor list I’m a possible match for a 57 year old woman.  Will find out in a few months.

And the international groups:

Goonj – The ULTIMATE REUSE REDUCE RECYCLE ALIEVIATE POVERTY group in India – they are doing brilliant

Hi!

Mercy Ships -  These ships are all over the world.  They bring medical relief to remote villages who might not otherwise see a doctor.

Royal Canal Cleanup – In Dublin, Ireland. I was suppose to work with them while I was there last May, but got one of my notorious May sinus infections.  They still send me emails.  I still want to help.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society - Because what little girl doesn't want to be a pirate?

TheGoodMuse Explains: FAQ Question - Why I Do This?

Princess Being Awesome “Why do you do TheGoodMuse?” “Why do this?” “What’s in it for you?” “What’s the ‘angle’?” “Who are you doing it for?”

I get asked the above a lot.  Often, with a fair amount of cynicism in the tone. Sometimes people ask these questions, and then cross their arms and lean back, like I'm about to try and sell them magic beans. A few times - they've looked at me with pity.

I think it’s interesting that I have to explain this, in this way, but here goes…

I did TheGoodMuse because it’s the right thing to do.  I did it because I believe that if you are in a position to do so it is your duty to lend a hand.

I did it because I needed help, so many times, so many many times, and it wasn’t available, and I didn’t want anyone else to feel that way ever. (P.S. Big props to those who did step up and helped me over the years).

I did it because I wanted to help and always said I would when I became a big artist, but then realized – woulda, shoulda, coulda – if I wasn’t willing to help now when would I?

I do this because so many people want to help society, but less than 1% can write checks or go buy a table to a fancy fundraising banquet, luncheon, or event.  Everyone can give time.

I did not do it because I wanted to write a blog about what a good person I am. Totally debatable.

I did not do it because I naively thought I could solve all the world’s problems.

But I did do it to create a ripple in the pond.  And because - “Be the change.” Seriously. Be the freakin change people.

”How am I going to “capitalize” on it?” “How can I afford to do it?” “Do I realize there is not a market for this?”

I get asked a version of these questions several times a week at least.

I’m a southern girl. We don’t talk about money. It’s not polite. But just so I don’t have to be subjected to these again…

I am not a trust fund baby.  I am not a kept woman or a lady who lunches.  I am a doer.

I don’t make money on this.  I work other jobs.  This is an artistic pursuit.  An act of  and study on humanity.  A reason to get off the couch. My hobby. My passion.  I’m a good writer - this is how I release my artistic expression.

I’ve been smirked at because I haven’t monetized TheGoodMuse.  My question to the smirkers is: Why does everything have to be about money? You don’t get paid for breathing and still you do it.  Same deal.

Photo from the Vault. The little author in San Fran.

“Why don’t you film it?” or “Why don’t you have more pictures?”

I am actually doing the physical volunteer work, many times by myself.  I only have two hands.  Taking time away to film takes time away from the service project.  I try to take some pictures.  I hope that’s okay.

“How do you find the time?”

I’ve been denied jobs because of this one. HR finds the blog and then somehow think I can’t manage to have a hobby and work at the same time.

I don’t drink, smoke, do drugs or really socialize that much.  Think how much time is saved when you never have to recover from a hangover. And then think about what good you could do with that extra time.

I also don’t have kids.  I have a cat – Princess.  She is very low maintenance.

“Are you sorry for spending time volunteering, and doing this instead of writing another play, TV show pilot etc.?”

I can’t work all the time.  Again hobby, free time, release. I would not trade what I have learned doing this blog for a full paid 2 years Masters Degree from Oxford.

As artists, many of us wake up and wonder: “Did my art make an impact?”  “Did I change the way people think?”  In this project I know I’ve been 100 percent successful because I know I’ve impacted at least one person. I’ve heard from them.  I can live the rest of my days happy knowing that.

“Are you naïve?”

Look – It’s the right thing to do.

I believe that the good guy should win.  People / Non-Profits / Groups should be recognized for doing good and working hard.  Which they do.  With very little praise or notice.

I also believe: Fracking destroys drinking water.  Fur is evil and the people who wear it should learn to read. Vegetables = yum.  Reading is good. Princess is awesome. Comedy cures most ills. The sky is blue and water should be as well.

 

Taking it all in...

“What’s next?”   And most importantly: “How are you going to finish 100?”

I’m going to finish 100 volunteer projects by the end of the year.  I do have my list of charities I would like to work with someday, but I don’t know which exact ones will match my limited resources. I like finding new groups and look forward to the challenge.

There might be very little fan fare or celebration when I get this done.  But it will get done. And then I’ll probably keep going, but at a slower pace.

“Would I recommend someone else to try the same thing? “

Absolutely, there is no better way to explore the world than by helping people.

Remember -If you’re not going to do something now.  If you’re not willing to do something now.  You’re never going to do it.

Have a great day.

Volunteer Journal #87 –LA Green Grounds & Ron Finley

TED 2013 superstar, Our new crush. Last year when LA Green Grounds sent out a call for volunteer gardeners 5 people responded.

Then in early March 2013 a founding member of LAGG, Ron Finley, gave what is arguably one of the best inspirational speeches ever delivered on the famed TED Long Beach stage.

He spoke about planting gardens in South Central LA - making gardens, local food, and growing your own sexy and gangsta.  Ron’s TEDTalk went viral.

In early April LA Green Grounds sent out a notice for volunteers – in less than 4 hours they had 300 responses. And inconceivably enough, for any group of do-gooders, had to turn people away.

The before digging picture

Sensing this would be the case after I watched the speech 20 times I:

a) Contacted Ron Finley directly.

b) Set the LA Green Ground email as a special alarm on my phone so I could jump as soon as I got the volunteer request. I did jump – unfortunately while I was baking rosemary crackers, which burned.  I responded within 5 minutes and got into the April 21st LAGG Earth Day “Dig In.”

It’s a great world we live in when planting a garden in South LA is a harder ticket to obtain than a red carpet event.

For the April 21st Dig In LA Green Grounds renovated a yard and 3 sections of parkway – turning them into an edible garden.

http://youtu.be/4PO9CvnmZTQ

I dragged my friend Sara along – reminding her we had committed to 7/8 hours of work.  And work we did – we shoveled, and pick axed (in truth I’m not great with a pick ax), moved brinks, shoveled more, picked out weeds, put in baby plants, and shoveled some more. We had a fantastic time, though both of us had trouble lifting our arms that night.

Not to disappoint Ron Finley showed up and so did cameras. Lots of cameras.  A virtual paparazzi followed his every move whether demonstrating the proper use of said pick ax or pulling baby beet plants apart.

All the ladies with shovels say hey!!

While catching his breath near the mulch pile he told me the biggest difference in the last two months is that he slept before the TEDTalk.

The cameras, and all the attention are a bit odd to him. They are a bit odd to the entire tight knit group of LA Green Grounds founding members.  They were a renegade-grassroots-group-of-garden-graffiti-artists, and friends, that challenged the LA City Council. Now they’re rock stars. Almost overnight.

They’re learning. They’re growing. They all get they’re hands dirty. They’re trying to not let it get to their heads.  They’re still going to need you guys so don’t stop requesting to volunteer, find a renegade garden group in your town, or better yet – start your own.

To contact LA Green Grounds go to their website, be patient, and set an alert on your email. It's worth it!