If I have one complaint about our move to Plattsburgh, it is about volunteerism. An odd one to complain about, I know. But one near and dear to my heart.
Volunteerism is just something that is a given in my life. I have no memory of the first time I volunteered, because I was too young and not really given a choice in the matter. But what I do know, is that volunteerism have been a part of my life since I was old enough to plan my own activities. In college, it was volunteerism that directly led to my decision to take a year off and live in Santa Cruz and ultimately the goat farm. It was volunteerism that led to my masters and my career choice. So it should come as no surprise that within a week of my arrival I had volunteered to serve on a City committee and written to the local Planned Parenthood to ask about volunteer activities.
One of the things I spent my summer working on was exploring volunteerism as a way to help alleviate the City’s budget crisis. The local hospital has a thriving volunteer program, with a full time volunteer coordinator. And that is pretty much it for volunteer programs locally. There are some special events with a dedicated volunteer corps, but some of those leaders recently got so burned out that they handed off their event to the City.
The City now has a part-time volunteer coordinator (she is a full-time employee, but the volunteer coordination is only a portion of her responsibilities). But her program is just getting put together.
I mention this because Planned Parenthood took months to respond to my inquiry. At first they eagerly responded. I filled out their volunteer application and waited. I waited literally for several months. And that was after several emails from me asking what was up. I was finally able to get an interview by sharing my frustrations with someone within the organization. The interview went well. The two women I met with were excited about what I could bring to the organization. And that is the last I heard from them. My one follow-up email has never received a response.
With my mobility limitations from my broken foot, I paused my search for volunteer opportunities for a bit. But recently I read about a new coding program for girls being launched in the area. The program is run through the Peru School District, so I contacted them. They eagerly responded and asked for my contact information to pass on to the person running that program. And as you may have guessed, it has been crickets since then.
The North Country has a long standing issue with brain drain. Yes, lack of jobs are a major contributor to that trend. But in my short time here, I have met 3 natives who left to go to school and launch their careers. But they all wanted to come back, so made choices that allowed them to work their way back to Plattsburgh. The one thing these people all have in common are that they are very active in the community. They serve on commissions and legislatures.
I am fully aware that volunteers are not free. I understand that their care and feeding takes time and resources. But they are an investment in community, and that is worth a lot. It is not an accident that the one thriving volunteer program is the one that the organization has invested resources into.
I continue to volunteer with the City. And I will happily offer my time to Planned Parenthood and Girls Who Code should they decide to contact me. I just wish things were different here.