Volunteering: How I’ve benefitted and how to get involved

How I define volunteerism:

To volunteer is to give oneself to help another, and in the process helps oneself.

As a kid, my family relied on the generosity, and volunteerism, of those in my community. I have always been grateful for this.

And I wanted, and want, to return this.

So, how could I offer my skill as a photographer to help others?

I found a resource called VolunteerMatch. It’s a great resource where your skills and experience are matched with an organization in need. And this is how I found the Phoenix Residence.

The Phoenix Residence all started with a group of parents seeking a better life for their grown children who had developmental and physical disabilities.

The Phoenix Residence, Inc. (PRI) was formed 1974 and opened in October 1977 as a private non-profit facility for adults. The original flagship facility served 51 individuals that required an accessible barrier free living environment. Individuals had a spectrum of cognitive abilities ranging from borderline to profound intellectual challenges. Most, if not all, individuals that resided at PRI were totally physically disabled and required personal support to assist with all activities of daily living. Many individuals were also considered medically fragile.

In the late 80s, PRI sought approval from the Department of Human Services in 2003 to relocate individuals to small 6-bedroom homes in communities near family and friends. The relocation project was successful with the final home opening in 2005.

And this is where I came in.

They asked me to photograph these homes and the board of directors of PRI. Like all organizations, it’s important to market well. For this organization, it is critical to receive the funding and support they need.

Honestly, the list of 19 homes seemed a little daunting at first—especially, on a couple of occasions, the resident staff charged out wondering what it was I was up to!

So with the list of homes in my hand, I set out across the Twin Cites photographing these homes. Honestly, the list of 19 homes seemed a little daunting at first especially, on a couple of occasions, the resilience staff charged out of the house wondering what I was up to!

I wanted to capture their warmth by coaxing this out in their expression.

The “assignment” also included shooting the board of directors. I set up at the location where the board meeting was being held, and captured all members. What a great bunch of people. Ranging from accountants, to actors, to doctors. I wanted to capture their warmth by coaxing this out in their expression.

I started working with PRI almost three years ago now and continue to support them as needed. It’s a great organization and I’m prod to be able to help them. I’ve also extended at no cost work to other organizations and may blog about those experiences later.

This is a great organization that has profound impact on the surrounding communities. Suffice it to say, I get back more than I give…