Q: How did you get involved with Rebuilding Together East Bay-North?
Years ago I was having dinner with my family at the El Cerrito Plaza Chevy’s restaurant (I told you it was years ago!) and there was this rather animated and boisterous group at a table near us. They were all wearing “Christmas in April” t-shirts, were dirty, and happily talking about their project. It stuck with me and I kept coming back to that group of people who obviously were excited about their hard and dirty work! So, I researched what the program was all about and (it must have been around 2000) got a group of folks together to work on a project.
I work at UC Berkeley at the Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science. I thought it might be a good idea to get my young postdoctoral scientists out of their labs for a day and introduce them to community service. So, I think the first three times I organized groups it was with these Miller Postdoctoral Fellows.
In more recent years I have also organized teams of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to participate. It has become an almost annual event on the NorCal Peace Corps Association calendar!
Q: What can you tell us about the last project you worked on?
This year we had a great project for our group. Our task was to clean out a back yard that had become overwhelmed by a lot of accumulated “stuff” that didn’t need to be there and a lot of overgrown vegetation. We came in like gang-busters and went to work. I wish we had taken before and after photos. We cleared. We pruned. We pulled weeds. We filled a dumpster! Hopefully we left the homeowners with a cleaned up yard that will allow them to enjoy the space and start some new projects of their own!
Q: In your experience, what’s the most rewarding part of volunteering with Rebuilding Together?
I really enjoy a day of hard physical work and the huge sense of accomplishment that comes once the job is done. I also like the camaraderie of working with a team. My postdoc teams are already connected through our Institute, but the Peace Corps teams often include volunteers who may or may not already know each other. The thing about Peace Corps volunteers though is that they have no problem jumping right in to join in a group to enjoy the shared experience – whatever it may be. And, they are not afraid of hard and dirty work!
Q: If you could pick one renovation skill to learn, what would it be and why?
Hmmmm, well, I’d hate to practice my limited skills on any of the homeowners associated with RTEBN! I can do some painting and I’m good at yard work, but I’m not sure I’m game to do much more critical renovation work for others. I’d be cautious of offering me a hammer.
Q: What would you say to someone who is thinking about volunteering, but hasn’t made the decision yet?
What’s stopping you? Alone you can easily find a willing group to welcome you into the fold. I’ve never seen a group turn down a willing volunteer!! Or, get a few friends together and find out just how much fun it is to work hard for a family really in need of the help!
You don’t need expert skills, just willing hands and able body. I always feel so virtuous after I’ve completed my annual work day with Rebuilding Together. And the aching muscles I always succeed in achieving help me feel virtuous for at least a day or two longer!
Many thanks to Kathy for her tireless support! If you’re interested in volunteering, you can sign up online by visiting our Volutneer Sign-up page.