On Thursday I spent five hours sitting in an office.
I stuffed 500 envelopes with papers, folding the pages just so and labeling the envelopes to be sent to residents.
And when I was finished at about 4 p.m., I walked out of the office feeling a little hungry, a little tired—and really proud of myself.
This is the fourth time I have participated in Patch’s Give 5 program, when local editors and other staff members spend a day volunteering with a non-profit organization that impacts their communities.
And, honestly, it never gets old.
This time, I volunteered at , which is based in the People Care Center on Finderne Avenue. The organization pairs tutors with adults, and works to promote literacy through student-centered tutoring.
The organization is non-profit, does not pay its tutors and subsists mostly on donations.
When I got to the offices Thursday, I did not know what to expect. I knew I wouldn’t be doing any actual tutoring because I did not have the training.
Although the requirements to be a tutor only mandate that volunteers have a high school education and the ability to read and write English, there is a 15-hour course required before taking on any students—I had obviously not completed any of the training.
So I was told that I would either be stuffing envelopes or making phone calls.
I headed over to the offices at 11 a.m., and, after first going to the wrong room in the building, found the right spot, where I was told I would be stuffing envelopes in the main office where the organization’s office manager and another volunteer were working throughout the day.
Apparently, we are coming up on the 30th anniversary of the Literacy Volunteers, and the organization will be hosting a comedy show. So the mailing included a flier concerning the show, as well as a letter explaining the organization and discussing the need for donations to keep it running.
For hours, I folded the papers together, included an envelope to be sent back if the recipient chooses to donate, and placed the return address sticker on the envelope before putting the package aside to be sent later.
I admit it was a tedious process, but, while I was there, I got a first-glimpse look into how the organization is run—and the fun people have while there—and it was definitely worth it.
Throughout the afternoon, the volunteers made calls to tutors, asking them to continue updating their information about who they are tutoring and how many hours they work, while also calling possibly tutees to set up times to be tested.
Those wanting to be tutored take a test prior to beginning the sessions so that the organization can see where they stand in their knowledge of the English language. Once the assessments are evaluated, they are matched with tutors.
And calls were also made to tutors about an upcoming meeting to help them better work with their students.
It’s an incredible operation to observe because there is so much going and so many people involved—and those working in the office get a lot done while spending their days listening to music, joking with each other and just having a great time volunteering.
There are currently a couple hundred tutors registered, but, unfortunately, far more people needing the services. At this point, students often have to wait at least six months before they can be matched with a tutor, and there are about 100 students waiting.
Students are required to make a year commitment to the program, but that can be altered based on the student’s progress.
It’s a huge undertaking to be involved in such a process, and a rewarding one at that.
I’m glad I had the chance to play even a small part in helping move the organization forward.
For more information, and how to be involved, visit the website at literacysomerset.org.