When I moved to North County San Diego a year ago, I was unsure that there would be many places to pour my passion for life, chances to get to know people in the community, and times to be involved with what is going on. A lot of volunteer businesses have a hard time inviting new volunteers to help, or do not have strategies in place to explain how things are done well. In Michigan, where I am from, I volunteered at a shelter taking care of sick animals and nursing them back to health until they could be adopted. I found the shelter easily, and they accepted me gladly, but I wasn’t sure it would be the same in California. What I discovered instead is that there is a wide variety of volunteer opportunities in San Diego. (There is also this cool website that matches you with volunteer opportunities!) I found the Solana Center in Encinitas, California right away and volunteered there with my fiancé, Patrick, for a few weeks. I loved their focus on recycling, and most importantly, composting. Patrick and I cleaned garden beds, raked leaves and helped weed and trim the growing plants. It was great to see groups come through taking classes and increasing their interest in the center. Volunteering always puts a smile on my face at the end of the day.
When my son started school at R. Roger Rowe Elementary in Rancho Santa Fe, I was excited about the thought of even more community involvement. When the teacher sent three different emails about needing a ‘room parent’ to supervise events being planned, sign ups, and classroom crafts, I jumped at the opportunity. I emailed back (there hadn’t been any other replies) and I became the official ‘room parent’ for my son’s first grade classroom. I really had no idea what I was getting into, but I had been looking into volunteering in San Diego prior to moving, and since I could see my son during this volunteering time, I decided this would be perfect! After all, I have a big passion for educating children and watching my son grow!
As the school year began I became increasingly comfortable talking to new people, introducing myself, and responding to the “you’re so young” comments. (Yes, I am so young. I am 24 years old, and I look even younger than that!) My biggest challenge as a room parent, and it is something I have found with volunteering in San Diego in general, is getting different personality types to collaborate and understand each other. The actual signs up, emails and phone calls are quite simple. It is when no one can meet on the same day, everyone is signed up to bring something at an event except one or two things, or when more people try to get involved than necessary, that there are ever struggles. When the volunteers are put to the test sometimes personalities clash, and since everyone is taking time out of their busy schedules to help out, issues arise more quickly. As a volunteer you have to be delicate to others’ feelings while also getting the job done sufficiently. Overall I love volunteering in San Diego, especially as a room parent because I know what is coming up in the classroom, how it runs, and what to expect. This year the parents in my son’s class have been wonderful and very helpful!
When my son came home from school in the fall with a Cub Scout round-up flyer, I decided to support his enthusiasm and head over to the round-up. Little did I know that day, I would end up volunteering to be the Cub Scout leader for our new den of 9 boys! When I told my fiancé that I had signed up to be room parent and Cub Scout leader in the same year, he thought it was a little too much on my plate. But I was focused, and I’ve always had a caring heart. I love being involved in whatever people around me are doing, and I am always looking for ways to improve the lives of others. Scheduling Cub Scout camp outs, meetings, award ceremonies and more has been quite the challenge of the year, but with the help of 8 other moms who I have come to know really well, it was completely and totally worth it! The moments when everything that I planned comes together makes volunteering something that I will never quit doing.
As the school year came to an end, I started looking around Rancho Santa Fe for other volunteer opportunities and found Laughing Pony Rescue, a rescue horse ranch that helps abused horses get healthy and well again! I signed up to volunteer and within a week I was filling water buckets and throwing down hay for my favorite animals! My heart has always longed to help animals, especially horses, so this opportunity was easy for me to accept. Even though the school year is over now and I am no longer den leader for Cub Scouts or room parent for our classroom, I am always on the lookout for new places that need a helping hand for the summer. Some other North County San Diego organizations I have thought about volunteering at are:
There are so many wonderful organizations in San Diego that love having new volunteers. If you are looking for a place to spend a few hours a week giving back, San Diego definitely has what you’re looking for! Get out there and meet people, recognize your passions, and follow them with your whole heart. Let me know your favorite locations to volunteer and how your experience has been!