Each year, Hiram College organizes an Alumni Volunteer Day in early September. It’s an opportunity for alumni across the United States to get together and work in their communities while also wearing free Hiram College t-shirts.
In Cincinnati, Ohio they made baby quilts for a children’s hospital. This afternoon in Chicago, Hiramites will be at Feed My Starving Children in Shaumburg. In Minneapolis/Saint Paul, we picked the hell out of some carrots.
Peter Piper has nothing on us.
During our time at Second Harvest Heartland, we worked side-by-side with a small volunteer team from Honeywell (you know, the people who made your desk fan and/or the guidance system for your ICBM) and managed to bag and box 4920 pounds of carrots–which makes about 4100 meals (although, I hope dinner isn’t just carrots).
Pull them out of a giant box. Weight them in 5 pound increments. Dump them into a bagger. Tie the bag. Put them in a box with six bags. Repeat for two hours. It doesn’t sound like hard work, but it wasn’t sitting at a desk all day either.
This was a big learning year, so here are the 15 things new things I picked up in 2015 (15 in 2015? Don’t steal this nifty idea, you guys):
Note: All citations of statistics on hunger are taken from Second Harvest Heartland’s Hunger Facts.
1. I don’t think I ate a single donut in my four years at Hiram, but now they are an integral part of the AVD experience. This year we got donuts from SugaRush in Saint Paul, which were fantastic. I’ve come to realize the whole non-profit volunteer economy is driven by exchanging labor for t-shirts and donuts.
2. There are 600,000 people in Minnesota and Wisconsin who are at risk of missing a meal every day. This isn’t, “I was sooooo busy at work today that I didn’t even take a lunch.” Instead, it’s people who miss a meal because they don’t have food or have skipped meals because they are afraid of running out of money before the next paycheck.
3. I enjoy AVD because I get to sleep in on a Saturday all the way until to 6:20 AM.
4. The worst drinking game ever is the one where each time Sting belts out “Roxanne,” you eat a carrot.
5. We do these things because it’s the right thing to do. It’s that sometimes we just need a little nudge–like a cruise director for good to get us organized and moving in the right direction. It’s easy to look at your job and life and just let yourself be too tired all the time to help. Hiram AVD is a reminder to get out of our own heads and into the community.
6. Hunger costs the state of Minnesota $1.6 billion (BILLION) in healthcare, hospitalization, medication, education and lost productivity at work or school. That’s a lot of money and a huge impact on a state – just imagine the impact in your own community.
7. Change is weird. “You changed your shirts?” was the second most popular question this year. The most popular was, “Where is Hiram?”
8. Last weekend, I was contemplating throwing out the shoes and jeans I am wearing today because I forgot why I was keeping them. It was reminder that I’m not doing enough physical labor. It’s nice to get lost in the routine and focus on other things like the cheesy 70s, 80s, 90s and today radio station–even if they play songs from when I was in college sandwiched between songs from the early 80s and essentially collapse the first 50% of my life into an seven minute, carrot infused, montage.
9. Second Harvest Heartland serves 532,000 people annually in Minnesota and Wisconsin. More than 33% are under the age of 18 and 10% are over the age of 60. So get this, 43% of the people getting assistance are the most vulnerable in our community.
10. I really enjoyed the music today. Nearly every song can be adjusted to be about carrots. I even considered an alternate title for this essay: Going Down the Rails on a Carrot Train. I did realize, that while Eddie Money and Van Halen makes great potential carrot tunes, Rush is a bit more challenging.
11. There are some weird looking carrots and some giant carrots. I saw one carrot so big that Tonya Harding probably could have had it used on Nancy Kerrigan.
12. Fiona and I had a discussion this morning about Fitbits being considered as jewelry at Second Harvest Heartland or not, and then I realized that either way it’s disgusting germ vortex just dangling out there on the end of my arm all of the time. It does, however, pose the existential question: if a Fitbit isn’t there to perceive its agent perform an act, did it actually occur in the physical plane. Did I actually do anything before my Fitbit was there to witness it? It doesn’t track carrot bagging so maybe this is all a dream.
13. I’m pretty sure I lost my innocence as a child when I realized Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner were just animated anthropomorphic prop comics.
14. Second Harvest Heartland’s partners served 74 million meals in 2014. This is roughly the equivalent of serving every person in Lorain, Ohio breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for an entire year.
15. When you think about what we accomplished today, it was great to help out. But wow, we made such a tiny contribution to an organization that helps parts of two states, that it’s hard to fathom how much money, effort and volunteer time it will take to solve the problems of hunger and food insecurity in the Twin Cities and across the United States.