For the past several days my head has been filled with all sorts of things. That’s not unusual with a pending move in seven days to be exact. As the day gets closer, I’ve been thinking……
Mostly, I’ve been reflecting on my six years in Missouri, and it makes me laugh. I say that because six years ago I remember having conversations with people about Southeast Missouri. Since my husband works in the paper industry, we knew this was always a potential location for him as a transfer assignment with his company since there is a large facility here. I didn’t know much about the Midwest or Missouri but never thought I would want to live there. In fact, I remember being very vocal about it, no way, not happening, and forget it. Well it turns out that the guy who was supposed to take the position, left the company so they asked my husband to consider it. We drove out one weekend to check it out, looked at some houses and the rest is history. Be careful what you say because that’s exactly where we ended up. We both thought it would be a good career opportunity for him, and it most certainly has been.
My husband is the primary breadwinner in our relationship, which means that I reinvent myself with each move. It works because he has led us well, and I like change. I like to call living in Missouri my “otherness” experience. I say that because, Southeast Missouri has a culture all its own as most places do. It took some getting used to, but things turned out fine. I have to admit, I was very guarded, bored and lonely when I first arrived and it took me a while to meet people. I had my own preconceived ideas about Southeast Missouri. I was worried about my kids and how they would thrive in a town of 35,000 people. I’d never lived anywhere this small before. I didn’t work right away, so I had to be more intentional about getting out to interact with people. My kids were in school all day, so it was easy for me to get out and about.
A co-worker of my husband’s invited me to participate in a women’s group called GRACES. GRACES stands for Giving, Responsibly, Advocating for the, Community, Excelling in Service. It’s a Women’s Leadership Council that is engaged in the work of the United Way. The goal of GRACES is to unite women and their passion for service. I served on the Leadership Council for at least four of the six years in Missouri. They are a great group of women. My husband and I have been supporters of the United Way for many years.
GRACES focuses on two initiatives: Back Pack for Fridays and The Read to Succeed Program. The Back Pack program provided backpacks full of healthy meals and snacks once a week for the school year to elementary students whose families struggle to maintain food resources. The Read to Succeed Program positively impacts the reading level of kindergarten students to ensure they are reading on grade level by 3rd grade.
Through GRACES, I started out as a volunteer for the Read to Succeed Program, eventually moving on to be a Coordinator, and ultimately Program Director for the past two years. The Reading Program was just beginning when I came along. It’s been a fantastic ride to see a program in its infancy at one school evolve to a program in five elementary schools. It makes me feel so good inside to know that I was a part of something so meaningful. We worked with over 200 kindergarten students a year and the results have been exceptional. I’m going to miss the kids and all of the awesome people who partnered with us in this effort. I believe it will continue to grow beyond our wildest dreams.
It all started with volunteerism. GRACES helped me to connect to the community, and feel a sense of purpose for my time here in Missouri.
Everything happens for a reason, and I believe my time in Missouri was no mistake. My “otherness” experience soon became a “togetherness” experience.
So if you have the time, I strongly encourage you to volunteer if you are available because…..
1. It’s good for the soul.
2. It allows you to focus on life outside of your own.
3. You share your skills and talents with others.
4. You help others.
5. You can see the world from someone else’s perspective.
6. You meet some really great people.
7. It brings fulfillment to your life.
8. It helps to build confidence.
Volunteer opportunities are all around us, and they don’t have to be with a formal organization. It just needs to be a good fit for you.
Are you currently volunteering?
Have a great day!
Peace and Blessings,