Addendum: We received the following email regarding Volunteer Odyssey so here’s your chance to sign up:
It’s easy to get discouraged when you look at the rankings and seeing that Memphis is losing ground with 25-34 year-old college-educated workers.
But then, we are encouraged by how many people are working hard to change things. More than anything, we need to support and amplify programs like The New Memphis Institute’s Summer Experience, Temple Israel’s summer talent program, and now, Volunteer Odyssey.
We learned about this project a couple of weeks ago from its founder, Sarah Petschonek, and it’s an interesting, useful addition to the programs in Memphis that aim to do what works best in keeping talent here: helping these crucial workers put down roots.
Ms. Petschonek’s idea is to create an experience in which someone in this demographic visits one nonprofit organization a day for a specific period of time. Before she launched Volunteer Odyssey, she test drove it herself with 30 volunteer visits over 30 consecutive days, and her experience made for fascinating reading at Confessions of a Volunteer.
Paying It Forward
She’s now taking applications for others to participate in her truncated program – seven days with seven blogs so we can “read along as each volunteer takes a one-week whirlwind tour of the Memphis non-profit scene. “
The Volunteer Odyssey website calls it “a seven-day volunteering/blogging tour of the Memphis non-profit scene. While open to everyone, this program is specifically geared for those between jobs who are on the hunt for their next great opportunity and looking for a way to give back in the process. The program is time intensive, requiring 6-8 hours daily during the Odyssey Week. It’s our hope that those who complete the program will become more involved with the Memphis non-profit scene, sharpen their job skills, and ‘pay it forward’ within Volunteer Odyssey by mentoring the upcoming participants during their own Odyssey Week.”
According to Ms. Petschonek, it’s a win-win-win project, with participants sharpening their marketable skills: sharpening their marketable job skills: relationship-building, communications, marketing and social media. Meanwhile, the nonprofit organizations staff gets people for hard-to-fill weekday volunteer slots, recruits a longtime volunteer, taps into the young professional network of Memphis, and creates creative marketing through the blogging and word-of-mouth.
In addition, the city and the region have a way to deal with attracting, retaining, and developing “the bright, creative, professional minds of Memphis” “Give them an opportunity to bond with our incredible non-profits, with other Volunteer Odyssey participants, and show them the best thing about Memphis: It’s just big enough to have all the great amenities and just enough of that home town feel that you can actually make a difference,” the website said.
The most recent post is by Rivers Powers. He wrote: I’ve always been an incredibly driven person, and growing up, my days were beyond filled with school, sports, art lessons, piano lessons, homework, and hobbies. When I got my first job in Corporate America after I graduated from law school, I didn’t have time to do any of the things I enjoyed because I was working 50-60 hours a week. After years of doing nothing but work with no real down time and missing my friends and family, I made the very risky decision to pack up and move to Memphis without a job.
“It is so easy to day dream in your cubicle of all the amazingly fun things you will do with your free time, but the TV watching, catching up on sleep, and socializing gets old very quickly. I feel very blessed to have met one of the greatest people I will ever know during that time in my life and fortunate that my friend and I share an interest in making our community better for ourselves and everyone else who lives in and visits Memphis. So here I am, 32 years old, willingly and excitedly spending my last Spring Break on a Volunteer Odyssey, eager to see where my journey will lead me….”
We’re eager to see where these journeys lead as well, and we’re even more eager to see Memphis through the eyes of the demographic group we most covet. There’s nothing more valuable when we’re trying as a community to develop ways to respond to this talented group and keep them in Memphis.