By: Marissa Levin, an EO DC member
Last summer, I approached our chapter Board with an idea to jump-start a community service initiative that would enable members to come together to serve our region’s neediest. What started as a single event has now evolved into a “community within a community” that I branded as EO-DC CARES (Community Allstars Responding, Engaging and Serving).
My vision for EO-DC CARES is to “be the flagship model for other EO chapters to establish a community service outreach initiative.” Eventually, EO-CARES will become a standardized component of all EO chapters.
The mission for CARESis “to create and strengthen the bonds among EO-DC members and to provide opportunities for members to lift where they stand through meaningful community service initiatives.” I’m proud to say that we are now living our mission.
Recently, members of the CARES community have served together at So Others Might Eat (www.some.org) , one of Washington DC’s largest homeless and transitional shelters. So Others Might Eat has served Washington, DC for over 40 years, working to:
- Feed and clothe DC’s homeless and poor
- Treat ill, homeless people at our medical, dental and mental health programs
- Train people for jobs and house homeless families and single adults
Our teams of chapter members, Accelerator participants, Board members, spouses, and children showed up to SOME on two separate days to work the kitchen, prepare meals, and serve lunch to a total of almost 1,000 homeless.
One of the most rewarding benefits of CARES is the ability to see participants engage in a meaningful way outside of traditional EO events. Accelerator participants feel more emotionally connected to the chapter, members have stepped up to volunteer with our Accelerator program after spending time with Accelerator participants, and spouses have now engaged in a new way.
After both events, I surveyed participants to learn what they thought of their experience, how we can improve it, and how likely they were to volunteer again. 100% of participants will serve again, and many wanted to get involved on a one-on-one basis as well. Here were some of the answers:
How did your participation make you feel after your service?
“Grateful for my business, family and greater community.”
“It always feels good to serve others.”
“Glad to meet the folks that work there and that enjoy the food that Chef prepares.”
“Great. I felt like they appreciated it.”
“I felt great and was thankful for all I have.”
“I felt a little more grounded. This time of the year is crazy. It helped me slow down and gain some much needed perspective.”
“Great, always able to learn more and very impressed with the people at SOME after donating for many years.”
“Really glad I participated and hope to do more things like this in the future. Felt like it was a great venue outside of normal EO events to get to know other members and do something positive for the community we live and work in.”
“Fantastic, and thankful.”
“Grateful that I possess the skills to create actions to achieve my goals.”
As momentum grows, I continue to see increasing interest from members, and I continue to receive suggestions on how we can serve.
Sadly, there will never be a shortage of organizations that serve our nation’s neediest. Volunteers are a lifeline for these organizations. As EO members, we know that we must be the change that we wish to see in the world. As EO members, we know that it is often the smallest communities that can bring about the greatest change.
Imagine for a moment if EO had a CARES day every quarter – a single day in which every chapter around the world served our neediest populations. Imagine the impact we could make.
I am truly grateful to our Board for supporting the CARES vision, and for giving so many the opportunity to “lift where we stand.”
If you would like to launch a CARES initiative in your chapter, please contact me at [email protected] and I will help you get it going.
How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these. ~George Washington Carver