And the grand total is….

Well, it’s done. My grand experiment that I began 52 weeks ago is finally coming to a close.

 

And to be completely honest, I’m a little bit relieved.

 

It’s not that I haven’t loved volunteering my way through 6 states, 1 District (of Columbus!) two provinces (That’s Canadian for ‘state!’)  and two countries (USA + Canada!). I really had a great time meeting all kinds of different people and helping out in so many different ways.

 

And it’s not that I haven’t loved the projects: from writing letters to the elderly and homebound for Valentines Day in Hawaii, to cleaning Cat Boxes in Columbus, to cooking a meal for the homeless in Boston, I’ve gotten to help out a wide variety of organizations on this little mission of mine.

2014-10-29 11.55.19 One of my favorite memories- cats all over!

But to be honest, at times, it was hard.

 

It was hard to find places that would let me work with them for only one month. It was difficult to be creative and find new ways to give back. It was hard to find the time in a busy touring schedule to go to places to volunteer, and then write about them here on the blog! Also, I missed around 12 weeks total due to injuries, travel, or just plain laziness.

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 6.08.51 PM

I had a good time being sorry for myself… then I moved on and finished strong.

All in all, it was as difficult as I anticipated it being, and then some. Every Monday I would go through what I would have to accomplish for the week, and inevitably the challenge I had given myself at the beginning the year would crop up in my head: “And you gotta find a place to volunteer this week Selena.” By the end of the year, this thought was thoroughly ingrained in my weekly planning.

 

And yet,  as I also had initially anticipated in the beginning, I have gained so much from this experience. I have had so much fun talking to people around the country about what their needs for volunteers are. Colony Cats in Columbus, for example, is always looking for volunteers. Turns out, it’s hard to get people to come in on their day off and scoop cat poop for cats waiting to be adopted. The Meals on Wheels in Hawaii where we dropped off our Love Letters campaign had never heard of it before, even though it was a nationwide movement, and was so very thankful (and surprised!) for our contribution.

 2014-01-20 12.15.24Love Letters everywhere!

It was eye opening to see how little people thought to give back every month as I went though the cities, and how surprised the locals were that someone on tour would take time to do such a thing.

 

I’ve also learned how difficult it is to maintain a weekly blog, even when the content is practically handed to you via your experiences during volunteering. I’m happy to find that I did get into a groove after about 10 months of the project (!), and I hope this trend will continue in the next year on my other blogs. (Shameless plug- Check out SelenaMoshell.com for the complete list of current  bloggies.)

 

As I look forward into 2015, I honestly can’t imagine that this will be the end of my volunteering journey. I feel like giving time to worthy organizations has become a part of who I am during this project, and it fills me with such joy and purpose that I know that I will feel incomplete if I don’t give back a little bit every month now that I’ve lived through a year of forcing myself to do it every week.

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 9.27.39 PM Volunteering can be silly too!

It probably won’t be as regimented as it was for this challenge, and I won’t have the added pressure to keep up a blog about my adventures, but I know I won’t want to miss out on the potential memories I will make volunteering as we continue to tour the country next year.

 

Oh, and what was my grand total for the year, you wonder? Well, I did too, and after a bit of maths….

 

I ended up volunteering 4,680 minutes, or 78 hours this year. Now, that’s including three days I spent with my niece helping out my sister, which at 8 hours per day for three days, that’s 480 minutes. If you want to be a stickler and subtract that from the grand total, if you don’t count helping out family members as volunteering (which I do!) I STILL came out at 54 hours- which puts me a 2 hours over my goal of 52 hours of volunteering for the year!!!

 Screen Shot 2015-01-17 at 3.27.49 PMYessssssss. (Thanks to Know Your Meme for this classic.)

When I added it up, I must say, I felt extremely happy with myself, but actually less so about the actual time put in, and more about the feeling of joy and fulfillment I felt looking over the past year of experiences I had gotten out of it. I never would have had those experiences without this project- I never would have learned about charities that reach out to the depressed, or a cafe that caters to the homeless, or a website that connects you to deployed soldiers who need care packages, or to the search engine that gives to charities while you search the web. My life has been forever changed through this year of giving just an hour a week, and for that I will be forever thankful.

 2014-07-06 18.24.41Our care package for the soldiers!

Thank you for following me on this year of giving. I hope I’ve inspired a few of you to try and do the same, and even if it’s not on this scale, giving on any level, for any increment of time, is truly it’s own reward.

2014-10-29 11.12.12

Week 51/52: A New Site

Project: A new 52 Hours a Year site

Actual Time Taken: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Well here we are, nearing the end of the weird little project I started 52 weeks ago. (I’m a little confused as to why this year added up to 51.5 weeks or so… probably a glitch in the Matrix or something… or I’ve just lost count. Who knows. Either way, this is my post for the last week of 2014, so it’s 51 and 52, I guess…)

But before I can actually count it as ‘done,’ I have one last week of an hour-long project to fill. It was hard to find things to volunteer for during the holidays between the extra shows we were performing and traveling home to see family, so for this last week I had to improvise.

You may have already noticed a bit of a visual change from the last few weeks, unless this is your first time. If it is, just take my word for it. It looked a little different before this week, as it was just a list of my posts in chronological order- every week of my volunteering adventures.

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Our former look

Now, hopefully, you can use this page as a resource for your own quest to change your corner of the world.

There’s a tab at the top of the page (“Find a Cause!) where you’ll find links to all the organizations I worked with this year. If it was a local speciality, it’s organized by state, but if it was a national charity, it’s filed under “Nationwide.”

There’s also a tab for you to help you choose how to make a difference based on the amount of time you have to give every week (“Give What Ya Got!”). Even if you’ve only got five minutes to spare a week, you can make a difference!

My hope is that if someone, somehow finds this page in the future and feels inspired to give a few hours to a good cause, that they can use these resources to make a difference in their part of the world.

Or, if that’s never the case, at least I can leave it a slightly more well manicured corner of the World Wild Interwebs.

Week 50: Toys for Tots Drop off and a surprise donation

Project: Toys for Tots and an unexpected donation

Actual Time Taken: 20 minutes

Our Toys for Tots box was soon overflowing with donations, which was awesome to see! I was planning on taking the donations to the local Toys for Tots drop off in my car because there was so many bags full of toys, until one of the cast members told me a hilarious story.

2014-12-19 17.53.36

So many donations! 

My friend had been at the Starbucks around the corner when she saw a Toys for Tots basket by the check out counter. She picked up two toys with the intention of buying them and donating them in our bin at the theater. She was all ready to pay for it when the woman behind the counter explained that Starbucks was also running a donation drive, and my friend was trying to buy other people’s donations!

So sweet, and so funny.

And this is how I learned that I could carry our donations from the theater to the Starbucks on the same block! So convenient!

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(Thanks to leatherndevil for this shot!)

So I did just that. I gathered up the bags and made one trip, and then went back and got the overflowing box and hauled it out of the stage door before I was stopped by a sweet local carpenter that I worked with backstage. He insisted on carrying the box of toys to Starbucks for me, so I took a few toys off the top of the pile and made the short walk to the coffee shop.

It took no time at all, compared to the drive I would have had to make had my friend not tried to buy the donations from Starbucks. Here’s to time saving mistakes!

~ ~ ~

Starbucks image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/leatherndevil/15702014876/