Help Increase your City and Country’s Volunteer Rate, Get Involved!

Although the Declaration of Human Rights established that people have an obligation to their community to volunteer, many people today do not fulfill their duties.

In fact, only 26 percent of Americans volunteered in 2010, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. This number is low in comparison to the large number of non-profit and charitable organization across the country, but about right when thinking of the limited number of people that can usually volunteer with one place or project.

- Picture from Corporation for National and Community Service

Picture from Corporation for National and Community Service

In Memphis the number is even lower at 24.8 percent. This number seems low because of the surplus of volunteer opportunities in Memphis. In a 2010 Food Research and Action Center report, Memphis ranked number one for food hardship. As a result, the city has many organizations that are dedicated to ending hunger, and many ways that people can get involved.

Since the volunteer rate in Memphis is seemingly low, it is shocking that Memphis ranks 38th  out of 51 large cities in the nation for volunteering.

Picture from Corporation for National and Community Service

Picture from Corporation for National and Community Service

Also, a majority, 50.5 percent, of the volunteering in Memphis is in a religious setting. This is typical because many people, not only in Memphis but in America as a whole, feel obligated to volunteer at church since churches are often close-knit.

The percentage of Memphians who participate in community service that helps non-profit organizations is less than 10%. This number is extremely sad, because non-profit organizations need the most help. They offer their services free of charge to anyone who needs them. Often, people who can volunteer with an organization have benefited from their services or know someone who has.

The volunteer rates in Memphis and in America are low. Every community offers a few ways that people can get involved. Don’t choose not to help. Americans have a duty to help their society and their community. It is time to start making a change.


Empty Bowls: A fight to end world hunger


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SHN New Logo

Every year artists around the world donate hand-painted and crafted bowls to help raise awareness and support local hunger and homelessness.

Empty Bowls projects originated in Michigan in 1990 when a class of high school students and their teacher wanted to find a way to raise money for a food drive. Now, there are Empty Bowl projects throughout the United States and at least 12 other countries.

In Memphis, artists created and donated more than 300 different bowls. at the Memphis project for guests to choose from.

“The empty bowl is a powerful symbol because guests leave the event with a literal empty bowl as a reminder of all the people in our community who face hunger,” Sarah Ranson, one of the co-chairs for the Memphis project, said.

Ranson said she and her co-chair, Jaime Winton, who is also an artist for the event, volunteer at a local food pantry. They decided to start this event because they saw the need for help with hunger in their community. She said the Empty Bowl project appealed to Winton because she wants to create “art as an act of compassion.”

“The event raises funds for hunger-relief agencies, but also raises awareness about food insecurity in our community,” Ranson said. “We hope guests will leave feeling empowered to do something about the problem.”

One in five people in Shelby County face food insecurity, which is higher than the national average of one in eight.

Donations from the Memphis Empty Bowls project were just over $18,000. The money was divided evenly between the nutrition education program of the Church Health Center, the Mid-South Food Bank, and the food ministries of St. John’s United Methodist Church.

“These organizations were chosen because of their work in combating hunger and striving for health for all members of our community,” Ranson said.

More than 70 people volunteered throughout the weekend to support the event.

“Memphis is one of the hungriest cities in the nation,” Christine Jehu, a volunteer for the project, said. “We have so much wealth next door to so much need.”

Jehu is a doctoral student at the University of Memphis. She said she heard about the project at her church and wanted to get involved.

“One of my passions is to raise awareness for people with food insecurities,” she said.

Ashley Baker, volunteer coordinator for the event, said she knew very little about Empty Bowls before helping with the project but was “interested in fighting hunger.”

“This project is very dynamic because it involves Memphians of various ages and backgrounds, raises awareness about hunger issues within our community and bonds each person involved with the common cause of ending our city’s hunger,” Baker said.

The Memphis Empty Bowls project was held Sunday November 11 at 5 p.m. at Church Health Center Wellness. A minimum donation of $20 was required to attend the event, but the cost included a soup and bread meal and one of the empty bowls that was donated.

There were a total of 300 tickets that could be sold to the event and they sold out. The event coordinators had a fundraising goal of $10,000 that was greatly exceeded.

“Because we sold out and had a high demand for tickets afterwards, we are looking for ways to expand our capacity so that we can increase ticket sales and participation in the event next year,” Ranson said.

For more information visit the Memphis Empty Bowls website or the National Empty Bowls website.

Mid-South Food Bank

Mid-South food bank logo-280

Mid-South Food Bank received $6,000 from the Memphis Empty Bowl Project, and that dollar amount will supply $4,800 meals around the city.

The organization partners with various soup kitchens, shelters, food pantries, youth and senior centers, and other organizations to supply meals to the people served by the organization.

Marcia Wells, communications director for the Mid-South Food Bank, said they help 407,000 people a year that usually do not have money for food or cannot get transportation to a place to buy food.

This year, the Mid-South Food Bank has been able to raise 12.3 million dollars to support their cause. Wells said that they have a “very generous, caring community” that contributed the funds to help them feed more people.

“We are proud to partner with them and hope they will make it an annual event,” Wells said.

University of Memphis Students Make Saturday Fun By Giving Back


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  1. hMac91
    My #UofMSOS group this afternoon after we volunteered at the Memphis Zoo @SAS_UofM

    Sat, Nov 10 2012 13:26:07
  2. hMac91
    “@UD_the_OG: Gave my new friend Everette my Memphis hat. #TigerFans #UofMSOS” I LOVe THIS!!!!

    Sat, Nov 10 2012 11:16:33
  3. SailingS0ul
    Volunteering at Habitat for Humanity #UofMSOS

    Sat, Nov 10 2012 10:41:42
  4. Uniquely_Framed
    Caught Pastor playing around! LOL then he said a prayer after we finished volunteering! #UofMSOS #ServiceonS

    Sat, Nov 10 2012 09:41:37
  5. Uniquely_Framed
    Minister James Wallace & I at the top! My group & I!! #UofMSOS #ServiceonSaturday #KeatingStreetMinistries

    Sat, Nov 10 2012 09:38:08
  6. MairAculous
    Hiding from @YoSoyGeorgio in my cubicle. #uofmSOS

    Sat, Nov 10 2012 09:30:31
  7. keonab
    I’m having so much fun at the Humane Society. #uofmsos

    Sat, Nov 10 2012 09:00:40
  8. hMac91
    #UofMSOS my group is having a blast! Pictured: Rachel working the gate at the zoo

    Sat, Nov 10 2012 09:24:23
  9. _Musical_Geek
    S/o to all the TIGERS doing #UofMSOS this morning! Way to go Tigers!

    Sat, Nov 10 2012 08:41:28
  10. Uniquely_Framed
    We organized over 10 boxes of clothes, coats, shoes, etc. Making a difference in our community! #UofMSOS #S

    Sat, Nov 10 2012 08:56:37
  11. SAS_UofM
    Great job #UofMSOS! Thanks for showin out!

    Sat, Nov 10 2012 08:27:07
  12. AngieNorwood1
    #UofMSOS Killin’ it this fine November morning! Keep it up y’all!!

    Sat, Nov 10 2012 08:25:20
  13. HurricaneYancy
    My volunteering group!! @SAS_UofM #ServiceOnSaturday

    Sat, Nov 10 2012 10:19:46
  14. NINO_liteBROWN
    #UofMSOS Lets get it in!!!!!!

    Sat, Nov 10 2012 06:49:54
  15. FireDreamin_

    Sat, Nov 10 2012 06:47:34
  16. _MelissaRose_
    Early service this morning with #UofMSOS !

    Sat, Nov 10 2012 06:36:58
  17. _his1Motivation
    Darian helping a little lady check out in Kroger. #childrensmuseum #communityservice #serviceonsaturday #EL1

    Sat, Nov 10 2012 08:07:36
  18. KayleeJWillis
    Early morning at #UofMSOS!

    Sat, Nov 10 2012 06:35:19
  19. SAS_UofM
    #UofMSOS #UofMSOS #UofMSOS

    Sat, Nov 10 2012 06:30:24
  20. SAS_UofM
    Get to #UofMSOS NOW!!!!

    Sat, Nov 10 2012 06:29:37
  21. hMac91
    Service On Saturday starts in an hour! Meet me in the River Room! #UofMSOS

    Sat, Nov 10 2012 05:39:09
  22. hMac91 sign up for Service On Saturday ! #UofMSOS

    Fri, Nov 09 2012 15:56:25
  23. SailingS0ul
    I just signed up on the ‘Service on Saturday: November 10’ page for Habitat for Humanity. via @SignUpGenius #UofMSOS

    Wed, Nov 07 2012 23:48:06
  24. SAS_UofM
    Who’s ready for Service on Saturday?? Tweet the official hashtag #UofMSOS and let us know!! If you haven’t, sign up @

    Tue, Nov 06 2012 12:35:37
  25. HurricaneYancy
    Volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters! @sas_uofm #ServiceOnSaturday

    Sat, Nov 10 2012 08:11:41
  26. BronteAlissaW
    Me and Darian helping out at the Children’s Museum for #ServiceonSaturday #EL1100

    Sat, Nov 10 2012 07:25:42
  27. _his1Motivation
    3 pieces of pizza and a pop!! Thank you #serviceonsaturday ���� #poorcollegestudenttweet ��

    Sat, Nov 10 2012 11:02:10
  28. _his1Motivation
    Children’s Museum. I’m dentist for the day �� #ServiceonSaturday

    Sat, Nov 10 2012 07:19:25

Marjorie Moore says Volunteering is Voting Everyday to exercise democracy


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“Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year but when you volunteer, you vote everyday about the kind of community you want to live in.”  -Marjorie Moore

I saw this quote on the Empty Bowls Project website while I was looking for information on an article I am writing on the Memphis Empty Bowls Project (coming to you soon) for the University of Memphis campus newspaper, and I really love it. When I saw it I thought about my first blog entry that discussed the obligation, declared in the Declaration of Human Rights, that human beings have to do community service.

Moore compares volunteering to voting by calling it the “ultimate exercise in democracy.” I think it is interesting because I personally have NEVER thought of volunteering as the “ultimate exercise in democracy.” Honestly, I never thought that volunteering was even considered an important part of democracy, because voting, like Moore’s comparison, is usually thought of as the “ultimate exercise in democracy,” or definitely the main way that people exercise democracy.

“What Obama Didn’t See” – The Commercial Appeal


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Chris Dean, the young man in the short film that lives in the South Memphis community shown in the documentary.

Chris Dean and the Commercial Appeal’s Alan Spearman came to my journalism class last week to share “As I Am” with my class. “As I Am” is a short film by Alan Spearman that takes us through Chris Dean’s life in South Memphis. The film helped  us see a different community, a community that many people are not used to seeing. I wanted to put this film on my blog because I think it visually supports people giving back to people less fortunate than they are. We don’t know where people come from. We never know their story. 

University of Memphis Community Garden is Fresh and Free


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As a part of the University of Memphis’ “Green Initiative,” the University created the TIGUrS Garden. It is a community garden that is open to the University of Memphis family and members of the surrounding community. People can come to relax, volunteer and even get fresh grown fruits, vegetables and herbs to take home. Art Johnson is the garden coordinator. He can be found in the garden Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and said he is always looking for volunteers. Below is a video with pictures, a summary of the history and the functions of the garden. I was really excited about making it. I hope you all enjoy! (Click the captions button)

Empowering Volunteers – There’s More to it Than You Think


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I found these 7 tips on from the HandsOn Blog. I wanted to share them with you all so that when you are volunteering with a group you can build strong relationships with your volunteers and the organizations that you are helping. It is important that you make everyone feel valued and wanted to ensure that your volunteers continue coming and the community organizations want you to return.

1. Try to understand the language and nature of volunteering

  • Understand the history and culture of the community.
  • Include youth, immigrant communities, seniors, faith communities, and refugees.

2. Overcome barriers to volunteering.

  • Understand the community obstacles. What has traditionally kept people from volunteering?
  • Understand the organizational barriers. Have organizations tried to work in the community previously? What made their actions successful?

3. Empower the community.

  • Create space for residents to own their issues and develop solutions.
  • Support residents to witness the benefits of their involvement.
  • Engage residents in the decision-making process.
  • Mobilize residents around issues that impact them directly.
  • Host community meetings and provide examples of success.

4. Cultivate community members’ skills and talents.

  • Acknowledge and build on existing community assets.
  • Help members identify their own skills and talents.
  • Allow residents to have a real role in the partnership.
  • Encourage residents to plan and lead projects.
  • Show the relationship between residents’ skills and project outcomes.

5. Strengthen existing community leadership.

  • Cultivate leadership and the internal capacity of community members to lead and engage in community activities.
  • Help develop leadership and recognize different leadership styles.
  • Identify volunteer leadership development training.
  • Encourage leaders to have a leadership role in the partnership.

6. Acknowledge that volunteering is an exchange.

  • Offer volunteers something in exchange for the time, talents, and efforts they contribute to bettering their communities. A simple, honest, thank you note is enough to recognize each person’s contribution, but you can always do more.
  • Help people see the benefits of the work that has been done, and the work that they can do.
  • Understand that it’s okay to receive something in exchange for volunteering.
  • Develop mechanisms by which residents receive tangible outcomes such as tutoring, child care subsidies, and job opportunities.

7. Ensure community readiness.

  • Participate in building the internal capacity of communities to partner with outside organizations and engage residents in community activities.
  • Be patient; community building and resident involvement takes time.
  • Remember that relationship building is a process.
  • Be flexible; survival issues demand time and attention.
  • Help communities resolve conflict that may be preventing involvement.
  • Set your community up for success but accept if it is not ready.

University of Memphis Serving on Saturday, Not Sleeping in


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Guiding students in the right directionUniversity of Memphis University Center 8 a.m.Welcome to your Luau Service experienceYou may enter hereSetting up the decorationsA light breakfast
Sign up for a volunteer site!Students Advocating Service Adviser, Angela NorwoodFestive tables! Palm trees and leisDon't forget to tweet! Use the hashtag.Pineapple cups and leisSOS Banner!
Reminding you to keep tweetingClose-upFun Facts on every table!Another close-upMuffins and Danish!Beautifully arraying the breakfast!
Unwrapping the foodWelcomeWhere do you want to go?Students filling out hold harmless forms.A close upStudents getting breakfast before volunteering.

Service on Saturday Luau, a set on Flickr.

Students Advocating Service is a community service organization at the University of Memphis. There are several branches of the organization. I am one of the chairs for Service on Saturday, and we had our first community service event this past Saturday. My branch does monthly Saturday morning community service projects. Here is how it went.

Mid-South Men’s Health Organization Inc. saves “Deez Nuts”


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Men need awareness too.

T-shirts with the slogan “Save Deez-Nuts” attracted the attention of many people that walked the streets of the Cooper Young Festival.

This was the first year the founders of Mid-South Men’s Health Organization Inc. attended the festival, and they brought with them T-shirts, wrist bands, and goodie bags for their “Save Deez-Nuts” campaign. This is their first campaign, which was started to raise awareness and promote the prevention of testicular cancer.

“There are a lot of organizations out there that support breast cancer and other women’s health initiatives, but we feel like there is not a really strong centralized organization to support men and men’s health needs,” said Jeff Ayers, co-founder of Mid-South Men’s Health Organization Inc. “So, our idea was to start an organization for that.”

Mid-South Men’s Health Organization Inc. was established in January 2012 by brothers Nick and Jeff Ayers, as a way to “raise money for testicular cancer and other health issues affecting men,” Nick said.

“We just want to let people know that as a man it’s OK to go to the doctor,” Jeff said.

Since their organization is relatively new, it is small, but the brothers said that they eventually want to “be able to raise enough money to [bring] change in the way research is done.” They chose to come to the Cooper Young Festival to network in order to achieve that goal.

“The Cooper Young Festival is one of the biggest regional festivals in the area, and it allows us an opportunity to interact with the community, and to meet people outside of just the website and Facebook. [Here] you can see people face to face, and hear people’s issues and what’s going on outside in the community,” Jeff said.

They also used the festival to raise money and awareness and to attract volunteers.

“We could really use a lot of help, because one of the major under-represented demographics is younger people, especially younger men, who have a lot more health issues than they are ever willing to recognize,” Jeff said

The organization needs volunteers to work booths that they set up, events that they host, and to help them publicize their organization.

“We recently did a bowling tournament to raise money for a friend of ours who was going through chemotherapy,” Jeff said.

The Ayers brothers told a story of their friend, Kyle, who is a graduate student at the University of Memphis. He had testicular, and they held the bowling tournament to raise money for his living expenses while he went through chemotherapy.

He is a cancer survivor.

To find out more about Mid-South Men’s Health Organization Inc., or to get involved, visit their website

Cooper Young Festival: Service Meets the Arts


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My Funnel Cake!

I attended the Cooper Young Festival this past Friday. It was my first time going or even hearing about the festival because I’m not from Memphis, or the area. I had a blast! And got a funnel cake. 🙂

I talked to a bunch of different non-profit and charitable organizations that are new in general or new to me. I learned a lot, and I wasn’t nervous at all because everyone was eager to talk to me.

Some organizations were so excited that I was going to write about them on my blog and for class because they need the publicity. I met a guy that works for the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center and found out that he used to live in his van. Also, I got a “Save Deez-Nuts” T-Shirt from the Mid-South Men’s Health Organization Inc. I think that was one of the highlights of my day.

Those were not the only two of the organizations I talked to, I plan to do a post on each organization with pictures! Stay tuned.