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The Volunteer Life

Submitted by on February 21, 2011 – 8:06 am3 Comments

face-painting school carnival
Catalina JuarezBy Catalina Juarez

After a long day of running my usual mom duties three weeks ago, I hurried to put dinner on the table. Feeling ambitious, I chopped, grilled, and steamed the foods that would please my guys. Perfumed with the aroma of ajo, I quickly ran out the door to yet another volunteer meeting.

For more than 15 years, I have devoted numerous hours helping our school community grow. I thought that once my boys were in high school I would no longer be as present as I had been in the past, but somehow I end up getting involved as usual.

Over the years I have held various leadership positions. These would include: Boys Scouts- tour leader, den leader, chairperson, hospitality, communications, and popcorn sales; Parent Teacher Association: memberships, vice-president, secretary; High School Marching Band Boosters: secretary. Some of my favorite projects include: school festival chair, communications (honor court program), hospitality, and organizing travel arrangements for our high school marching band.

As I sat at the 8th grade committee meeting, I kept whispering to myself, “assist only.” Our school principal was giving us parents the run down on which activities we had enough funds for. Sadly, this year our student body, has a very limited budget, only allowing for a walking trip to the movies in place of the traditional class trip to a local amusement park. I don’t know how it happened but as I looked above my head I saw my hand waving in the air. (Ay ajo, por qué me siguistes a la escuela? Se desperto mi hambre.) Was I really begging to take on this project? Um… I suppose I was.

Grrr…I am now in charge of putting together three fundraisers to help raise the money we need to take our students to the amusement park. What was I thinking? Um, my rational thought process was distracted by the growl in my stomach.

Leading groups of volunteers over the years has not been without its drama. Sometimes I have groups that have great cohesion and everyone is on board working together to get the job done. Other times I have one person who fights me each step of the way. Almost always, there are one or more persons who have given me the most minimal of efforts (<-why bother?).

But, no matter what kind of people I have the pleasure of working with, the goal to complete a project is my utmost priority. This often means that if a volunteer meekly makes their presence known, I have the challenge to get them to perform. I’ve been known to reassign these less-enthused people numerous times. I’ve been told I have an innate ability to lead groups.

A rush of anxiety tightens my chest as I begin to scan the room of parents wondering who would be best to recruit to my team. By the end of the meeting ideas for fundraisers slowly begin to take shape.

We are a small group, but I feel confident that we will be successful. I have a great team…and more than a few motivational PTA tricks up my sleeve.

This is my farewell to many years of devotion to our school community and other volunteer work.

Do you volunteer at your child’s school? Have you ever suffered from volunteer burnout?

Catalina Juarez is the mom blogger behind the popular blogs Catalina In LA and Greenery in Mommyhood. She currently is a communications student at the California State University, Los Angeles and expects to graduate next year.

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