The Voluntour

Current Stop: Boston, MA
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As we emerged from the beautiful space of South Dakota, we arrived in Minneapolis and joined Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity on one of their builds.  Upon arrival, we (and the Mallard) were greeted by Tony, Project Director, and his big smile.  He was excited to learn about The Voluntour, our story, and our reason for being on site with him.

Alongside Tony and other volunteers, we picked up hammers and tool belts, grabbed some circular saws and plywood, and set about the floor level of their newest build in North Minneapolis.

Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity has completed nearly 1000 builds and shows no signs of slowing down.  The local government actually gave them the land in the community where we worked.  When finished, there will be 5 Habitat houses in a row, each with a special family and a special story.

All the best to Tony and Twin Cities Habitat.

When The Voluntour headed to the Chicago, we went to the suburb of Lake Forest to volunteer at Equestrian Connection, a nonprofit using horse riding as therapy for disabled men and women. Their organization has stables full of 20 donated horses and serves around 300 men, women, and children per week.

As the end of year fundraising period gets closer they wanted our help in preparing for their upcoming barn party fundraiser to raise money for their program expenses. The barn party, held inside the stables and highlighted by a live Kenny Loggins show, aims to raise a large amount of the $1 million operating budget per year for their organization. To help them prepare for the event they needed stables cleaned and the large indoor arena power washed to host the dinner and live music portions of the event. The work we put in during the day was eased by breaks to feed and play with the horses.

This fun event was a unique opportunity for The Voluntour and was our first working with animals.  Despite the stables being closed to the public on the weekend, we got hear from the directors of the organization about the impact of their therapy on the many individuals they help every week. We hope the work we put in to clean the stables helps them prepare for their fundraising event to enable them to continue their valuable service to the local community.

In Portland, we worked with GivingSomeThing partner, Village Gardens, helping weed and prepare one of their community garden plots.  On a hot and sunny afternoon, we worked on honing our green thumbs and set about clearing some land for the kids to later plant.  With dirt under our nails and sweat on our brow, it was nice to do some physical labor and to see the progress that we made in a few short hours.  

Having made it through the beautiful and remote states of Wyoming and South Dakota and pushed through the final week of voluntouring, we are now catching up on a few blogs. 

In Boise we had the chance to work with the Boise Rescue Mission and The City of Light Home for Women & Children.  The Boise Rescue Mission is has served Boise’s homeless since 1958 and we were happy to join them for a day of service.  We enjoyed the chance to checkout their operation in Boise and work in the kitchen to help prepare lunch, dinner, and other food for later in the week.

Having been on the road for so long and with both of us being cooks, we have missed being in a kitchen and preparing food.  Arriving in Boise, Dave’s hometown, we were able to visit his parents, cook a couple meals in their Boise home, and then enjoy our work in the City of Light kitchen.

Having received dozens of fresh cucumbers from generous donors’ gardens, we were busy peeling and slicing, while putting together a couple cucumber salads.  There were also some great squashes that we prepped for the week’s stir fry.

We really enjoyed our work at City of Light and were happy to get to see the families enjoy the meals that we helped prepare.  

Yesterday, we enjoyed breaking a sweat by helping Junior Achievement of Columbus with some landscaping.  More photos and thoughts to come. 

Yesterday, we enjoyed breaking a sweat by helping Junior Achievement of Columbus with some landscaping.  More photos and thoughts to come. 

Laboring hard at the new offices of GivingSomeThing at Promontory Point in Chicago, IL.

Laboring hard at the new offices of GivingSomeThing at Promontory Point in Chicago, IL.

While in Sun Valley we connected with Sun Valley Adaptive Sports, a nonprofit that works with injured veterans using adaptive sports. They lead week long retreats focused on specific activities with small groups of veterans from around the country who have been injured in the war in Iraq. Our visit brought us to beautiful Pettite Lake in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho to work with a small group of women veterans suffering from post traumatic stress, abuse, and other mental injuries from the war. The week long retreat was targeted towards water sports, specifically kayaking and paddleboarding, with the participants spending the week in cabins on the lake. It is a beautiful lake with surrounding forest and mountains, perfect for a week of relaxation and recovery.

The women in the program ranged in age, injury, and ability in the water. One woman attended the retreat without knowing how to swim but took it as a challenge to face her fear of the water that had persisted throughout her life (despite being a Marine!). Despite their differences out of the water, their laughter could be heard around the lake and they all enjoyed their time together swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding. It was uplifting to see them work together and help each other out with the various activities, and to watch their recovery in action. 
Because of the abuse that some of the participants had experienced we spent most of our time outside of their water activities, helping with tasks such as chopping firewood for their cabins. We were cautious about giving the women space and not interfering with their recovery, and it gave us an interesting look at the details that go into making a week long retreat like this happen. However, by the end of the day some of the women had become comfortable enough with us to lend a hand chopping and stacking wood, a surprisingly stress-relieving job itself!
Sun Valley was a long anticipated visit for The Voluntour as it is the home of Middlebury alums and GivingSomeThing supporters, Dave and Jackie Hennessy. We had the pleasure of volunteering with 2 of their daughters, Hannah and Kelly, and the family graciously hosted us that night following an incredible bbq with locally farmed steaks and the best shrimp salad we’ve ever had! Thank you to the Hennessy’s for their hospitality as we head on to Jackson, Wyoming to continue The Voluntour!

We had a great time working with Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity and appreciate them filming and posting this video.  Check it out!

Cutting and nailing foam insulation

Cutting and nailing foam insulation

Getting going this morning with Habitat in North Minneapolis.

Getting going this morning with Habitat in North Minneapolis.