We are fortunate to live in a nation of givers. Amid the pain, fear, and confusion following the unthinkable and unforgettable terrorist attacks of 9/11, our country rose to the challenge we faced. Thousands enlisted in military service, while countless others volunteered not only their time, but also their bodies, assisting in rescue and recovery missions, donating blood, and simply consoling shell-shocked survivors. We greeted tragedy with hope; hardship with hard work; terror with triumph.
It is in this spirit that the 9/11 memorial charity MyGoodDeed created the 9/11 Day of Service. MyGoodDeed encourages those of us who remember that awful day to honor the memory of those lost by doing what comes naturally to us as a nation of givers: volunteering within our communities. Those of us here at RSVP celebrated this year's Day of Service at T.J.'s Place of Hope.
T.J.'s Place of Hope is a local safe house for teens struggling with addiction and other self-destructive habits. We spent the day tearing up carpet, clearing out trash, and learning about the challenges faced by those at T.J.'s. Some of our staff took a little time to reflect upon this experience:
Jodie Hook, RSVP general manager: A few years back, I heard about people participating in a day of service as a way to honor those who were lost in the 9/11 attacks. We originally had an all-day marketing meeting planned, but then I remembered the 9/11 Day of Service. I thought it would be a great opportunity for our team to get together and give back to the community where our office has been located for almost 15 years.
Heather immediately mentioned T.J.’s Place of Hope, and we all agreed to replace our meeting with a day of service instead.
When we arrived in the morning, Greg [Crabtree, chairman of T.J.'s Place of Hope] took the time to tell us about his son T.J., and the struggles their family went through as T.J. battled drug addiction. It was this addiction that eventually lead to T.J. taking his own life.
Greg's story was absolutely heartbreaking, and it was clear that he still felt the pain of T.J.'s loss, but it is inspiring how he has been able to give back & help other teens as a result of his family's tragedy. We were incredibly lucky to be able to spend our time helping such a worthy place, and Greg was so thankful for our time.
Heather Craaybeek, RSVP regional sales manager: Does a little really go a long way? When we called Greg to volunteer for our day of service, he was super-appreciative. I asked myself if our one day of work would really help that much - will it really matter? All we were doing was ripping up carpet and throwing away trash. Isn't this insignificant?
Then I heard Greg tell stories of how the addiction counseling at T.J.'s helps young people. He told us of young kids torn apart by thoughts of suicide, struggling with severe addiction, and feeling like they have no place to turn. T.J.'s Place of Hope offers them a refuge in those times. Some of the items we sorted were pieces of artwork created by kids from the early days of T.J.'s Place of Hope. Inspirational and encouraging quotes were taped on the mirrors and even hung near the toilet paper roll in the bathroom. I can imagine being a troubled kid and seeing that message at just the right time.
Then I thought, "What if each of the volunteers asked themselves the same questions I asked myself - 'Will my help really matter?' - years ago and just said 'No,' and never volunteered? If even one life is impacted because of the help we offered, then it was worth sacrificing a day of work, getting our hands dirty, and having sore muscles for a few days.
"Will my help really matter?"
Yes. Our simple little activities may make greater things possible. I think we were more touched by the experience then Greg. As the saying goes, givers gain.
Caitlin Tuohy, RSVP graphic designer: It was a great experience volunteering together as a team at T.J.’s Place of Hope. Although we got a little dirty and sweaty, I still felt a huge sense of pride when I saw how much we accomplished for a cause so deserving of our time. The results were visible and tangible, and our work will help Greg as he continues to reach out to troubled teens in the area. Like Heather, I wondered if we could make a difference with just one day - and now I know we did. I would gladly do it again – without a doubt – and hope to inspire others to do the same.
Many thanks again to Greg Crabtree for welcoming us at T.J.'s Place of Hope, and for sharing both his experience and warmth. If you are in the Dayton, Ohio area, and would like to volunteer at T.J.'s Place of Hope, please contact Greg at 937-436-4673. For other volunteer opportunities in your area, please visit https://www.volunteermatch.org/.
Muhammad Ali quote & picture from http://quotes.lifehack.org/media/quotes/quote-Muhammad-Ali-service-to-others-is-the-rent-you-89733.png.
Contributed by Renee Pugh.