Monday, July 14, 2014

A weekend in volunteering

Actually, I was lucky enough that I got Sunday to rest (which I didn't nothing but).  But I was on my feet for more hours than I care to remember on Friday and Saturday, as a volunteer for the 33rd Annual Prouty, which is an event that raises funds for cancer research for the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, specifically the Norris-Cotton Cancer center.  It's one of the biggest event for the hospital and the nearby towns, to the point that our yoga studio had to cancel classes for Friday and Saturday because everyone is out Prouty-ing.  Started as a cycling event done by a few nurses inspired by one cancer patient, Audrey Prouty, the event has since grew and expanded to include walking, rowing, and golfing ("but honey, I have to go play golf this Saturday, it's for charity!").  I don't know how many countless individuals and teams participate in the event, but for volunteers alone they wanted a few thousand, and this year I was lucky to be one of them.

I was volunteering at the Prouty Gear for both Friday and a good part on Saturday.  Prouty Gears are gifts (smaller things like beach towels and tote bags and larger items like long sleeve running shirts, bike jerseys, and Ibex vests) for people who have raised at least $500 for the Prouty.  Each $500 constitutes as a point, and the more points a person has earned, more and better gifts can be selected.  I was at first suspicious of the whole point conversion system, since divisions by 500 isn't that difficult.  I realized how wrong I was when I started to regularly seeing those who came by with 5, 10, and even 20 points trying to redeem their gifts.  Just because I suck at asking for money from other people doesn't mean that everyone else are just like me.  And I regularly got people who knew the Gear system better than me, and those who were bored by the same gifts every year, and would rather donate their points to other people (which was not a policy we hold, so those people essentially wasted their points).

I was the designated computer person who is responsible for ordering anything that people wanted that we either didn't not carry or had run out.  It wasn't a hard job, and being the first night, there weren't that many ordering that needed to be done.  So after standing there awkwardly for a bit and filed cards for the rest of the volunteers, I became one of them, taking in point tickets and greeted the fund raisers.  It was fun, and it felt like working at TJMaxx again.  It was simple, repetitive, but never the same.

Went back for more of the same thing the next day.  Almost 5 hours of getting numb by the large sums of money that people have raised, and realizing that despited their, or their friends' wealth, when it comes to selecting merchandises, some people can be just as bitchy as those who shop at TJMaxx.  I was kind of surprised by the pickiness showed by some, and the surprising patience and apathy showed by the same people when I told them that if I reorder something it wouldn't get to them for 6-8 weeks.  They didn't care.  Either they knew already or they really didn't care about having it at that moment.

Then at 3 I went outside and helped at the Prouty Store tent, which is open for everyone who wishes to buy stuff (many had tried to buy the Gear items we had on display, and I must say that comparing both, I would rather raise a large amount of money and get the Gear stuff, they are soooooo much nicer!).  I now know that the roads open at 4 and all the riders and walkers have to be back to the finish line at 4pm, and that the food tent closes at 5pm, so I don't feel too bad about having to take inventory almost as soon as I got to the store tent.  But since I was inside for majority of the time and missed the biggest crowds and the most fun, it was kind of sad when I did get out and had already had to pack up.  I did catch some late arrivals as those, I assume they were doing the 100-miler, finally made their way back to scattered but enthusiastic applause.  I did feel bad for a pair of riders who got back after 4pm and received nothing.  We were in the process of packing up, no one was at the finish line to greet them, and they rode in, parked their bike, walked around, and left again.  I was merely following directions, but presumably the woman in charge of the tent had been doing it for much longer.  She was all about keeping herself busy and getting things done, so she was more focused on counting all the merchandises, getting them packed and ready for storage.  We talked about how we need to thank all those who raised money and rode and walked on the day, but when we get down to business it's all about efficiency.  I think most people understand that and accept it as is.

I was scheduled to work till 6, but we were done by 5:30.  As I looked back on the now empty tents and the last remaining people bringing back the final boxes, I have to accept that while it's a big festival where the whole town got together and do this one thing, it's still a fund raising event.  At the end of the day, it's about the number after the dollar sign.  I still had fun, and I got to meet more people who are part of the community, rather than college students who are just here temporarily.  Somehow meeting people who encompass a wider range of age and experience, who are together because of where they live rather than their age, gave me back a sense of community and family that I have been missing for a long time.

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