It's a Heart Knocks Life

Volunteering- You always said you would but between, work, your family and that nagging to do list, you just haven't had the time. Well truth be told, it's much easier than you think to get started and it's a TON of Fun.

From Hard Knocks Strife to Heart Knocks Life Volunteering helps improve your life (personal and professional) in so many ways you cannot believe. It teaches you to be resourceful and creative when you have to work with what you have (which is often not very much). You develop a better sense of self-awareness and how you connect with others. You discover and reawake talents you never realized you had.

My volunteer interests span from helping at Professional Sporting Events, to organizing childrens sailing regattas, to Night of 100 Elvises to helping young people learn about film and media (and NO, I don't know a darn thing about film and media, lol). You would not believe how many events, even the major ones that are run nearly 100% by volunteers. In exchange volunteers are treated like royalty. At many of the events I work at volunteers get free admission, free t-shirts, free food and free wine/beer. Yes, you can even drink 'responsibly' on the job....can you believe it?!?!? And at the other events in which I sit on the board of directors and/or help organize their major events, I get a ton of life experience, build on skill set and gain amazing friends and business relationships. And on top of that it just makes you feel good all over. It's my organic living therapy! :)

Volunteering, A Work of Heart

I volunteer in excess of 10 hours a week (yes that's 40 hours) each and every month. I started volunteering at the age of 12 babysitting with ARC of Southern MD (Association of Retarded Citizens). I remember the first family I babysat for were The Coveys (super duper nice people) and their son was named Jason and he was about 12 years old. I remember that he was in a wheelchair and he had multiple sclerosis and some other disabilities. He loved spending time with me and his parents loved it even more, as they could get out and have some personal time to themselves. I really enjoyed working with them. I worked with them for about a year and then they moved out of the area. Hello and Big Hugs to wherever they ended up in the world. I also worked with Gloria Swieringa, who is now Chair for our local ACORN in DC. She is a blind lady who was the foster parent for 18 (primarily special needs) kids and I think that when I worked with her she had at least 8 of them. It was a tremendous experience. I have no idea how she did it but she was AWESOME!And can you believe 20 years later I still keep in contact with her? How cool is that?

Shonika PI

Some people think that they are so cool they are untouchable, I think that I am so cool that I want to see myself, everywhere in everything and everyone :) My youth entrepreneurs help make this happen. They are all little Shonika's in their own respect, lol.

I work with lots of young people -I call them the 'Renegade CEO's' because they definitely are going against the norms of small business ownership :). I meet them through various events, public speaking appearances, doing marketing workshops at high schools, and mentoring sessions through a program called NFTE, National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship. NFTE teaches entrepreneurship skills to youth ages 11-18 years in economically challenged neighborhoods throughout the world. They offer students an entrepreneurship class as an elective course in their NFTE certified junior, middle or high school. I am a dedicated NFTE Volunteer and I help my local DC Chapter however they need me from speaking in schools to helping at the Annual Gala. I also mentor and try to work with select students weekly year round providing emotional support, business coaching, marketing and whatever kind of support they need to help them market and grow their small business.

Meet Just a Few of My Delightful and Ever So Creative NFTE Proteges

'Meto' Edwards, 19, CEO of Pinq Cow Designs

Meto on Her Obsession with her Character Design Details...
"it was originally saved as a .png, but the colors get a little weird as a jpg. if you magnify it to 400% you'll see it...mother gets really annoyed when i obsess over tiny pixels no one sees but it drives me crazy :P"

Meto was my first full time NFTE Protege. We started working together in the Spring of 2006. She creates and hand designs Japanese anime characters, then scans them in the computer and paints them. Her Japanese Anime alias is 'Meto' :)

More About Gena 'Meto' Edwards

Derron Scott Jr, 18, CEO of Rizon Esthetics

* First Place Regional Winner Spring 2007 NFTE Regional Business Plan Competition Greater Washington DC Area

* 1 of 32 Students (out of 20,000) who advanced to NFTE National Business Plan Competition Fall 2007

Derron on Art and His Clothing Design
"I see clothing design and fashion as a creative fine art form and it makes me feel that I have left a legacy and connected with people when I see them wearing my pieces."

More About Derron Scott

Daniel Uribe, 19, and "virtual John", lol, CEO of Lazer Bearings

* 1st Place Regional Business Competition Winner 2007, in NFTE, Los Angeles, CA

* 3rd Place, National NFTE Business Competition, Fall 2007 (out of 20,000 nationwide)

Daniel on His First Major Speaking Gig
.... I think that my audience will be enlightened, considering the fact that I'll be speaking to technology challenged CEO's from the 'microwave era' who confused COGS w/KEGS until their thirties.

He was speaking to a group of predominantly baby boomers and he is referring to the microwave oven. COGS is a business term meaning 'Cost of Goods Sold', lol. Back then, I would say that they were probably distracted with something other than KEGS but we'll leave it at that for now ;-)

More About Daniel Uribe Note: Daniel is also fluent in Spanish.

Terrence Grainger, 19, CEO of Advanced Technology

Terrence on a Typical Day in IT...
Can you believe I am having fun sticking my head under flow tiles, tracking wires and feeling the cold air blowing in my face? Lol

You Would Totally Be Surprised

I have worked for all sorts of organizations and done all sorts of events: Adopt-A-Grandparent, Coaching Kids T-Ball for Boys and Girls Club (so funny), Coaching Girls Fastpitch Softball (10-12 years old so they were still 'girls' in a sense, lol, Kids Sailing Regattas, Local Music Festivals, Chaired Galas and Annual Fundraisers, MD Heritage and Maritime Festivals, Legg Mason Tennis Classic (I'm not even that good at tennis), Galas that Support the Arts, usher at my local theaters, mentoring youth, Nights of 100's been a ton of fun though. I call it my 'Heart Knocks Life', instead of hard knocks life. Because even during the most down periods in my life or stressful periods (personally and professionally), I have continued to pay it forward and volunteer. In return it has helped me in getting reinspired and back on track. I also consider it the primary driving force behind all my 'lucky' breaks and great friendships I've developed throughout the years.

Why Everyone Should Volunteer

Volunteering truly puts you in a different mindset. It gives you a different sense of being and connection to the world and without a doubt all the positive energy and good karma you put out there comes back when you need it most, tenfold. Not to mention, for the timid or introverted 'salesperson' who hates 'traditional' cold calling, it is your best secret weapon. The 2 key realities behind sales are (1) People buy from people they know and trust. (2) You have to get in front of people 6-8 times before they make a connection with you and your product/service. Volunteering allows you to do both.

Want to Improve Your Personal (and Professional) Life thru Volunteering?

1. Choose to help with events you are passionate about and you will have a 'natural connection' with others around you from other volunteers, to organizers and participants.

2. Offer to help a couple of hours a month so that you see the organizers and other volunteers regularly/monthly for however long it takes to organize the event. Short on time? Kill Your TV!!!

3. Contribute your expertise (marketing, financial/legal advice etc) or offer where help is needed most.

4. Relax, be yourself and have fun. Don't try to sell..let the relationship build naturally.

5. Repeat in your workplace. You will be surprised at the results ;-)

Here's a peek at just a few of the organizations that I volunteer with year after year and/or Serve on the Board:

Eastport A Rockin' (Volunteer Coordinator, Serve on Board)

Night of 100 Elvises (VIP Hostess)

MultiMedia Training Institute of DC (Marketing Consultant)

BIG Team Regatta/Kids Set Sail (2008 Event Chair)

MD Seafood Festival (Entertainment Board)

Legg Mason Tennis Classic (Volunteer)

Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation (Fundraising Event Volunteer)

National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE)
I mentor 4 amazing youth entrepreneurs from econonically challenged neighborhoods all year 'round: Derron Scott, Jr. Rizon Esthetics Limited Edition Apparel for Youth and 2007 Business Plan Competition Winner; Daniel Uribe, Lazer Bearings, 3rd Place NFTE National Competition Winner;Gena 'Meto' Edwards, Pinq Cow Designs. Gena designs Japanese Anime Characters for Print/Web/TV; Terrence Grainger, Advanced Technology (IT Networking and Home PC Maintenance Services). Mind you these are all TEENAGERS, with no prior business experience who are now running their companies part time and are doing $25-60k+ per year in revenues. I help them with everything from online and offline marketing and PR to business development. Before too long, I imagine it will be them mentoring me ;-)

Want to create a Heart Knocks Life?

Volunteer with your co-workers/department, family or friends or do it on your own.

Visit Volunteer Match for opportunities throughout the U.S.

In Washington, DC and the surrounding metro area, show your support to Greater DC Cares