Siberian Husky Rescue

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Last Christmas I asked people here at Bio-Med. Library if they might be interested in donating food to Second Harvest throughout the year and the staff has responded enthusiastically. I collect their contributions and when I have a full box I take it over to Second Harvest.

My main volunteer activities, though, center around my two rescue Siberian Huskies. For a little over a year now every Friday morning Gabriel and Lexi and I go to a center for older adults with Downs Syndrome or brain injuries and spend some time letting the residents pet and hug Gabe and Lexi and feed them treats. I'm fortunate that both my dogs are real 'people dogs' and love the attention and over this past year I've grown to love the residents too. They're really great people and our visits are as much fun for me as they are for Gabe and Lexi.

I also volunteer with a Siberian Husky rescue organization called MUSHR (Minnesota Unwanted Siberian Husky Rescue.) My dogs and I appear with other members of the group and their dogs at events such as the Pet Expo in spring and the Rennaisance Festival in the fall to help show people what great dogs huskies can be and try to get some of the foster dogs adopted. I also help out with driving to various parts of Minnesota to evaluate and bring back dogs that are being surrendered for adoption.

Bring a Child Into Your Life

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In 1970 I called the Camp Fire office, recalling my childhood experiences as Blue Bird and Camp Fire Girl. I hoped to become an assistant leader for a group in Edina. Hah! They had other plans for me and I became the sole leader for a small band based out of a boarding house at Franklin and Stevens. Two girls in the group were sisters--the six children in their family all had different last names. The most exciting event in the neighborhood was when the plastics explosives carried by a man along 35W went off, demolishing houses and strewing body parts around. To give them a different view of the world, we did nature immersion: hiking, picnics and camping. We went to museums, we did tours. They earned honor beads by visiting with a person from another country, one of our cataloging staff who told them about life in Romania under Ceau┼čescu.

When I became involved with Big Brothers/Big Sisters I got an 11-year-old best friend. She was scared of dogs, yet the first time she visited my house, she posed for a photo with my 125-lb. dog. BBBS provided free tickets for Saints games, and sponsored picnics, banquets, and volunteer opportunities such as the AIDS walk. In between those we had season tickets to CTC, dipped into Stepping Stone and YPC productions, and saw every good kids' movie that came out. Swimming, overnights, and a Take A Child to Work Day on the St. Paul Campus (piglets, kittens, bugs, fashion, dog hospital!) Years later, as a grown up, she wrote me a letter about what a wonderful time that was for her, and it was for me, too.

A Better Chance is a program that brings academically-talented but at-risk high school students of color to a different part of the country, to live with other youths and attend a top notch high school. The girl I mentored in this program was from Emeryville, CA, a year ahead in high school, and aiming to be an electrical engineer.

These and other programs provide opportunities to share love and new experiences with kids, giving them respite from difficulties at home or school, allowing them to hope for a brighter future and see how that might happen. It can be lots of fun, and there are times of heart-break. You for sure embark on a life-enriching relationship.

Getting Down and Dirty with Dandelions

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como.jpgI have been volunteering since the age of 13. First, as a candy striper, a.k.a, Junior Volunteer, at North Memorial Medical Center. At that time I thought I would follow in my mom's footsteps and become a nurse. My interests changed at the age of 15 when after three years of being on the wait list my mom and I were able to go to a Japanese tea ceremony in the Como Ordway Memorial Japanese Garden at Como Park. I fell in love with the traditions, culture and surroundings.

I remember my mom thinking I was a little crazy to drive back from the University of Minnesota- Morris my freshmen year three weekends just to attend the volunteer training in the Japanese garden, but I was following in her footsteps in a different area, her passion for gardening, since she is a Master Gardener. Every other Sunday you will find me at Como park greeting patrons and explaining the symbolism of the Japanese garden along with plant identification and kid wrangling. Though the truly magical moment for me happen when there are enough volunteers that I can bring people down the to tea house to show them an even more private garden that many St. Paul residents don't even know about. Plus, there is the added benefit of total relaxation when working in the garden. I can have a stressful week and it all melts away when I enter the garden and chat with eager visitors, or get down and dirty with my dandelion picker.

I also find it deeply satisfying as Extension's librarian to be a resource for the Master Gardener volunteers, like my mom, and the dozen that volunteer to weed and keep the Japanese garden on the Top 25 Japanese Garden in the United States. (Both the Arboretum's and Carleton's are on the list as well.)

(Photo: I am on the far right, with two of my favorite fellow volunteers.)

Giving the Gift of Time

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How fulfilling it is to be able to combine a personal passion (horses) with serving the community. For the past two years, I have been a volunteer for We Can Ride (http://www.wecanride.org/), a therapeutic horseback riding and carriage driving program for adults and children with physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioral disabilities. We Can Ride operates in 4 locations: in St Paul (at the University's Equine Center), Delano, Marine on St. Croix, and Minnetonka. I volunteer on Thursday nights in Minnetonka.

The evening begins at 6pm with grooming and tacking the well-trained and very patient horses. The first clients arrive at 6:30 (the first of three classes each night, limited to 6 riders each class), some ambulatory, some in wheel chairs. Volunteers like me, under the direction of trained instructors, assume one of two roles - leading the horse, or interacting with the rider as "side-walkers" (two volunteers for each rider). "My" riders range from an exuberant 5 year old to a 26 year old who doesn't communicate verbally at all, to someone who only wants to talk sports (right down my alley)! All the riders benefit from the physical challenge of balancing on horseback and the continuous interaction with the instructor and the volunteers. By the end of the last class at 9:00, we're all pretty pooped, and we've all walked at least a mile in circles around the arena. But the reward comes with seeing the joy in most of the riders' faces as they bond with their horses, and the appreciation of their parents who stay and watch.

Yes, I also contribute financially to various causes, including through the University's Community Fund, but the contribution of time is equally valuable and very rewarding. It's great to be able to give back to the community.