My day-long journey to #LiveUnited with @MetroUnitedWay
On Wednesday, Nov. 9, Bold Goal social media consultant Chris Strub took on a unique challenge: to visit (and document) as many Metro United Way organizations as possible. Here’s his story:
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What’s the most memorable volunteer experience you’ve ever had?
If you’re not sure, don’t worry: the Metro United Way has got plenty of ideas for you.
On Nov. 9, as part of Humana’s annual campaign for the Metro United Way, I was invited to spend a day with a handful of organizations that benefit from your donations. From sunrise to sunset, I’d spend a full day zipping around the city — using social media, including the Metro United Way’s Snapchat account, to bring the world along for the ride.
We kicked off the morning at MUW’s headquarters, at 334 East Broadway in Smoketown. After some well-wishes from Melody Murphy, MUW’s Director of Digital Engagement, I sat down to Snapchat with Glen Powell, the Director of 211 Kentuckiana. It was the least visual interaction of the day — Powell referenced conversations he’s had with his boss about marketing the 211 program as “sexy” — but it was fitting to start the day by learning about a critical public offering — funded 92% by the Metro United Way — that directs hundreds of residents per day to services they need. (Did you know there’s even a ‘211 Kentuckiana’ mobile app?)
With that, we were off to the races. I hustled over to Keystone Learning Academy, located in the California neighborhood on S. 13th Street. KLA is one of six Excellence Academy early learning centers around Louisville, and once you take a look inside, you realize just how precious a program EA is. Using the Reggio approach to learning, the highly trained staff at Keystone work within classrooms devoid of loud, bright colors — and instead marked by neutral tones, natural touches and home-like materials. I spent a memorable half-hour playing with youths on the natural playground — time marked by smiles, laughs and cooperation.
As the kids wrapped up play time, I said my goodbyes and jetted over to Elderserve’s Oak & Acorn facility, at 631 S. 28th, to meet the director, Mel, just in time for the 11:15 a.m. lunch. While about two dozen seniors sat for lunch at the facility, a similar number of healthy meals prepared on-site were being delivered around the community, according to Mary Baker, a nutrition specialist with Meals on Wheels. I met Melissa Taylor, a bright-eyed young U of L-based volunteer who helped a pair of seniors take and email a “selfie;” and retiree Sandra Morris, who graciously took a moment away from her card game to record her first Snapchat videos with me. She mentioned she, herself, is a volunteer with Dare to Care Food Bank, but “they definitely know when I’ve gotta go, when it’s Bingo Day.”
I, too, had to run, with two more volunteer stops (and one grumbling stomach) to tend to. First up was the St. Stephen Family Life Center on S. 15th, where I met up with John Sands, who came equipped with two full cardboard boxes of books. We were there to re-stock a red-and-blue-painted “LittleFreeLibrary,” located near the curb at the center’s main entrance. As we Snapped and stuffed the books, a pair of passers-by brightened our day: first, a woman in her early 40’s, who paused to ask where she would be able to donate books (answer: the MUW office, at 334 E. Broadway); and then, a young father, maybe mid-30’s, who stopped to say thank you to John for providing the books because “my kids read them every day.”
It’s always inspirational to meet the people behind the programs; it can be even more powerful to hear from those who benefit from them. I thanked John and loaded the second cardboard box into my car, for delivery at my final stop of the day: the Little Free Library, just outside of the Shawnee Boys & Girls Club.
After re-stocking the library at the entrance to the BGC — boy, is that a fulfilling feeling — I prepared for one final set of interviews. Upon walking in the door at the club, at 317 N. 38th — I mentioned on Snapchat it was the furthest west I’ve been in Louisville — I quickly met one of their best and brightest: Tatiana Carter, the club’s nominee for Youth of the Year. Program Director Kelley Luckett informed me that three of the last four BGC youths of the year have come from Shawnee, and after meeting Tatiana and learning about the hard work she’s put in to be nominated, no one should be surprised if the club made it four out of five. Kelley introduced me to the club’s four JCPS teachers, including Monica Hunter, before it was time for Kids Café. Chicken, carrots, orange slices and toast from Dare to Care provided the youths plenty of energy for the 5 p.m. open gym session — where I had to show off my on-court skills before calling it a day.
It was an honor to visit so many terrific organizations in one busy Wednesday, and my pleasure to use social media to share the story of the travels. But if I learned just one thing, it’s this: that there’s always more work to be done, and always more story to be told.
In the summer of 2015, Chris Strub (@ChrisStrub on Twitter and Snapchat) volunteered with youth organizations in all 50 U.S. states. Read all about it at www.teamstrub.com, and see the full video from Chris’s day around Louisville with the Metro United Way at facebook.com/metrounitedway.