I have written previously about a program I direct called The Jeremiah Project. The Jeremiah Project is a creative arts program targeted to reach at risk middle school aged students in the Central Florida area. While we principally exist off of grants from family foundations, we also periodically conduct fundraisers. One of our major fundraising efforts is a bi-annual rummage sale. We just concluded our latest sale a couple of weeks ago. The effort was quite financially successful but sometimes I question whether, from a cost benefit analysis, it’s worth it.
On one hand the money raised will go to support our creativity lab and the salaries of talented staff providing the kids with the kind of time and attention they rarely receive in other facets of their lives. On the other hand, however, the number of volunteer hours required to pull off this event are in the neighborhood of 800, just in the week preceding the sale and the two days of the actual event. So, I go back to my original question- are the pulled muscles and sore backs really worth it? Following a few days of rest, I would have to say a resounding YES. Investing oneself in an effort to benefit a worthy social cause is, without question, good for the soul and the psyche. The Jeremiah Project aspires to transform lives through the vehicle of creative expression. Research studies document the impact of art on academic and economic success, particularly among at-risk populations. Thus, the JP definitely counts as a worthy social cause.
Another equally compelling benefit is the camaraderie that develops among volunteers. Standing shoulder to shoulder with someone you might not have known well at the start of the week, devoted to the same task, creates a bonding experience. There is the shared exhaustion, shared laughter over particularly outrageous donations, shared food, – those sugary Krispy Kreme donuts- how often at 60 do I allow myself to indulge in one of those cavity inducing confections? In addition, as chronic multi-taskers how often are we able to focus on one thing? Given the consuming nature of the sale, this became my single focus for the week.
I’m glad it’s over. But I kind of already miss my buddies. We created our own community. Fundamental to human nature is our need to belong. These kind of opportunities create a sense of belonging and community, the kind of community in which I want to live.