Giving and receiving through volunteerism

By Joan Phaup | Nov 28, 2019
Photo by: Peter Polermo Volunteers from Coastal Opportunities press cider at the end of another season of volunteering at Tanglewood 4-H Camp.

It was time to celebrate.

The Willing Workers, a team of volunteers from Coastal Opportunities, had completed their annual round of service projects at Tanglewood 4-H Camp in Lincolnville.

They had planted, tended and harvested the vegetable gardens, gathered seaweed from a neighbor’s beaches to use as compost, swept and dusted cabins, moved furniture, cleaned the dining room, trimmed bushes and stacked firewood. On Tuesdays and Thursdays from April to mid-October, they had spent quality time outdoors while helping to keep the camp in shape. All season long, they’d laughed and joked as they made their way along the trails or eaten lunch on the porch of the dining hall.

This day in late October was set aside for play after seven months of volunteering—a golden afternoon spent looking back on just one of the nearly 30 years that Coastal Opportunities clients have helped out at the camp. It was time for the workers to enjoy the fruits of their labor. They would get to dine on some of the fresh produce they’d grown.

Several clients gathered around a cider press and took turns loading apples into it and turning the crank. Once the bins of apples were empty, everyone trooped into Big Pine Lodge for pizza, salad and plenty of freshly-made cider. Tanglewood Caretaker Steven Clarrage, who has supervised this team’s activities for 14 years, gave a brief speech about each helper before handing them an award. He praised each one’s efforts and wished them well until their return next April.

Clarrage will miss this crew, but he looks forward to seeing them when they return in spring.

“When I first met them, it was challenging to motivate some of the folks to do certain tasks, but over time they developed many skills to the point where I no longer need to be as present one on one with them,” Clarrage recalled. Despite being busy all the time with responsibilities around the camp, he looks forward to the clients’ visits. “When they show up with big bright smiles, it makes me calm down and relax.”

People at other local organizations—churches, recreation centers, museums, animal shelters, food pantries—would understand how Clarrage feels: Coastal Opportunities teams have fans all over Knox County.

“The community has been so inviting, and we love the socialization and connections that volunteering provides to all of our participants,” says Coastal Opportunities Community Supports Coordinator Kristin King. “We offer so many wonderful activities, and we are always searching for more.”

In helping others, the clients gain a great deal, notably improved organizational and communication skills, lessons in how to work well as a group, personal connections with new people, and the ability to adapt to changing conditions.

The helpers appreciate the opportunities and benefits their efforts bring.

“We volunteer every week at the Owls Head Transportation Museum cleaning windows and vacuuming,” says King. “In exchange, we can access the museum and get involved in special events and other activities. The same goes for the Midcoast Recreation Center. We provide our services once a week and use this wonderful venue for our Tennis for Fun Program (Special Olympics), pickleball and ice skating. We help out at the Dancing Elephant in Rockland in exchange for yoga classes, and when we have volunteered at the Camden Snow Bowl before the National Toboggan Championships, we have had ski lessons.”

King explains that volunteering is an essential aspect of the Coastal Opportunities Community Support Program.

“It’s a great way to actively participate in the community, build confidence, increase organizational skills and make meaningful relationships,” says King. “For example, our clients volunteer at the Salvation Army, Goodwill, and the AIO Food Pantry. All three of these jobs involve task-oriented activities like sorting and stacking, and they also require working together as a team.”

At the Hospitality House in Rockport, the clients help maintain the garden during the summer and organize clothes and household items during the winter.

Two popular endeavors are delivering MCH Meals on Wheels and cleaning at the Pope Memorial Humane Society. Both of these activities bring heartfelt social connections. The clients like greeting meal recipients during food deliveries and hanging out at the shelter with the animals and fellow animal lovers.

Although their visits to Tanglewood are over for now, there’s plenty to keep the Willing Workers busy this winter.

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