- The Washington Times - Monday, May 17, 2004

Staff writer Denise Barnes interviewed Pam Goodell, co-director of Single Volunteers of D.C.

Question: How did Single Volunteers of D.C. begin?

Answer: The organization was started by Dana Katherine Kressierer Wakefield and Catharine Robertson, two single women who were looking for a better alternative to meet other people and get involved in the community. I believe they heard about a chapter that started in Vermont and decided to start a chapter in D.C.

Q: What is the organization’s mission and what organizations do you work with?

A: Single Volunteers’ goal is to not only serve the community, but to provide a vehicle for people to meet one another, for friendships and general networking opportunities. Some of our members join and return time and time again simply for the pleasure of volunteering and others come out and volunteer in the hopes of finding their significant other or life partner.

We provide events and try to satisfy everybody’s goals. We volunteer with Food & Friends, the National Zoo, the Audubon Naturalist Society, the American Horticultural Society, Alexandrians Involved Ecumenically, the Arlington Food Assistance Center — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

We have a wide variety of activities from outdoor physical work to indoor food distribution, mailings, working with children, the disabled and senior citizens.

Q: How do people find out about volunteer opportunities in which they might want to participate?

A: Well, our organization is Web-based, and people can visit the Web site (https://singlevolunteers.org/dc/) and review the activities, find out if the activity is open and simply sign up. On any given weekend, we might have up to eight volunteer activities in Maryland, the District or Virginia. Some are Metro-accessible and some are not, it just depends.

People sign up through the team leaders and we don’t have many restrictions — other than that the person be single and that members who make commitments to volunteer honor them. That’s something we stress.

So if you sign up, show up. There’s no cost to become a member and we don’t have a maximum or minimum number of events that people have to attend. People can volunteer just once a year or 10 times a month.

We work directly with organizations that request volunteers, and depending on our schedule we try to offer as many opportunities as possible. We strive for 100 percent attendance. We’ve got some wonderful volunteers who show up early and want to get to work. They are there to complete the task.

Q: What makes Single Volunteers of D.C. unique?

A: What makes us special is our volunteers and how dedicated they are to improving the lives of people in the community, and how friendly and outgoing they are.

They’re just truly dedicated people who work over 40 hours a week and are still willing to get up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning to pick up trash on Theodore Roosevelt Island. Single Volunteers would not be what it is today and I wouldn’t enjoy doing what I do so much without these people.

Q: Give me an idea of some of the tasks volunteers perform at various organizations.

A: For example, at Food & Friends, an organization that provides well-balanced, nutritious meals to people suffering from life-challenging illnesses, we place prepared food into bags for delivery. We ladle soup, cut vegetables and slice pies. The wonderful thing about this event is that even the newest volunteers can come into Food & Friends and feel comfortable. They are very appreciative of their volunteers.

And because of their organized process, it gives people an opportunity to talk and mingle.

You know what you are doing has an immediate benefit to someone in the community. On average, our events can run between two and five hours and some can last as long as six hours. The other nice thing about our events, either before or after, everybody goes out for lunch or dinner. This gives members an opportunity to socialize.

Q: What’s the age range for volunteers?

A: It runs the gamut from young adults in their 20s to people in their 60s. Our events are open to people of all age ranges.

Q: What is the reaction when people learn about the organization?

A: I receive e-mails from people who said they never knew we existed, the organization sounds great and they are really happy to be a part of it. Everybody has their own personal reason for volunteering and we welcome them.

One other reason that people have joined Single Volunteers is because they have just moved to the area and they are looking to meet people.

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