WSD 2021: It’s Time to Sign Up!

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Join us as we celebrate our 20th year! Women’s Service Day 2021 is planned for Thursday, October 7, and it’s time to sign up! To be a part of this day of volunteering and networking, please register by September 26.

How to Register

Sign Up Now

We’re again using online registration by Sign Up Genius, which allows you to choose specifically where and when you’d like to volunteer on Women’s Service Day. Volunteer opportunities are limited; they’ll be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Safety is our priority! Please note that the WSD Planning Team has put these protocols in place for volunteer participation:

  • Mask wearing is required indoors regardless of vaccination status
  • Mask wearing is required outdoors when social distancing is not possible
  • We follow CDC and State of Michigan DHHS guidelines for recommended protocols

Please keep two things in mind: Most agencies require that volunteers be 18 or older; look for notes on the few that are available to younger volunteers. And because some of our volunteers have physical limitations, please choose options that align with your capabilities.

If you’re not familiar with Sign Up Genius, just follow these four easy steps:

  1. GO TO THE FORM: Click here to go to the WSD 2021 Registration Form on Sign Up Genius.
  2. CHOOSE YOUR ASSIGNMENT: Click on the green “Sign Up” button next to a volunteer opportunity you’d like to do. To volunteer all day, choose both a morning and an afternoon assignment.
  • If you have a physical limitation and don’t see an appropriate task for your abilities on the list, please contact us at womensserviceday@gmail.com. We definitely have a place for you!
  • Got leadership skills? Consider signing up to be the leader of a volunteer crew. Read more about crew leader expectation and responsibilities.
  • Once you’ve picked your assignment(s), click on the big purple “Submit and Sign Up” button.
  1. SET UP YOUR ACCOUNT: Create a Sign Up Genius account (or log in if you already have one). This will allow you to get email reminders and other important messages about the event.
  • Complete the remaining questions on the form and click the big green “SIGN UP NOW” button.
  1. MARK YOUR CALENDAR: You’re now all set for WSD on October 7! We’re counting on you, so make sure you add your assignment(s) to your calendar.
  • And by all means, please invite your friends to sign up — the more the merrier!

Please note that we may add more volunteer activities in the next few weeks, so feel free to check back and see what’s new.

What to Expect on October 7

We are so excited for your enthusiastic participation on Women’s Service Day this year. Here’s what to expect….

For a morning or all-day session, plan to arrive at your worksite in Holland at 8:30 a.m. For an afternoon session, plan to arrive at our lunch location by noon for an outdoor celebration lunch. A $10 donation will cover your sandwich from Joe2Go, a local woman-owned business, and sides. BYOC (chair!) to sit under the tent sponsored by Herman Miller Cares; bring a jacket if the weather’s cool. All lunches will be pre-packaged.

We’ll hold a raffle to support Resilience, which advocates for ending domestic and sexual abuse in Ottawa and Allegan Counties. Bring your wallet!

We’ll also collect items to donate to Resilience. In 2020, the agency not only had a record number of shelter requests, but shelter stays were generally longer due to the lack of available housing during the pandemic.

Watch for additional details about our event in future blog posts!

Questions?

E-mail the Women’s Service Day Planning Committee or visit our 2021 Event page.

Donation Drive: Snacks for Resilience 

Did you know domestic violence incidents rose in Ottawa County by 30% during the pandemic? Each year, one in three Michigan families is affected by domestic violence, and over 100 domestic violence-related homicides occur in our state. 

We’re fortunate to have Resilience in our community to address issues like these, working to eliminate domestic and sexual violence. They offer shelter to families in crisis, as well as programs for kids that equip them to form healthy relationships.

And where there are kids–there’s a need for snacks! “Snacks make happy children,” says Sherry Martens, Resilience Volunteer Coordinator. They’re used in the shelters, as well as being on hand for kids in the children’s therapy program or who accompany their parents to support group meetings.

To stock the Resilience pantry, we’re collecting non-perishable, healthy, kiddo-friendly snack foods (individual packets of crackers, pretzels, cereal, popcorn, fruit snacks, nuts; applesauce pouches; fruit cups; granola bars; juice boxes). Bring your donations to our lunch location (739 Paw Paw Drive) on October 7! You might be inspired, as one long-time volunteer has been, to organize a mini-drive between now and then. She’s invited her neighbors to contribute to a collection she’ll deliver on Women’s Service Day.

Looking forward to seeing you, with your kid snacks in hand, on October 7. But if you can’t make it and want to contribute, contact us and we’ll work out a way to connect with you!

Recruit Your Friends!

If you want to make a difference in your community, we’re guessing you probably hang out with like-minded women. Why not ask your friends, work team, sister, mother, or daughter to participate in Women’s Service Day? Perhaps your book club or walking partner?

Ask them at your next meeting, send them an email, or share information about the event via Facebook and Twitter. You can also send their email addresses to the Women’s Service Day Planning Committee and we’ll add them to our mailing list. If you’d like other information to help spread the word, such as newsletter announcements, and posters, let us know!

In addition to volunteering at a number of nonprofit agencies in Holland during our event (here’s a list of places we’ve volunteered in the past), we’ll be holding a raffle to help support Resilience, which advocates for ending domestic and sexual abuse in Ottawa and Allegan Counties.

We’ll also collect items to donate to Resilience. In 2020, the agency not only had a record number of shelter requests, but shelter stays were generally longer due to the lack of available housing during the pandemic.

Women’s Service Day originated from the spirit of giving among a group of women who recruited their friends and colleagues to help build a home for a single mom. We’d love to engage more women from our community to offer their time and talents, working side-by-side with women who want to make a difference.

We hope to see you–and your friends–at Women’s Service Day on Thursday, October 7!

Women’s Service Day Is Back – October 7

While we are marking our 20th anniversary with the return of our one-day event, it’s never been about just one day. This year our community needs you more than ever. We’ve already heard from our agency partners that they have plenty of opportunities to volunteer safely in person or off-site, help with fundraising or donation drives, and promote events.

Join us October 7 as we look forward to providing service opportunities for you to support nonprofit organizations in Holland. Some things about the event will be the same, some different. And of course safety precautions will be in place.

Now is the time to recruit your friends and colleagues! We’ll share more information about Women’s Service Day and send a registration email later this summer, but for now, save the date! 

And, with so many changes happening in people’s lives during the pandemic, please help us stay in touch with women whose email addresses have changed. Forward this email to friends and colleagues, and opt in to our email communications with your preferred email address to be sure.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a way to help your community now, consider the Power of Ten: Feed Your Neighbor, Fill Your Heart campaign sponsored by Community Action House and Herman Miller Cares. Begun by a group of 10 Herman Miller retirees, it asks you to reach out to 10 of your own friends and colleagues to multiply their contributions toward ending food insecurity right here—through food donations, donation drives, financial gifts, and more. Learn more at Community Action House.

Questions? E-mail the Women’s Service Day Planning Committee. Or visit our website, FacebookTwitter, or Instagram for more information. Let’s keep making a difference in our community!

From “Sangry” to SO GOOD: What One Woman Can Do

The coronavirus pandemic certainly paralyzed many of us in ways we had never expected—stay-at-home orders and restrictions on businesses, fellowship, sports, performing arts, and other activities. Changes in how we work, learn, socialize, and grieve. When the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only constant in life is change,” most of us probably never expected a year-long rollercoaster ride that affected every aspect of life for people around the globe.

Many people felt helpless during this time, not being able to visit loved ones, tend to the sick and dying, or participate in our regular community building activities.

The Women’s Service Day team adapted by forgoing our annual in-person event and, instead, promoting Women’s Service Season—invitations offered each month from August through October—to help women and children in our community during a pandemic: by safe in-person or at-home volunteering, giving financial or in-kind support, or joining or amplifying nonprofits’ events. 

Several of our regular volunteers took Women’s Service Season to heart, driven by their passion to serve others. Lisa volunteered at the Community Action House Food Pantry. Alyssa shopped for foster kids to fill “first night” bags in support of Hope Pkgs. Virginia cleaned up the grounds at Benjamin’s Hope, a community residence for adults with developmental disabilities. Joanie orchestrated a garage sale in her neighborhood to benefit Community Action House.

These examples show how we can really be creative even during challenges like a global pandemic. But sometimes the drive to serve is so strong, you just have to engage your friends. And coworkers. And so on.

“Despite being so grateful for my considerable blessings—a roof over our heads, lots of good food, kids who are healthy, oh, and toilet paper—the joy that often flows from gratitude escaped me,” said Joanie, who lives in West Michigan. “I felt an intense collision of sadness and anger over COVID-19, compounded by issues of social injustice and seemingly cavernous political divides. And I have been, at times, disheartened and paralyzed because it all seemed so big and out of my reach.”

She got so antsy to just do something that would have a positive impact—something within her reach that would make a difference beyond what she could do alone. “I did not want to stay in that place that teetered on despair and immobilization,” said Joanie.

“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African proverb

Joanie reached out to the Community Foundation of Holland/Zeeland (CFHZ) to learn more about the Community Stabilization Fund, designed in 2020 to address the most urgent needs in our community resulting from this sudden and essentially unparalleled pandemic: financial stability, health, and education.

She contacted some of her former coworkers and invited them to make a commitment in matching gifts, up to $4,100. Then she learned Herman Miller Cares (Herman Miller’s Foundation and Global Giving Program) offered to contribute another $5,000 toward the match. It spread like wildfire: Herman Miller Cares and CFHZ communicated the initiative internally and through social media.

Here is the outcome—from one woman’s idea that persuaded 50 community members to participate: $29,000 raised.

This funding has the potential to support:

  • 58 individuals/families with direct cash assistance of $500 to help pay for rent, utilities, food, and hygiene supplies
  • 250 more individuals with alcohol and drug addiction treatment supported by Ottagan Addictions Recovery (OAR)
  • Retooling of programming to help our most vulnerable students avoid slipping behind in school through Ready for School, Outdoor Discovery Center

Read about the impact of this fund in CFHZ President Mike Goorhouse’s review of 2020. The organization reported over $1 million raised specifically for this fund.

Joanie went from “sangry” (sad + angry) to feeling SO GOOD. Joining and rallying others is an impactful way to make a difference during a difficult time like the coronavirus pandemic—and a way to build community when we can’t be together in person.

“In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it.” – Marianne Williamson, author and activist

Volunteering: Fun and Rewarding

Benjamin’s Hope is a farmstead community serving people of all abilities and ensuring those with intellectual and developmental differences connect to their greater community and thrive.

When Women’s Service Season presented an opportunity at Benjamin’s Hope for an outdoor activity in the late summer, Virginia and a coworker volunteered to help weed the grounds. They spent time between rows of blueberry bushes and in gardens.

Virginia has volunteered for Women’s Service Day in the past. She is one of four Volunteer Appreciation Award winners who shared her story during Women’s Service Season—our way of adapting to help women and children in our community while challenged by the coronavirus pandemic—and was eligible to win in our contest.

“The location, grounds, facilities, and staff are AMAZING!” she said. “We enjoyed interacting with the Benjamin’s Hope residents when they greeted us and also showed appreciation for the work we were doing.”

We’re lucky to have such enthusiastic volunteers in our community and in the Women’s Service Day network. They know how to share the love! And we have enjoyed sharing award winners’ stories to celebrate their creativity and ambition. Read our previous posts about Joanie, Lisa, and Alyssa.

Shopping for Love

It all started with a throw blanket Alyssa found on clearance after Valentine’s Day. 

“I thought, ‘some little girl would love this!’ Then, I remembered Hope Pkgs, where I volunteered during Women’s Service Day 2019,” said Alyssa. 

One of the recipients of our 2020 Volunteer Appreciation Awards, Alyssa shared her story on social media. She is one of four award winners during Women’s Service Season—our way of adapting to help women and children in our community while challenged by the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of her volunteer efforts during Women’s Service Season, Alyssa bought two blankets and started gathering items over the course of a few months, creating two “first night” bags for Hope Pkgs. These very important bags provide immediate necessities for foster kids during traumatic times.

“This experience reminded me that it doesn’t take a lot to make a big difference in the lives of others,” said Alyssa. “By adding a few extra items to my shopping list, I was able to provide two kids with some comfort when they need it most.“

We love the connection Alyssa made here—from eye-catching blanket to a love-filled heart to a bag of care items that can make a big difference for children in transition.

We continue to celebrate the creativity and ambition of our award winners by highlighting their stories on our site. Read our previous posts about Joanie and Lisa, and stay tuned for one more! 

In the Spirit of Giving

Instead of our annual event in 2020, Women’s Service Day offered Women’s Service Season—from August through October—to help women and children in our community during a pandemic. (You can read more about our approach outlining four ways to help.)

We also invited volunteers to share their stories on social media to be eligible for our Volunteer Appreciation Awards. Now we are celebrating the creativity and ambition of our award winners by highlighting their stories on our site.

The first recipient was Joanie, who orchestrated a garage “sale” in her neighborhood to benefit Community Action House. Here is Lisa’s story. She is also a big supporter of Community Action House.

Lisa is not new to volunteering. With her previous experience helping out at Community Action House during our regular Women’s Service Day event, she decided to volunteer solo at the Community Action House Food Pantry, one of the opportunities promoted during Women’s Service Season. Her assignment? Sort the bread and dessert pantry, flatten plastic bags for food pickup, and—of course—sanitize. 

“I learned a lot during Women’s Service Season at Community Action House Food Pantry,” said Lisa. “It really opened up my eyes to how many families in our community are being fed through this agency.”

We are thrilled to share Lisa’s example of how she is “living the dream” of our mission:  

  • Making a difference in our community—and having a great time doing so
  • Increasing awareness of issues for women and children in the West Michigan community
  • Promoting networking among women in our community

Lisa said that Women’s Service Day and Community Action House have given her the opportunity to be more active in our community and she plans to continue to serve at the Food Pantry to learn more about their mission.

“It’s an honor to take part in their Food Pantry,” said Lisa. 

It’s an honor to have her as a volunteer in our community! Congratulations, Lisa, for being a recipient of the Women’s Service Season Volunteer Award!

 

Building Community While Building Cache

We all got experienced at adapting in 2020. Instead of our annual event, the way Women’s Service Day altered our plan was to create Women’s Service Season—four ways, offered each month from August through October—to help women and children in our community during a pandemic:

  1. Volunteering in-person (safely) or from home
  2. Giving financial support
  3. Giving or collecting items nonprofits need 
  4. Joining (and spreading the word about) events nonprofits themselves are planning 

We also invited volunteers to share their stories on social media to be eligible for our Volunteer Appreciation Awards. Now it’s time to highlight the creativity and ambition of our award winners

Joanie, who is an avid supporter of Community Action House, orchestrated a garage “sale” in her neighborhood to benefit this important agency. What was unique about her approach? Nothing actually had a price tag.

“Buyers” were encouraged to take whatever they needed or wanted. In return, they were asked to “pay” with a donation of food or paper products needed for Family Food Boxes, an initiative promoted by Community Action House that Joanie learned about during Women’s Service Season. Alternatively, “buyers” could “pay” by making a financial donation. 

It was all done through a self-serve honor system. Garage sale items were left at the base of her driveway for a week, replenished each day. Joanie promoted the event with signage, by emailing neighbors, and through social media.

Neighbors happily participated. They contributed items throughout the week and also “shopped”—pleased to make a positive difference in the community. It was also a great way for neighbors to meet—sometimes for the first time. “Beyond getting my basement cleaned out,” said Joanie, “it was so heartwarming to see the participation and response (verbal and through donations) of our neighbors.”

Joanie and a friend used the donated funds to create nine Family Food Boxes (valued at approximately $75/box) and delivered them, along with a $100 check to Community Action House.

The need is evident. In 2020 alone, Community Action House:

  • Provided over 500,000 meals through their Food Pantry
  • Helped find 19 homes for 26 formerly-homeless neighbors
  • Assisted over 7,000 people across all their services
  • Served 38,000+ hot meals (to go) from their Community Kitchen
  • Provided assistance to more than 30 people concerned about losing their home through foreclosure

In addition to helping to meet a very dire need—especially during a pandemic—Joanie helped to spark a creative way to keep paying it forward. She is working with others in her network and neighborhood to plan future garage “sales” and on a larger scale.

“I really believe that many people are struggling to know what they can do to make a positive difference during these challenging times,” said Joanie. “It’s relatively easy to do something as an individual, for instance, by writing a check. It brings so much more joy, in my view, to take a few extra steps to invite others to join in—it just grows the joy and builds community and magnifies the impact.”

Congratulations, Joanie, for being a recipient of the Women’s Service Season Volunteer Award!

Extend a Hand to Peruvian Artisans

Weaver in front of the shop

Awana Wasinchis is located in Cusco, Peru, the gateway city to the well-known Incan citadel, Machu Picchu, set high in the Andes Mountains. Meaning “our home of textiles” in Quechua, the indigenous language of Peru, Awana Wasinchis is a fair-trade cooperative of weavers from Andean communities.

The weavers sell textiles made from their own alpaca and sheep. Wool is spun with a drop spindle and dyed with local plants. Then it is woven on backstrap looms using traditional Incan patterns that have been passed down through generations. 

Many tourists visit Cusco while on their way to Machu Picchu. It is full of people trying to sell things, from high-end stores with traditional artisanal pieces to people on the street selling earrings. But Awana Wasinchis is the only fair trade shop in Cusco. With its complex weavings, it represented, pre-COVID-19, nearly 250 weavers from over a dozen villages in remote locations outside Cusco who bring their work to the shop to sell. Weavers received 80 percent of the sales price and 20 percent supported the shop. 

While the skill of these Andean weavers is recognized internationally, they are disappearing, like so many indigenous traditions and languages, because there is little incentive to continue.

Watch the Andean weaver demonstration on YouTube

This was all before COVID-19. The country has been hit hard. Tourists disappeared overnight, and Cusco was under a strict quarantine for weeks. And still people died. Cusco wasn’t spared and neither were the villages, remote as they are. Sickness and death has touched many families, leaving children without one or both parents. Food supplies are dwindling, and healthcare is non-existent. The shop is closed, perhaps not to reopen. The co-op has contracted to four villages and 70 families.

Modesta and her son, Rafael

A mother and son who founded the cooperative a decade ago are trying to help families hit by coronavirus, carrying food and medicine—a four-or-five-hour walk one way. Through a long-time colleague and world traveler, we learned of this need and a GoFundMe site to help support this community. The situation is dire and it is unlikely tourist dollars will return in time to save the small shops, weavers, and a culture that is dying along with its people. A donation of any size will help families weather this storm, and can help to preserve a craft passed down through generations.