About Marcia Davis

When Marcia Davis is not consumed with her curiosity, ethics, and challenges of finding happy and flavorful food in the Midwest, she busies herself as a freelance writer.

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.

A Season of Thanks

Women’s Service Season has come to a close! We want to thank all our participants and agencies who got creative to help our community, facing the challenges of COVID-19. From motivated volunteers to innovative agency leaders, to all the generous donors—in kind and in cash—we’ve proven that we can still serve our community during a pandemic.

First, a shout-out to our Volunteer Appreciation Award winners (Joanie, Lisa, Alyssa, and Virginia) for telling their stories about how they helped an agency during Women’s Service Season. We’ll post their stories on our blog while they’re enjoying the prizes they won for taking the time to share their experiences. (Check out our own story too—the Women’s Service Day team proved how easy it is to volunteer safely at Nestlings Diaper Bank, which, by the way, has a current project to fund a bulk purchase of toddler-sized diapers.)

And thank you to the following agencies for participating in WSS this year: Arbor Circle, Benjamin’s Hope, Camp Sunshine, Community Action House, Eighth Day Farm, Holland Rescue Mission, Hope Pkgs, Kids Food Basket, Nestlings Diaper Bank, and Resilience. Our continued partnerships are even more important now.

Our focused fundraiser was in support of the Community Action House Hunger-Free Thanksgiving campaign and its goal to serve more than 5,000 people from 1,500 families this year. Thanks to a match from Herman Miller Cares, donors raised over $4,000 for this cause! 

Like everyone, we hope 2021 brings change and a shift back to what we knew as normal for our service event. Watch for updates on womensserviceday.com and our social media as we figure out how to continue connecting volunteers with opportunities to build our community.

You can expand our impact by following, liking, and, most importantly, sharing Women’s Service Day and our partner agencies’ posts on social media: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  

And the Winners Are….

During Women’s Service Season this year, we asked participants to share their stories about how they volunteered in our community at one of the following agencies: Arbor Circle, Benjamin’s Hope, Camp Sunshine, Community Action House, Eighth Day Farm, Holland Rescue Mission, Hope Pkgs, Kids Food Basket, Nestlings Diaper Bank, Resilience.

It was our way of bringing back the fun of our fundraiser lunches by offering Volunteer Appreciation Awards. We couldn’t be together to celebrate the winners but wanted to recognize them here. Watch for highlights of their giving spirit as we post their stories in the upcoming months!

Joanie engaged her friends and neighbors in gathering donations for Community Action House.

Herman Miller Aeron Chair Winner: Joanie

For her story about organizing a neighborhood garage sale benefitting Community Action House.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Herman Miller Mirra 2 Chair Winner: Lisa

For her story about volunteering at Community Action House.

Lisa helped organize and sanitize  the food pantry at Community Action House.

Alyssa created First Night bags for Hope Pkgs.

Herman Miller Caper Chair Winner: Alyssa

For her story about gathering items for First Night bags for Hope Pkgs.

 

 

 

Brewery Vivant Gift Card Winner: Virginia

For her story about volunteering at Benjamin’s Hope.

 

 

Also, a big thank you goes to our generous prize donors: Herman Miller, Inc., Herman Miller Cares, Office Outlet, Inc., and Brewery Vivant. We appreciate all you do for our community!

Help Make Thanksgiving Hunger-Free

We’re nearing the end of Women’s Service Season! For our grand finale to these three months of community action, we’re circling back to an agency that has impressed us with their commitment to the community and engagement with volunteers: Community Action House.

We think they’ll impress you too. Since March 1 this year, Community Action House has:

  • Provided 300,000+ meals to over 5,000 neighbors
  • Shared 1,000+ meals per week at the Community Kitchen
  • Assisted 34 families with foreclosure
    intervention counseling
  • Housed 16 neighbors who were living without shelter

The need continues to be dire. At Thanksgiving this year, they expect to serve more than 5,000 people from 1,500 families. We’re inviting you to help with a donation as they work to Make Thanksgiving Hunger-Free. And when you give, your donation may be doubled, thanks to Herman Miller Cares.

Here’s how you can help—and double your impact:

  • Go online and donate or put a check in the mail.
  • Note that it’s in honor of Women’s Service Season. Online, this means choosing “honor” toward the bottom of the form, and keying in “WSS” or “Women’s Service Season” in the Tribute Name field. If you mail a check, make the note on the memo line.
  • Herman Miller Cares will match, up to $1,000, donations from Women’s Service Season volunteers

Women’s Service Day has volunteered with Community Action House every year since 2001. We have loved our long partnership and knowing that this organization serves everyone in our community.  Watch our video to learn more about the campaign; follow @CommunityActionHouse on social media to stay informed about their ongoing work. 

And, don’t forget! Your volunteer experiences by October 31 make you eligible for our Appreciation Awards contest: By November 6, tell us your story about participating in Women’s Service Season for a chance to win! (If you’d like an in-person experience to report on, check out what we learned at Nestlings!)

You can expand our impact by following, liking, and, most importantly, sharing Women’s Service Day and our partner agencies’ posts on social media: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Help Babies, Stay Safe

Image

WSD planning team members show how easy it is to help our community while staying socially distant.

Since August, we’ve been promoting Women’s Service Season, four ways to help women and children in our community:

  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 

Our volunteers have been sharing their stories on social media–and these are eligible for our Volunteer Appreciation Awards. (Participate by October 31 to win!)

Some of our planning team members decided to coordinate a volunteer project ourselves to show how safe it can be to help our community, especially in this time of urgent need.

In operation since 2011, Nestlings Diaper Bank has been near and dear to the Women’s Service Day team since we began partnering with them in 2013. This agency serves as a central location to collect, store, and distribute diapers that have been donated by the local community or purchased through fundraising efforts. Diapers are one of the top unmet needs for low income families. One in three families living at poverty level struggles to diaper their babies and children. Yet diapers and wipes are not provided by any government assistance programs.

When COVID hit, the need increased. Compare these numbers:

March 2019 – Nestlings provided 12,000 diapers to 36 agencies in West Michigan

March 2020 – Nestlings provided 43,000 diapers to those agencies

In April, they provided another 30,000 diapers, even though no one was able to volunteer on-site until July. Finally, in September, the numbers started to level off to what’s normal for Nestlings. But that doesn’t mean they don’t need volunteers: Nestlings is primarily a two-women operation that relies on community help. Our team pitched in for an afternoon.

View our slideshow to see how safe and easy it is to volunteer at Nestlings. Diaper wrapping stations are physically distant–for a maximum capacity of five people–complete with sanitizer and disinfected after each use. Masks are required, of course. Our team of four wrapped 2,500+ diapers during our volunteer slot one afternoon.

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If you’re interested in volunteering, learn how you can help. Or consider hosting a diaper drive with an organization you belong to.

We had a pleasant, educational, and safe experience–and the reward of being able to help babies at a critical time of need.