Friday, August 8, 2014

Volunteering with TOMS

Instagram has opened up so many things for me in Chicago. I've met a lot of people who have become friends. Experienced and tried my hand at photographing ChicagohengeWon a season pass on the Chicago Water Taxi. Seen neighborhoods I never would have explored on my own. And now I can add another experience to that list: volunteering at a school on Chicago's south side. 

I'm lucky that my schedule allows me to spend time giving back to the community as the social media chair for Partners For Progress, and that I can (sometimes) take off when an opportunity arises. I saw a post on my Instagram feed last week about an IG friend hosting a meetup with TOMS at Tilden High School. The purpose? To assemble a truckload of Bretford furniture for a classroom and library at the school. 

I set off Thursday morning with the address plugged into my GPS. I had a general idea of where I was going, but didn't want to get off-track, since it was an unfamiliar neighborhood. I only knew one person who was going to be there: the organizer, Nick Gerber. It's hard to put yourself out there like that, sometimes, but it's also one of the best ways to experience life. 

The only real problem I had was getting inside the school. I had to buzz in, and I could hear someone talking to me via the intercom, but had no clue what s/he was saying. Luckily, Nick was nearby and heard me telling the speaker I couldn't hear, and he let me in. It was kind of funny, actually. Door intercoms are NOT set up to be deaf-friendly. I can't tell you how many times I've yanked on locked doors, pressed intercom buttons, and otherwise frustrated people on the other side of the door because I "won't" identify myself. 
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Photo: TOMS isn't all shoes. It's also good coffee & volunteering opps! #TOMSRoasting #TOMSInstameet #igerschicago
TOMS now does coffee! 

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One of the many tables we assembled. 

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Some projects were more complicated than others. 
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We filled a hallway with cardboard boxes! (Don't worry -- they were recycled!)
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The proud group, post-work!
Photo: Had a great time volunteering at Tilden High School on the south side of Chicago,  helping assemble furniture for a classroom & library with some fellow Instagrammers, TOMS, and Convergence Academies. Even won some uber-cool TOMS swag!
Bonus: I won some TOMS swag in a prize drawing! Thanks, TOMS! 

When we were finished, we'd assembled more than two dozen tables, unpacked about four dozen chairs, taken a ton of photos -- and most of all, had a lot of fun. Thanks TOMS, for putting this together, Nick Gerber for coordinating the Instagrammers, and to Tilden HS for their warm welcome! I'm looking forward to the next opportunity! 

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