When Deloitte asked me to participate in their Alternative Spring Break program with United Way in Atlanta, GA, I knew it was a good sign. During college, I ventured on an Alternative Spring Break trip through a student organization to the same city. Five of my fellow classmates volunteered on this trip with me and I still remember the jokes, stories, and lessons learned from our time. I wondered if my second Alternative Spring Break trip in the Deloitte professional/supervisor role would provide me with just as many memories and more importantly, friendships. After coming home from my trip, the answer to that question was easily answered:
1. No matter what is planned, the day’s roadmap can always change. My group worked with Meals on Wheels Atlanta (MOWA) and we thought we would be preparing and packaging food. But we didn’t realize that MOWA also supports seniors with an onsite activity center. These programs were just as impactful to the senior’s lives as the meals that would be delivered to them. Lessons learned? Check.
2. Companionship doesn’t require lively conversation. During my first visit to the senior center, I sat by an older woman named Beverly. I tried asking her various questions about her day and life, but I would mostly receive one-word answers back. During our lunch break, I confided in one student that I felt badly for being unable to connect with Beverly better. He wisely suggested that she probably appreciated my company even if we didn’t speak much. The next day when I sat by Beverly again, this student’s words rang true when I saw Beverly’s wide smile. Stories remembered? Check.
3. Fireball is good for the soul. “All right everybody, let’s do some Fireball!” You’re probably thinking the same thing I first thought when I heard this spoken by one of the MOWA staff. As it turns out, much to my delight, this actually signals Pitbull’s song “Fireball” which is a favorite ‘jazzercise’ routine for all of the seniors. Through the music and motions, everyone in the room, including the volunteers, united together through dance and laughter. Memories made? Check.
4. Making 150 sandwiches takes longer than you think. I gladly volunteered to take on the assembly of 150 sandwiches - meticulously placing four precisely-folded turkey slices onto pieces of bread and added a slice of cheddar cheese to each. Next I took plastic wrap and outfitted each of my sandwiches with a full cover. As we neared the end of our shift, my team member asked how many sandwiches I had completed. I feebly answered “82.” As others finished their tasks, my group members helped me achieve the goal of 150 sandwiches in time. Afterwards, I joked with the students that they would never know when their accounting/finance skills could come in handy in the real world – like allocating enough time to make 150 sandwiches. Jokes told? Check.
5. Networking is simply connecting with people. I had not anticipated how much this trip would actually expand my network and how easily I can continue to expand it in the future. Even though I wasn’t interacting with these students, coworkers, and United Way staff on technical issues, we were still building our relationships through our volunteering, Deloitte and United Way’s programming, and social events. Friendships formed? Check.