Tag Archives: volunteering

Volunteerism – It’s Not Just a Job; It’s a Job Without a Paycheck.

At about 3:45 pm on Tuesday, I dropped by the dubbing stage on the Disney lot, where Erik the recordist downloaded my conformed dialogue tracks. By 4:00 pm I was waving goodbye to my supervisor, my boss, the mixers and the producer of “Once Upon a Time.” I probably won’t see any of them again until season 2 begins next September.

I love my job as the dialogue editor on the show, but with only 22 episodes a year, it leaves a very long hiatus.

So on Wednesday morning I woke up and started my new job. I love this job too – probably even more than I love working on a hit show. And my new job pays nothing.

When I say “nothing,” I don’t mean that it’s something close to nothing like minimum wage at McDonald’s. My new job pays nothing because for the next month I’ll be working as a volunteer.

Since 2001 I have been a parent at Colfax Charter Elementary School in Valley Village. Back then, most families in the neighborhood sent their kids to private schools. They didn’t really know much about our little public school. So in 1998 when my daughter turned 2, I started volunteering at Colfax in an effort to infiltrate the school and see first hand what it was like.

They placed me in a 1st grade class with a teacher named Paige Gage, and I fell in love. Besides having a name that rhymed (something every 1st grade teacher should have) she was engaging, fun, and she genuinely seemed to enjoy being there everyday with the kids. It turns out she was a parent there years ago and became a teacher later. Her children are now grown and she’s still at Colfax and teaching 2nd grade now. And I’m still in love with her.

There are countless parents and members of the community who consistently devote a truckload of time to help this little gem of a school. Throughout the work season I participate in little ways as a room parent and in PTA, but when I’m on hiatus, I have the opportunity to really dive in. It is an incredibly rewarding experience to work with other volunteers to make our wonderful school even better and be able to interact with the kids. Here are some of the really fun things I can look forward to doing for the next 6 weeks of the school year:

Kindergarten violins

On Mondays and Wednesdays at 12:30 I get to help my son Jake and his classmates place their feet correctly on the Arthur Murray-like foot positions on the floor and keep the boys from having sword fights with the bows. The kindergarten recital is May 24. For that day I’ll probably work as a kid wrangler and try to keep them from messing up their white button-down shirts. Good thing the recital is first thing in the morning or after recess I’d be racing home and washing a large load of white button-down shirts.

Helping in the classroom

Today I helped the kids paint sunflowers. I let a girl named Emma make a second one after I totally screwed hers up by suggesting she fix a part of it. She was doing way better without my help.

Beautification

This Saturday, May 12th we’re all bringing our gardening gloves, rakes and creaking backs to the campus to sweep, clean and plant. It’s scheduled right between Jake’s baseball game and my niece’s baby shower in Yucaipa, so I can just spare an hour. That’s how long it should take to clean up 10 square yards of an area covered in juice box straw wrappers. Damn Juicy Juice.

PTA/PACE Elections

May 17th I get to see who’s going to be Co-VP of Communications with me. The term will be up for my current partner Joanne, which is really scary since she’s the one who takes the great photos and sends out the Constant Contact email messages to the whole school. I’m crossing my fingers that the new Co-VP is artistic and tech-savvy. Otherwise I’ll need to learn how to take photos where people actually have their eyes open.

Restaurant Fundraisers

Lisa and Abbe are a couple of energetic go-getters, and I work with them on Restaurant Fundraisers where Colfax gets 20% back. I have the task of counting out the exact number of flyers for each classroom and placing them in the teachers’ boxes so they’ll go home in the students’ backpacks. We have fundraisers at Menchie’s on May 18th and a combo Cold Stone Creamery / Green Apple China Bistro on June 5th. The teachers scoop the ice cream at Cold Stone, and there’s always a line out the door of students who ask, “Mrs. Tepper…  can I have another sample?”

Teacher Appreciation Lunch

I’ve signed up to bring lasagna. I used to make an amazing lasagna before I had kids.  Now every year I sign up to bring a lasagna to the Teacher Appreciation Lunch with the intention of making a homemade one, and every year I realize that an amazing lasagna takes about half a day to prepare. I’m thinking of just cooking a Stouffer’s in one of my Corningware trays so it looks like I actually spent more time on it than merely turning an oven dial.

Vaudeville

Every year, that same teacher I volunteered for back in 1998 puts on a Vaudeville Show. Starting in January, Paige Gage has rehearsals every Wednesday afternoon not only for her 2nd grade class, but she also offers it to every 2nd grader in the school and any older student who wants to help with the show. I’m the gal who gets to press “play” on the iPod. The kids sing songs like Jimmy Durante’s Inka Dinka Doo, perform magic tricks, and tell really corny jokes. I’ll hear the words “knock knock… who’s there?” more than any sane person should hear in a lifetime.

School Site Council

There’s a governance meeting once a month where we get to discuss the school charter, curriculum, budgets, and other topics that would make a kindergartner’s eyes glaze over. This is the time I get to act like a grownup and try to act like I really understand all that “I second it” and “I’d like to make a motion” stuff. Because it’s elementary school, I’d love to call it “Me too” and “Whatcha think if…?”

Career Day

I have the opportunity to make three 20-30 minute presentations on what a sound editor does for a living. After I explain that I work from home and wear headphones all day, the kids who will decide to pursue this career when they grow up will either be sound aficionados or anti-social shut-ins.

Tribute Songs

During the very last PTA/PACE meeting of the year we have a presentation to say goodbye to all the 5th grade parents who have gone above and beyond in volunteering for the school. I have the dream-of-a-lifetime job of writing a bunch of parodies and having some of the 5th graders perform it that night. My goal is to make the parents simultaneously roar with laughter and weep like babies. (Have some fun and check out last year’s karaoke version at Colfax 5th Grade Tribute 2011 on Youtube).

Colfax World Fair Marketing

This is the Big Kahuna of my volunteer activities, which is fitting since one of the things I get to hype is the Big Kahuna – a huge water slide at the Colfax World Fair on June 2nd. Last year about 7,000 guests attended this event which made $140,000 in a single day. My job is to get the news out about the fair by any means possible and to make enough money to keep all of Colfax’s extracurricular (and curricular) programs alive. I have a great team of volunteers working with me this year who will be spreading the word with Facebook, Twitter, Patch, emails, banners, posters, car magnets, flyers, postcards, lawn signs, newspapers, magazines, radio, online or just good old fashioned word of mouth. By June 2nd, if you haven’t heard of the Colfax World Fair, it means you’ve been in a coma under a rock on a desert island.

Finally…

Tuesday, June 19th is the last day of the 2011-2012 year for this little LAUSD school. So at 1:30 pm I’ll be clocking out.

By then I’ll need a nap.

Advertisements

9 Comments

Filed under Family, Humor, Kids, Multitasking, Music, Parenting, Public Education, Public Schools, Volunteering

My year as a Neighborhood Council Valley Village Board Member

Neighborhood Council Valley Village is made up of 15 dedicated volunteers who work tirelessly for their community. Please take a look at Communications Chair Steven Stokes’ open letter to Valley Village and president Tony Braswell’s list of accomplishments for 2011 by clicking here. It definitely takes a village.

It’s been nearly a year since I was elected to the board of Neighborhood Council Valley Village (NCVV), and I can’t believe what a rewarding experience it has been. Board president Tony Braswell recently listed NCVV’s accomplishments for 2011, and the total is quite impressive.

A year ago, I didn’t know much about local politics, and I wasn’t even sure exactly what neighborhood councils were. I’ve since found that neighborhood councils started forming nearly ten years ago when the San Fernando Valley threatened to secede from Los Angeles. Instead, neighborhood councils were formed across the city of LA to form a bridge between the mayor’s office and their local communities. These volunteers give and receive input about matters like the budget, as well as programs and issues that are important to their community.

For me personally, there were some very satisfying moments:

I'm the 4th from the right

I donned a hard hat and shovel and posed with Councilmember Paul Krekorian for the Valley Village Park improvement groundbreaking ceremony.

I worked hard to try to get shade structures installed over the playground at Valley Village Park, and although there were a few neighbors across the street from the park who were pretty angry (they felt that the park was already too crowded), during Christmas week when the temperature hit the high 80’s my son Jake was able to play without getting heat stroke.

I fought the good fight trying to drum up a letter writing campaign to convince the state Citizens Redistricting Commission (CRC) not to split Valley Village in two. We were unsuccessful, but not for lack of trying.

I was able to chat with Councilmember Paul Krekorian and State Assemblyman Mike Feuer numerous times. Although I had barely heard their names before I joined the board, by the time I met and shook hands with them, I was pretty star-struck.

I'm on the left, waving like Miss America

After marching with my neighbors in the Valley Village 4th of July parade for a decade, this year I was able to wave from a convertible with my fellow board members.

I had a great time volunteering at events like the Pet Adoption Fair, Paul Krekorian’s Inaugural Celebration, National Night Out, Neighborhood Watch, adding information to the NCVV website, promoting events on Patch, attending conventions and seminars like the 2011 LA Congress of Neighborhoods, ethics training, and the Neighborhood Council Green Practices & Projects Workshop, enjoying the Police Activity League Supporter (PALS) Luncheon and Awards and chatting with Officer of the Year Bill Lantz, and working with some very knowledgeable and devoted members on the projects and communications committees.

At the East Valley Police Activity League Supporter (PALS) Luncheon and Awards with Officer of the Year Bill Lantz and felllow NCVV board members Ginny Hatfield and Suzanne Lewis

By getting involved in NCVV, I was able to provide firsthand information regarding the notorious fence with the commissioned graffiti, the continued closing of the two tunnels under the 170 Freeway, additional park improvements, Neighborhood Watch, specific crimes in our neighborhood, and the events at National Night Out.

I admit the meetings can be a little dull and they don’t attract a lot of people. But there was a particular purpose I wanted to serve. I figured that like me, there are hundreds of other parents of young children who live in Valley Village. During our board meetings they are busy working late or making dinner or helping the kids with their homework or giving them a bath… They probably want to know what’s going on in their community, but they’re busy with their daily lives. I figured that since I interact with a lot of them, I could tell them firsthand what’s going on.

This year I look forward to adding more information to the Neighborhood Council Valley Village website (myvalleyvillage.com) and working on and promoting events like our upcoming blood drive (April 10th at Colfax Charter Elementary School), the Virtual Garden Tour, the Pet Adoption Fair,

NCVV logo

the Valley Village Park Refurbishment Celebration, and the online business directory.

I encourage anyone who lives in the Valley Village area to participate by attending our meetings at Colfax Charter Elementary School at 7:00 pm on the 4th Wednesday of each month, or join one of NCVV’s committees, which also meet monthly. You can devote as little or as much time as you like. You too can experience the rewards of volunteering and being more involved in your community.

10 Comments

Filed under Multitasking, Parenting, Volunteering