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September 8, 2011

Jennifer Smith

by ebmeier

Jen Smith“I think that everyone is moving so fast and that our cities are growing. Often times you are living so close to your neighbors and it is nice to have a green space to appreciate quiet, to meet your neighbors, for kids to play or to view a beautiful sunset. I think that preserving green space in any city is important. In Minnesota where I am from, we have more space and so here I feel dedicated to keeping some of the city green. If we can preserve land, it would benefit Seattle a lot.”

Activities

Project organizer, advisory boards, gift-giving efforts.

Projects

Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, Society for the Blind, Cascade Bicycle Club, pet rescue, Crown Hill neighborhood park.

Why Volunteer

The thread running through all of my volunteer efforts, is that there is a people element to it and I am volunteering to either help the community or the people in the community. I gain a tremendous sense of accomplishment when I volunteer. I gain more than I give and I like the type of volunteer work that puts me in touch with other people. I would rather work on a committee or a team. I like it to be community based. I always work on something that tugs at my heart strings. With the park projects, the neighbors who come to see the property are in awe that we are working to improve our neighborhood. That’s what I get out of it.

Inspirations

The people I worked with on the Special Olympics are the most inspiring to me. Many people had volunteered for so many years and most of them had committed to weekly volunteer efforts for several years. That was tremendously inspiring to me.

Another person that has inspired me, especially in Seattle, has been Jack Tomkinson. Jack has spent hours upon hours working on park projects and creating a non-profit organization to inspire others to create parks. He is well-connected in the community, he knows who to talk to, how to get things done, he definitely has been my inspiration.

Her Story

I have been volunteering for years, and have worked with Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, gift giving trees at companies I’ve worked for, local park projects, Society for the Blind, and pet rescue. Locally, I have served on both the Special Olympics and the Cascade Bicycle Club Advisory Boards. For the track and field program with the Special Olympics, I gathered 145 volunteers every Saturday to practice with the athletes to ready them for the big games. I was an event director for an event with the Cascade Bicycle Club and helped with others’ events. As a board member, I oversaw the club’s direction and helped put together a strategic plan, and consulted on areas where I had expertise.

My most current work is on the Fremont Peak Park and a new park in my neighborhood. I am working to help create green space in a densely populated part of the city. From my experience with working on Fremont Peak Park, I found out that there is a piece of land at the end of my block and I am working to help make that a more robust park and playground. The park is in Crown Hall at Holman and 13th NW. It is just in the beginning stages, gathering interested parties. I have a strong block watch group, so I have been talking with neighbors and generating interest for the park to add to the design value for what the community is interested in. I am an organizer at heart so that is where my strengths are and I am also fundraising. I have an advertising and design side as well. I’d like to give some ideas and review plans. I also love to garden, so would love to dig and do some landscaping too.

I think that everyone is moving so fast and that our cities are growing. Often times you are living so close to your neighbors and it is nice to have a green space to appreciate quiet, to meet your neighbors, for kids to play or to view a beautiful sunset. I think that preserving green space in any city is important. In Minnesota where I am from, we have more space and so here I feel dedicated to keeping some of the city green. If we can preserve land, it would benefit Seattle a lot.

Working on the Fremont Peak Park was very important to me. That area is very densely populated and that park was created for and by the neighbors. There was a core group of community members that worked to create the park. There are little undeveloped corners around the city that you can spot if you are looking for them. That project showed me the power that a community has to work towards keeping Seattle green.

I tend to be a typical baby boomer, I like to get in there and make a difference. Time permitted, I take core, high impact pieces of a project. On the other side, I am happy to stuff envelopes or do a one afternoon event. Organization is my strong point so anytime I can help to organize, I am happy to help. I have responsible roles at work and these extend into my volunteer work.

I started volunteering when I was young. I remember my mother working on adopting a family project (gathering clothes and household items) and sending it to a family in need — I have been volunteering ever since. Most of my projects have come to me. Either a friend or work associate has mentioned what they are involved in and I have expressed an interest and that has led to helping. The sky is the limit for what you can do! If you have a little or a lot of time, there is absolutely something that can help. You pick something that you are passionate about, that speaks to you. You can look online (volunteer section on organization’s websites), the newspaper, talk with your friends and neighbors. There is so much going on, and it is amazing how many people are working to do things for others. You can either play to your strengths or your specialty, or you can go out and do something that you have never done before.

All my friends get engaged in whatever I am working on. I call them and they help. I would hope that I have inspired others. I organized a Habitat for Humanity volunteer team day with a company I worked with which turned out perfectly. People grew through the experience themselves, as well as helping others. There was someone who worked on a roof all day — I found out later that he was terrified of heights. He had stayed on that roof all day long and overcame his own obstacles.

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