Volunteering on Thanksgiving sucked.
Remember last week? Last week, when I was so excited to join Operation Turkey (the North Austin branch) and hundreds of volunteers to serve thousands of homeless people?
Well, the actual experience completely blew. Here’s what happened…
After I signed my friend and I up for the volunteer job (for which I signed us up to serve cranberry sauce), I got emails instructing us to arrive by 8am on Thanksgiving morning.
Despite being at the bars on dirty 6th until almost 2 am, we were there before 8am ready to serve until noon.
Around 8, a woman, who I’m going to assume was running the operation, came outside equipped with a megaphone. And despite the fact that there were nearly 1,000 volunteers present, half of whom couldn’t hear her, she proceeded to yap her head off via the megaphone, until 9:15, when we were asked to form a single file line that nearly rounded the block.
Around 9:30, the line slowly started to move into the P.F. Chang’s building where the meals were being packed. But very soon after, we started seeing volunteers coming out of the other side of the building, carrying one boxed meal each.
We soon figured out that we were merely going to carry the styrofoam box through the line, while it was packaged, and then go to the end of the line, and wait until we could get another box to fill.
But once we actually got inside the building to receive our boxes, it was a yelling match like I’ve never seen.
Once we got inside, we were walking through a Thanksgiving disco line, with volunteers on either side of us. And they were all yelling, equipped with spoons and vats of yams and corn.
“DO NOT STOP AT THE FOOD, KEEP IT MOVING. WE WILL PUT THE FOOD IN YOUR BOX!!!”
I think I heard that about five times before I started firing back to “STOP. FUCKING. YELLING. AT. ME!”
I don’t know who instructed these volunteers to yell at us, or what audacity was coursing through their veins on that rainy morning, but the absolute LAST thing this hungover singleton is putting up with is being yelled at when I came to do something good.
If I wanted to be yelled at, I’d have gone home for Thanksgiving (#ThanksgivingClapBack).
So, after walking through the line, getting yelled at, and having food thrown into my container, we went home. I was pissed.
Why did we sign up for that? Operation Turkey boasts itself on the fact that they don’t turn away volunteers, but there were clearly WAY too many volunteers there. And that’s a great problem to have! It was really heartwarming to see that many people give up their holiday morning to donate their time, but don’t fool us into thinking we are helping if there’s nothing we can do.
If the food was covered, give us something else to do. Can we help sort clothing or pack drinks or deliver maps to the drivers? No? Then by all means send us home, or direct us to other food shelters that are struggling for volunteers.
Don’t worry, I let Operation Turkey Austin know how I felt via Twitter, and I’ll say it again that I will never be donating my time or money to them again. A volunteer experience should be met with positivity and encouragement — not yelling orders in my face.
I guarantee that on every other day of the year, shelters and other volunteer efforts aren’t lucky enough to have the problem of too many volunteers. And, according to other posts on Twitter, other branches of Operation Turkey looked like positive experiences. Volunteers were high-fiving each other, and everyone looked like they were having fun.
So, I do apologize for offering Operation Turkey to you as a good option to help. This was my first year with them (and my last), so I didn’t have anything to go off of. But, I’ll be in search of other opportunities to help — maybe not on a holiday.