Unbridled Earnestness

I wonder if these volunteers ever get a little rundown.

You know, the Greenpeace volunteers who ask you if you have a minute for the planet after being told no all afternoon?  Or the organic farmers who are all about sustainability yet must drive for hours to get to farmers markets.   Their chipper and incredibly earnest attitude suggests that this likelihood of constant rejection or hardship is acceptable to them.  How do they get this way?  And stay this way?

To investigate, I attended the open house for 826 DC, Washington’s chapter of co-founder Dave Eggers’ national string of nonprofit creative writing workshops.  The center specializes in one-on-one training, after-school workshops, and drop-in tutoring.

The storefront is in the plaza in Columbia Heights, right behind the recently completed fountain and solar flowers, next to Julia’s Empanadas and the new fro-yo joint.

On the day of the open house, there was almost an equal number of the aforementioned chipper volunteers (mostly in button downs and Anthropologie frocks), media, and parents and their kids.  The flyer I picked up advertises the fact that 826 is currently open to students 6-18 to work with the “smart, diverse, alarmingly energetic crew of volunteer tutors.  [They] will tutor English homework.  [They’ll] tutor math.  Book reports: yes.  Science projects?  Sure, why not?”

What is not to love here?! My eyebrow-raised cynicism regarding prolonged volunteerism (burnout, martyr complexes) has been cleanly defeated by the spirit of excitement in this place.  I’m sold, it’s wonderful.

These volunteers will be ready to help kids every week, Tuesday to Friday, from 2:30-5:30.  And we all feel pretty good about it.  Volunteer yourself here.

Update: There are evening hours available.  Sign up here.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. jkc says:

    aww, tuesday to friday only?? i would totally go help if it could be on a weekend.

  2. Aw, jkc, you’re the best. They need you too. Try for the evening slots.

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