Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Strike Fri&@*#ng Four!?

I've had a devil of a time trying to volunteer in NYC. It's probably me. I want to help out, but with my...background (?) I'm not sure how or where or...who. I tried first the Ali Forney Center - a shelter for homeless GLBT youth. They set me up making sandwiches at their day-center way over on the west side. They didn't allow me into actual housing facilities, and never gave me a regular schedule so it was me calling to say, "Can I please come over and make sandwiches today?" and I really didn't feel integral, or that I was using my skills---beyond my way around a slice of Velveeta. Next?

The Trevor Project---- is the nation's only 24 suicide hotline for gay, lesbian, transgender and questioning youth. Having been a suicidal teen, the idea of manning their phone lines was WAY too close to home, so I couldn't do that. But they said, being a writer, I could write the "Dear Trevor" responses, which are written responses to kids who write in. These letters offer local services, but no personal sharing, no I've been there.... I'm sure the Trevor Project has their reasons, but when I wrote my "sample letters" according to these guidelines, I questioned the policy, saying it felt impersonal. They never responded!

Gods Love We Deliver-
---makes and delivers homemade meals to people suffering with AIDS and/or other deadly diseases. They said I could volunteer in their kitchen, but they needed no more people to deliver meals in my area (east village). My whole reason for volunteering is to interact, so the kitchen wasn't a good match.

Why is it so hard to volunteer? I had an easier time finding a boyfriend.

My next stop was Big Brothers, Big Sisters of New York. They had me go to an orientation, then fill out a form, come in for a lengthy 1 on 1 interview, an FBI background check, and then my closest friends sent in personal references. I was asked next to come in again for a training. The kids in their program range from like 7 to 17, and are mostly from low-income, single parent families. The "Bigs" take out their "Littles" twice a month---to something cultural, or a movie, but mainly it's just time. They have soooo many "Littles" that need to be placed with "Bigs" that they never have enough--and how great to spend some of my spare time with a kid...Right?

In the mail today I got a letter, hand-signed by one Kate Nammacher. It begins:

Dear Jesse:

It is with regret that I have to inform you that your application to become a volunteer "Big" has been declined. In accordance with policy, BBBS of NYC does not supply reasons why a decision is made.

Ha! I know it wasn't the background check, and it really wasn't the reference was it because at my lengthy interview, I told them I'd done drugs? Should I have lied? Did I fail when we performed those inane "role playing scenarios" in the training---and I got the scenario of the kid who swore on the subway--in public!---and I said I didn't have a problem with that? Or did they google me, find this blog and faint?

I am so done with trying to volunteer. As that imaginary kid in the subway scenario might say: Fuck it!

It feels pretty hideous that I'm not even fit to donate my time to a needy kid. Frankly, it makes me want to breed.


Jake said...

I know its not in the same league as the other groups you mentioned but I can tell you that Heritage of Pride would be thrilled if you decided you wanted to become involved. And I've no doubt there are many other groups that would be similarly delighted to have your help.

Jesse Archer said...

Thanks, Jake! You don't think I'd get rejected by HOP, too?! :0

Thanks for the idea, & a great organization to consider.

Don said...


Even from where I am now this seems ridiculous. With your background who could ever be in a better position to help kids and teens. They do not want to be preached at by those with "pure" backgrounds but rather be exposed to those with true experience - hard to tell them about drugs if you never did them - and so many other things. You should be a real role model - success in the face of many obstacles - like this current one. I pray someone out there will see the value of what you have to offer and make use of it. I applaud your sincere effort to want to help others - why can't everyone see that? If we use our past to learn, and you have, then it should be a real asset and not a punishment!! If you ever need a recommendation, just let me know. And, please do keep trying - there are so many out there who really do need and would benefit from what you have to offer. You have helped me more than you could ever know.


Don said...

I am still so enraged about this matter that I include the message I sent to you directly below!!


I can not tell you how angry your blog entry made me. It is a very sad state of affairs that someone with your experience and background (all of which better prepares you to be of help) should be a negative. Teens today do not want to talk to "pure as saint" Bigs - they respect people who have been there, done that, and survived. I get emails from people (from your blog) who have lost a child and they are so much more able to relate to my pain and what lies ahead than anyone else can. It should not take a rocket scientist to understand that.

The assumption must be that you will try to turn everyone on to being gay, using drugs, etc. How stupid - to think that the world is still that far behind in their thinking - just hard for me to accept. And that people in the positions to run these help organizations think this way is absurd. Students came to me to talk because I had been there and done that - not because I was a saint (which I never was)!! When they had problems I had never experience I was at a loss to really help and would try to find someone who could better relate to them.

Not having you in a helping volunteer role is a loss to all those you might have helped. Anyone can make sandwiches - not that many have a life of experiences to share at your young age. And, you do not strike me as the type to try to directly change anyone's belief system - you always pointed out things for me to consider and think about - and I was always free to do with that information whatever I pleased. I can "sparkle" in my own way, do not have to compare myself to anyone else to be whole, and knowing the things I did not like has been a huge help in finding what I do like - thanks (even a 62 year old can learn a few things - but I listened to what you had to say because you have been there!)!!

If I can ever be of help to you n this area - writing a letter or anything, just let me know. Teens and others out there are so in need of the kind of help you could provide.


Jesse Archer said...

Thanks, Don. I am happy to see and hear from you here. :)

It makes me very angry too.

Jake said...

HOP manages to create some great events. As a largely all volunteer group, we work year round to make our Pride events happen.
But we're a small group, often a bit dysfunctional and would benefit from new ideas and energy. We'd really benefit from having you be involved.

All that said, I agree with the other posters, that your talents and wisdom are great enough that others who are more seriously in need might well be a better place for your energies.

Rebekka said...

Sweetie - the reason are your facebook account, website, and your book! : )

Mike Diamond said...

Honey- have you thought about volunteering at an animal shelter?

The ASPCA has a program where volunteers walk dogs and socialize (play with cats).