I must admit that I’ve been feeling down in the dumps lately… but spending the afternoon with the wonderful community of Companis workers cured me quickly!
You haven’t heard of Companis in Seattle? You need to!
Companis is an organization that matches professionals in the Puget Sound community with struggling nonprofits who need social workers, accountants, program managers, directors, development professionals… but cannot afford the staffing costs. Companis workers commit to year-long terms of service to their matched organizations. Yes, a year. Think of it as the Peace Corps for Seattle. And Companis doesn’t just make the volunteer match and move on. Workers gather together every few weeks for support and workshops, have annual retreats, and other community building opportunities. This model means that the experience is as enriching and transformative for the workers as it is for the organizations with which they volunteer.
I feel so lucky — blessed, really — to have learned of Companis last summer. Even though I myself have not had the opportunity to become a year-long Companis worker (hopefully in the future when the circumstances are right), I realized today at the Companis picnic how important and inspiring this organization has been to me — personally and professionally.
Why did I realize this just today? A microphone was passed around the room, and each person was to introduce themselves and share their service with Companis. I was concerned because I was essentially an interloper: I helped with their event last fall, but I’m not a Companis worker. I’m a Companis friend and lover, but not a worker.
With the microphone in my hands, and after listening to 75% of the room already share their amazing year(s) of service and personal growth, it hit me — Companis (and especially the Associate ED and my beloved mentor, Gary) has changed my life. They inspired me to remember why I chose nonprofits instead of other professions when I changed careers in 2007. They inspired me to reassess the work I was involved in and refocus my priorities (as evidenced by my decision to leave an arts organization — free theater and music tickets! — to work with a struggling food bank last December). They supported me and encouraged me as I engaged in new opportunities, both professional and volunteer.
Do what is right and good and fair. Be compassionate and generous and passionate. Never compromise your values.
Thank you again, Craig, for inviting me to the picnic today and letting me be a part of your wonderful Companis community! Thank you, Gary, for teaching me more about goodness, and about myself, than anything I learned in school.