But I DID Bring It Here!

The title of this post “But I DID bring it here!” is a reply I have been wanting to make to someone I dealt with earlier this week. Here’s the story:

(and note, I have intentionally not said what entity I was dealing with because I think the staff person was just a reflection of the communication system, not a bad employee)

Earlier this week, a local municipal transportation agency was doing a food collection promotion (titled “Caring in Motion”). If you donated two canned goods you would receive a free one-way bus pass; if you donated three canned goods you would receive a free round trip bus pass. Contributions went to a local agency that does a lot for hunger in our community.  Although I don’t ride our local bus, I am a big proponent of mass transit (as well as eliminating hunger) and I have partnered with this entity before.

As soon as I saw the campaign announced, I shared it on Facebook (and possibly Twitter – I don’t recall). I stopped at the store that night and purchased canned goods to take to the main transportation plaza on the appointed day (and yes I got three).

chicken breast one

When I approached the staff person behind her plexiglass shield, she had just finished dealing with a very unhappy customer who was dissatisfied with some aspect of our bus system’s routing. I approached her and asked if I could drop off my items. She was not prepared for that question. She said, “well I can’t give you a free pass” (I replied that was okay) and continued to act reticent about accepting my contribution. At some point I asked, “is it easier to go to that bus over there and hand it to the driver?” She finally opened a special little drawer in her plexiglass bunker where I could fit my items. And as I deposited my items, she said, “You didn’t bring it here.” (As in “I could get in trouble for taking these canned goods … the ones our agency encouraged you to bring and you then encouraged other people to bring … so let’s keep it between us okee dokee?”) I agreed somewhat non-verbally. As I was walking away, I was worrying about the negative experience anyone I told they could do the same thing might have. My worries were interrupted when she heartily yelled over her plexiglass-enclosed microphone: “THANK YOU!”

Why does it matter? For me, it mattered because I had put my name behind encouraging people to do this. Having dealt with volunteers in many capacities, I know how easily one small perceived slight or mishandled detail can deflate a volunteer’s altruistic motivation. More importantly, I was wishing that from a management and leadership perspective, she as an employee had been fully informed about the campaign underway and encouraged to participate and be thrilled that the public was interested in helping out. I know her job is often hard. This could have been handled so differently, so that our interaction was a positive point in her day, not something that made her feel like she was going to get in trouble.

In a post she wrote about “8 Things Collaborative Leaders Know,” Jesse Lyn Stoner said, “People want their organizations to be successful, and when given an opportunity to participate, they bring their best thinking and contribute fully.” In the case of how my contribution to “Caring in Motion” was handled, I just wish the interaction I had with the staff member had been different. Instead of “you didn’t bring it here,” I wish something else had been brought: some “caring in motion” perhaps.

Have you ever had a sense that someone you were dealing with was not fully engaged with their organization? What can managers do to increase opportunities for everyone to participate?

** Update: I ended up sharing this post with StarMetro, emphasizing that it was constructive feedback and the last thing I wanted would be for the employee to be criticized. I really appreciate the director’s gracious reply and receptiveness! One quote: “As always, I enjoy great feedback like this, since it helps identify areas that improvement may be needed.”


Wordless Wednesday (Veterans Village Edition)

Back in January, I wrote a post about the Tallahassee Veterans Village. In connection with that post, I asked you to pitch in and provide 21 bus passes for the residents of Veterans Village.

Through your generosity, I was able to present 22 passes to Veterans Village on

March 8:


22 7-day Star Metro Passes

photo (42)

Veterans Village Director Shawn Noles After Being Presented With The Passes

Vet Vill Flag

A Flag At The Village

Thank you to: Diane Kaji, Dr. Cyneetha Strong, Ron and Michelle Harrison, Debbie Smith, Noelle Mahone, Jennifer Harris, Lisa Cox, Chris Turner, and the anonymous donor who provided 7 passes. You have done a useful and appreciated thing.

crafty spices

MLK Day of Service 2013: Helping Tallahassee Veterans Village

voa florida logo

I have become interested in the work of Volunteers of America of Florida, Inc. VOA-FL is a faith-based, nonprofit, 501(c)3 human service organization that responds to the needs of vulnerable Floridians in these areas:

  • Elderly individuals searching for an affordable and independent lifestyle
  • Individuals, families and Veterans experiencing homelessness
  • Persons with disabilities; and
  • Individuals, families and veterans at risk of homelessness or struggling to make ends meet

VOA-FL has 71 programs and services in 18 Florida cities. I need to do some more research in order to fully understand VOA-FL’s impact and recommendations I can make regarding how interested readers could get involved.

In the meantime, I can share that VOA-FL’s primary Tallahassee project is Veterans Village. Tallahassee Veterans Village is a two year transitional housing program for both men and women from all branches of service who need and want to rebuild their lives through being part of this community. Services available at Tallahassee Veterans Village include: Housing, Health Services, Training, Education, Counseling and Employment.

Tallahassee Veterans Village

Homeless veterans do a lot of waiting. In Tallahassee’s case, there is currently a waiting list for spaces to open up at Veterans Village.

Another kind of waiting Tallahassee Veterans do, whether they have secure housing or not, is for transportation. Most residents of Tallahassee Veterans Village rely on public transportation to get around. Access to public transportation strains budgets that are already stretched thin.

That is why, for my Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service 2013 project, I am setting a goal of generating 21 7-day bus passes for the residents of Veterans Village Tallahassee. These StarMetro passes are $10 each. A latte, a brown bag lunch instead of a lunch out, one less happy hour. It’s not much to ask for people who have served us so selflessly.

7-Day TalTran Card

I’ll be buying mine tomorrow and posting it as Wednesday’s Wordless Wednesday. If you’d like to join me, let me know! If you know me, I will work out a way to get the money from you. You can also PayPal it to me at opuswsk {at} aol dot com.

What I like about doing this is that the benefits of the project will last beyond MLK Day. Edmund Burke said, “Edmund Burke: Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” This is an opportunity for us to do “a little” that can have a big impact on a Veteran’s life.

Are you in?

MLK Day of Service