Volunteering for VIPs at Brewfest

This post is made possible by support from the Reward Volunteers Program. All opinions are my own.

VIPs are “very important people,” right?

At the Tallahassee Brewfest sponsored by Sunrise Rotary, VIPs got special treatment: their own designated entrance queue, special food, extra swag, and the all-important “special VIP glass.” No boring nondescript beer-tasting cups for them!

Reward Volunteers Program

What Volunteers Do

I had many tasks throughout my day as a volunteer at the Tallahassee Brewfest, starting with unboxing those VIP glasses.

As the VIPs arrived, we welcomed each one, got them set up with their goodies, and wished them a happy event.

After the VIPs were processed, we had other jobs to do. We helped answer questions, relieved other volunteers, kept the venue tidy, and in general promoted a happy vibe among the 1200 Brewfest attendees.

After the event, we ushered participants out, then it was breakdown time. Our volunteer duties during breakdown time fell under the “if you see it, and it needs to be done, do it” category. Carting boxes of unused supplies out. Consolidating uneaten food and getting it to a new home. Throwing away bags of trash. Dismantling tables. More trash.

How Volunteering Helps

The Sunrise Rotary Tallahassee Brewfest is the club’s largest event of the year. Twenty-one organizations benefit. 21!

Each of these organizations is oh-so-worthy, but there is something Rotary does that makes it important for me, even though I am not a Rotary member, to pitch in at Brewfest: Rotary International is one of five partners in the Polio Eradication Initiative, a public-private partnership pursuing the sole goal of eradicating polio worldwide. I have been a Shot at Life champion for five years, advocating for children worldwide to have access to immunizations for vaccine-preventable diseases including polio. We’re all on the same team in that regard, so it’s important for me to chip in.

Among the 21 causes Brewfest helps directly, several of them intersect with my interests and affiliations. I may not be able to volunteer at each one regularly, but helping at Brewfest indirectly gives them a boost. The Alzheimer’s Project, for example, provided several hours of respite care weekly so I could run errands (or sleep, or work) without worrying about my father-in-law. Honor Flight, a favorite cause, takes WWII veterans to Washington, D.C., every year to be honored. 211 Big Bend helps people experiencing suicidal thoughts or other mental health issues in addition to compiling resources for community services. More importantly to me, it’s where I received mental health training and experience that has served me for decades, long after I stopped answering the phones for the counseling hotline and the Florida AIDS Hotline.

What Volunteers Get

The list of rewards for volunteering at Brewfest flows as easily as the taps did that night (until time to close when we friendly volunteers showed everyone the exit)!

In addition to helping all the great causes I listed above, we get to see a broad cross-section of our community and socialize while we work.

We even got beer breaks – something you can’t say of every volunteer gig.

Reward Volunteers Program

I also accrued Reward Volunteers points. RV is a program sponsored by the Cabot Cooperative, makers of the World’s Best Cheddar and other dairy products. I have been a member for more than a year. Here’s what Reward Volunteers is all about:

  • It’s a site where you can log your volunteer hours and keep track of the ways you make the world a better place
  • Participating organizations (and individuals) can win prizes for logging their hours
  • Reward Volunteers lets you search for volunteering opportunities in your area
  • The site gives gives Organizations and Volunteers a free way to track volunteer activity.

Learn more about Reward Volunteers from this Facebook Live I did with Cabot volunteer Amanda Freund.

But here’s one thing no bullet point list can adequately capture: the fun factor. It was rainy. Our boxes of VIP glasses got soggy. Guests arrived a bit skeptical about how day would turn out. We all had a great time.

Who’s the Real VIP?

There were other VIPs that got something out of the day besides the people we greeted when the event began. The other very important people are the ones served by the 21 incredible agencies that Brewfest supports.

The beer taps may have had to stop at the end of the event, but the event’s good results will flow all year long.

Reward Volunteers Program

 

Until Alzheimers is Cured, Let’s Do This

When we prepared Wayne’s dad’s obituary, we designated Big Bend Hospice for donations. BBH definitely deserved this prominent place, and has earned any and all donations people choose to give.

However, another cause that merits attention is Alzheimers Disease. Although Dad didn’t technically have Alzheimers, his short-term memory and cognition were sufficiently impaired that he qualified for the services of our local (and awesome!) Alzheimers Project here in Tallahassee.

Our Experience

Because Dad had experienced several mini-strokes in 2012, his short-term memory was affected. (Note: This dry sentence doesn’t really begin to address what that meant in reality, as it played out in our day-to-day lives.)

This is a bit of a layperson explanation, but he had difficulty remembering events or details that had just transpired, while it was often easier to recall long-term memories. He would ask, for example, if something we were watching (that was obviously (to us anyway) a film) was occurring live. He asked my husband Wayne if he was married (sigh….).

Things changed about the way he processed the world. He didn’t care about personal hygiene. His laugh wasn’t a humorous laugh — it was a haunting expression that always unnerved me — and I could never just put it in some category of “that’s because of his condition.” I am sorry to say that almost to the very end I was sniping back “that’s not funny” and slamming doors (often over the all-too-frequent cat escapes that he facilitated).

Most importantly (and this is a mixed bag), his memory deficits prevented him (I think) from really comprehending how sick he was. Melanie, our incredible social worker, said “that’s probably a blessing” and she was right, to a degree, but I always felt it must be scary as he** for him to see all of us buzzing around, acquiring equipment, administering medication, transforming his room with a hospital bed, for reasons he couldn’t figure out.

Alzheimer’s and dementia are different for everyone, but the challenges are numerous and share common threads, both for the patient who doesn’t fully comprehend the path their life has taken and for the caregiver trying to be compassionate without losing their own mind.

The Alzheimers Project has many services (free), including support groups, respite services, counseling and more. I tell everyone to go to support groups (although (cough cough) I never made it to one. But we did get so much benefit out of the respite care, where an Americorps volunteer comes to the home to care for the patient for a few hours each week. Thanks to respite care, I was able to work, nap, and run errands (and Dad was able to interact with someone new). They were godsends. Here is Alex, who was with us almost until he passed away.

Alzheimers Advocacy

(Note, to read more about the role of Fordham Afghan pictured here in our lives, please click this link.)

Ways To Support Alzheimers Efforts

Like I said in the beginning of this post, it is important to me that the world know how much benefit we received from our local Alzheimer’s Project, and how much we want other families with Alzheimers (and similar issues) to receive support, along with our hope that research will eliminate this terrible disease. If you are a family dealing with Alzheimers, call their hotline 24/7 at 1.800.272.3900 or visit their website by clicking here

If you aren’t currently personally dealing with Alzheimers, but still want to help

Buy a Rivet Revolution Product

Rivet Revolution sells beautiful handcrafted jewelry and donates $10 from each purchase to three Alzheimers-related causes: Part the Cloud, Hilarity for Charity, and The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement. Here is mine; isn’t it beautiful?

Alzheimers Advocacy

Rivet Revolution notes these facts among the reasons why they feel so strongly about ending Alzheimers (besides the fact that each of the three founders has a personal connection to the disease).

  • One in 10 people age 65 and older (10 percent) has Alzheimer’s dementia
  • Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women
  • Alzheimer’s Disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States
  • Every 66 seconds someone in the United States develops the disease
  • More than 44 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer’s

Do Charity Miles for the Alzheimers Association

Did you know you can walk, run or bike and help the Alzheimers Association earn funding just by using the Charity Miles app?

Here’s a memory from some Charity Miles I did last year (which seems like a lifetime ago for many reasons).

Alzheimers Advocacy

If You’re in Tallahassee, PARTY!

Seriously, if you’ve never been to Parrothead Phrenzy (it’s coming up on August 26!) or Purple Craze (This year’s has already happened but I imagine there will be a 2018 event), you’re missing out! These events help the Alzheimers Project and show you a great time while you’re at it!

Donate

There’s always the option of straightforward donations! To donate to the Tallahassee Alzheimers Project, click here (a donation as small as $2.50 can provide a replacement band for a Project Lifesaver bracelet). On a more national level, you can donate to the Alzheimers Association here.

Think About Your Words

Although I have my definite (and many, and very strongly held) opinions about our current president, it unnerves me to hear people diagnosing him on the basis of his tweets and behaviors. To me, it dilutes the specificity with which we need to address Alzheimers and related dementia conditions. Let’s be deliberate with the words we use; actual patients are paying a price every day for something that didn’t get diagnosed by strangers second-guessing.

Lastly, a word from Maria Shriver…

Alzheimers Advocacy

Note: I was provided a complimentary Rivet Revolution bracelet.All opinions, though are my own and I will be at the absolute front of the line to do be a part of eradicating Alzheimer’s.