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Alumni Profiles
reed magazine logoAutumn 2008

Love Volunteering

By Rachel Adrienne Hall Luft ’95, alumni board president

Volunteer work. Sure, it’s useful for teaching our children about civic duty and the Less Fortunate. Getting involved, giving back to your community, investing yourself in a cause in which you believe, and all that. But do you really want to do it? Not really.

Rachel Luft and her son, Konrad

So then why do people who actually donate their time to various causes go on and on about how great it is? Losers. Boring losers trying to make the rest of us feel bad about our shallow existences. They are just plain mean, if you think about it. And wrong.

By now you are probably on to my subtle artifice and will not be shocked to learn that I’ve found the volunteer work I’ve done for Reed to be extremely rewarding. Let’s dispel a couple of misconceptions about volunteerism for the uninitiated.

Misconception One

You may have an idea of the kind of person who does volunteer work. Perhaps you think volunteers are mostly unemployed: bonbon-eating heiresses or parents’-basement-living failures. Or perhaps you think they are perfect-toothed and perfect-haired happy people who wear red, white, and blue on Election Day. Shudder!

Whatever the stereotype, this misconception serves the dual purpose of confirming both that volunteerism was not meant for you and that you would not enjoy hanging out with extant volunteers, even if you were to pioneer the way for your own kind.

The Truth: I’ve met dozens of Reed volunteers, each delightful in some significant way. I would be hard pressed to make any generalizations about them, except to say that they are not failures of any sort, and only eat bonbons to be polite. As for the scary Perfect People—did you even go to Reed? Did you see any of them there? Okay. Honestly, the other volunteers and Reed staff members are my favorite part of volunteering at Reed. I do not meet enough people of this caliber in my extra Reed life [see “Love Reedies,” Summer 2008].

Misconception Two

Oh, the drudgery! Volunteer work is all envelope-stuffing and cold-calling. You do not have that much free time and, frankly, you do not want to waste it doing the labor Reed couldn’t even pay someone to do.

The Truth: No, no, no. Reed volunteer work—whether it is serving on the alumni board, helping run a local chapter, working for the Annual Fund, interviewing prospies, mentoring, or planning your class reunion—is about creativity, problem solving with smart and funny individuals, using your particular skills or connections, and socializing. You will think I am exaggerating when I say that I think of trips to Reed to do volunteer work as vacations, but I do. I always have a great time and come home feeling rejuvenated and reconnected to the college. The work I do—and keep in mind that it does not get much busier in terms of volunteer work than when you are president of the alumni association—is minimal, and the benefits are many.

Misconception Three

Benefits? (Insert spit take here.) What?!

The Truth: Oh, yes! And not just feeling good about yourself and what you are doing, either. I’m talking about receptions, dinners, reimbursed trips to Portland, lots of inner-glow-creating thanks from college staff members, schmoozing with students and trustees and cool members of the faculty and staff, and (my personal favorite) getting the inside scoop on the college. (Not all benefits apply to all volunteer positions, but most of them do.)

Are you done judging yet? Starting to see the possibilities? If you are a dependable sort of person, think about helping out at Reed. The Reed volunteer force is mighty and has lofty goals that you could be a part of. Contact the office you’re most interested in working for (alumni & parent relations, admission, career services, or development) and find out what you can do to join the ranks of Reed volunteers.

reed magazine logoAutumn 2008