Supposedly we are the "selfish generation," but you wouldn't have known it this past Saturday at the Salvation Army near Hampden, as a group of more than 50 twenty-somethings scrambled around the warehouse trying to find the perfect Easy Bake Oven or Razor scooter to fill boxes for families in need.
Ugly sweaters abounded, Mariah Carey Christmas music blasted out of a stereo, and everyone's energy (in part because of the Dunkin' Donuts coffee) was on high.
This was just the latest event put on by Volunteering Untapped (VU), an organization that sends volunteers to an area nonprofit on the second Saturday of every month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. before an afternoon at a local brewery or bar. The idea is to make volunteering fun and accessible—and nothing does that quite like throwing some booze into the mix.
"I recognized that young professionals around Baltimore wanted to get involved in their community, but didn't know how," says VU founder Seth Franz, 31, a Federal Hill resident. "I wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to give back. But we hope this also encourages volunteering outside of the program. That is at the core of our mission."
Counting our Salvation Army excursion, VU has put on 11 events and tallied up 875 hours of community service since its inception in February. The nonprofit has worked with organizations like Habitat For Humanity, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Maryland Food Bank, and Village Learning Place.
And then there's the second half of the events, of course, where volunteers network at a local watering hole. This past Saturday, while still dressed in holiday garb, we found ourselves belly up at the bar in Union Craft Brewing's taproom. We imbibed in delicious pints of Snow Pants Oatmeal Stout and partook in hourly brewery tours. All the while, The Green Bowl food truck was parked outside for necessary sustenance. (Few things hit the spot after a couple of strong beers quite like a pork-and-Sriracha-riddled rice bowl.)
"Young professionals are looking for a way to meet people without having to play kickball," Franz says. "And if you give three hours of your time on a Saturday morning to make your community better, you deserve a beer."
Still in its first year, participation increases with every event that VU puts on. Keep a look out for upcoming ones, like mosaic making at Art With a Heart in January, a neighborhood cleanup in Oliver in March, and an event with Blue Water Baltimore in April.