Volunteer Odyssey: serving others can pay off

Feature story for The Commercial Appeal

June 4, 2013

Samantha Hicks came to Memphis with a husband, a 3-year-old daughter and a master’s degree in social work.

Her husband, Adam, was going to work at the University of Memphis, but she had no job and no contacts.

Although the writing part worried her, she said, “You know what, I’m just going to do it. Volunteering has always been something I wanted to do, but actually contacting the agencies and finding out what you need to do is kind of scary.”

It became a crash course in Memphis nonprofit groups and in networking. “It’s been awesome,” said Hicks, 26. “I haven’t had a bad experience.”

Through her blogging, Hicks landed a job after blog readers alerted her to openings. She is putting her University of Tennessee degree to use as a social worker for the Ave Maria Home, an assisted-living and nursing facility.

Kevin Nowlin, 38, already enjoyed writing and was looking for a way to showcase his abilities. The marketing consultant signed up for Volunteer Odyssey after a freelance project ended.

“I was job hunting all day, working on résumés, kind of pulling my hair out e-mail blasting my résumé to different jobs,” Nowlin said. “I was sitting at home all day, and I just really wanted to do something that I feel like had purpose … rather than wallowing in my self-absorbed job hunt.”

Nowlin has had some interest, and his work with Volunteer Odyssey led to an interview with an employer who read his blog. “It was good to get out and have a face-to-face interview,” he said.

His week turned out to be “more than I hoped for.” He mentions specifically his day with SRVS, a facility providing residential, employment, clinical and learning services to people with disabilities . . . (read more)