Thursday, December 8, 2011

8 of 30: Volunteering Part 1 - Kitchen and Bartending Duties

My high school did an excellent job of exposing me to the harsh realities of poverty. They immersed us in the culture of those who are less fortunate. We had outreach activities, did field trips out in the provinces or the mountains, slept in the modest huts of our host families, bathed in the rivers with them, raised money with them, and ate with them. These experiences I had while I was young, in my opinion, helped shape my character. Being aware made me grateful for what I had, and eager to give what I could when I can. I took it with me growing up, and as an adult, the yearning to do good and make a difference never left me.
Coming from the Philippines (a former third world country), the concept of poverty in the United States was a little hard to grasp. Which is why it took me a while to get myself into doing volunteer work when I moved to LA. I didn’t think anyone in such a rich country required assistance. But then I realized that one doesn’t need to be poor to need help. There are tons of causes that help the sick, the hungry, the children, etc. All I needed to do was look, and I found that there were a million ways to help!
For this entry, I am going to talk about my first Volunteering opportunity. Kitchen Duty!
It was my company that helped me get the ball rolling. They organized a group volunteer work for Project Angel Food, an organization that helps feed the sick, specifically those who are not strong enough to feed themselves. They cook nutritious and healthy food for them everyday, and they deliver it themselves to those who need it.
The volunteers helped in the kitchen. We chopped some fruits, de-seeded some tomatoes, baked some cookies, packed some dried goods… It was all basic manual labor, and you end up feeling tired but fulfilled! Those are the best kinds of volunteer work – the ones where you really feel like you’re needed, and you actually get your hands dirty!
I was pleasantly surprised at how organized everything was. The main chef assigned each volunteer to a specific task which could be chopping, packing, baking, or cleaning. One could not function properly without the other. It was real team work, and I loved it!

On my first day as a kitchen laborer, I was assigned to chop about 200 pears. We were asked to wear surgical gloves and a hairnet. Every time we went out of the kitchen, we were asked to dispose the gloves, wash our hands, and put on some new ones when we came back. Really clean and orderly!
I did kitchen work a few more times in the span of a few months. Afterwards, I sort of progressed to the EVENTS department. Project Angel Food, in order to raise money for their cause, holds several fund raising events. They ask for volunteers to help out during these functions too, and I was appointed to help out in some of them.

The first event I participated in was an Art Gallery function where famous artists donated some of their work for free to be sold by Project Angel Food. 100% of the proceeds go to the organization!
And my assigned job?


I couldn’t be happier. I mean – I’m technically not that savvy in the ways of the liquor. Luckily, all we had to serve was wine, beer, water and soda. I still had to learn the different types of wine they had there though. They had different whites and different reds. We had to taste all of them too, to make sure we knew what to say when we were asked.
I know, right? The things you gotta do…

Me and my fellow bartenders getting a "shot" in before the night got started

There were 3 of us that worked the bar that night, and I noticed that there were more people queuing up to be served by me than the others. At first it made me a little nervous. Was I just slower than them? And then it made me a little smug. Maybe because I looked pretty hot! But then I remembered that most of the guys there (if not all) were gay. So that wasn’t it.
Then I heard one of the guys a few feet away from me asking his friend where he should line up, and his friend pointed at me and said, “Go to her! She’s a heavy handed pourer! We’ll be drunk in 20 minutes!”
Ahhh. That was it. I had a heavy hand. And a heavy hand meant a full glass = more liquor! I loved it! And they loved me!

The night was hoppin’ and I made so many new gay friends! I was standing and serving alcohol for 4 hours. My legs and back were sore and my feet were wet. But I had the time of my life! I think I could honestly say that it was the best job I’ve ever had!

We weren’t even allowed to take tips – but because of the “tipping culture” in America – everyone kept giving us money anyway! Like they were required to! It was as if they felt bad if they didn’t at least leave a dollar for the nice bartenders who poured them free alcohol!

I ended up earning about 50 dollars at the end of the night (a significantly higher total than the others), and I felt so good about myself! We ended up giving the money to the organization, but still! Not too shabby for a first timer!

I kept volunteering at Project Angel Food after that, and my email address is still in their roster. They  email me if they need help with certain events, and also if they need extra bodies in the kitchen. It’s a really good organization, and the people there seem genuinely passionate about what they do. 
I’m not entirely sure if this is something I can say I’m truly passionate about – but I definitely see myself doing something like this… helping people out as long as my body would let me!

Next Volunteer Gig? Hanging out with the Gay and Fabulous.