“Don’t be afraid to try something new.”
These are the words Alex Lamers recalls using as encouragement when getting involved with Hands On Nashville more than a year ago. He says they still ring true today.
“I almost didn’t go to the very first HON event I signed up for,” Alex said. “Now I volunteer a couple times a week.”
When Alex isn’t researching the development of new anti-cancer drugs at Vanderbilt University, fixing bikes, playing music, exercising, or catching up on his many other hobbies, you can often find him giving his time to other causes he’s passionate about – planting trees, restoring waterways, and leading volunteers at Project C.U.R.E., to name a few.
We recently caught up with him about why he gives his time, what new volunteers need know, and meeting new people during his experiences.
HON: What made you decide to volunteer?
AL: I initially began volunteering as a way to do something productive with my free time and meet new people. After I had invested more time in projects, I continued because it was great to see how much we had accomplished.
HON: You’ve spent a great deal of time at tree planting and waterway recovery projects. What drew you to these two programs?
AL: [Volunteer Leader] Mike Cain. In retrospect, I was extremely fortunate to meet Mike during my first volunteer experience with Hands On Nashville. Mike is pretty much an ideal project leader: friendly, well-organized, pragmatic, and very enthusiastic. I initially approached his projects because I was interested in doing something outdoors. Having such a great project leader was what kept me coming back to volunteer.
HON: What would your advice be to new volunteers to help make their experience more enjoyable?
AL: Have fun! I like exercising and being outdoors, so I got involved in tree planting and waterway cleanups. I also enjoy fixing bikes, so I became involved at the Oasis Bike Workshop. Start with something you enjoy doing and go from there.
HON: What is the best part about volunteering?
AL: As cliché as it sounds … none of the projects would get done without volunteers. While it’s sad that society seems to place profit over humanitarian or environmental needs, it’s absolutely awesome to see how many people step up and give their free time to causes they believe in.
Another great thing about volunteering is the people. I’ve met a lot of great people through volunteering, and I would strongly encourage volunteers to talk to at least one or two new people every time they volunteer.
HON: What do you struggle with?
AL: It’s easy to look at a large project and say, ‘Planting a single tree won’t help,’ or, ‘Picking up a bag of garbage won’t make that much of a difference.’ It’s a lot harder to look at a project – or anything in life, really, and say, ‘Planting a single tree won’t help, but if 500 people plant one tree a day for a year, then we’ll have made a very, very, very small dent in the problem.’ That last line of thinking is what I struggle with.
It’s hard to commit yourself to a project when you don’t see results for weeks, months, or possibly years. And while immediate gratification fades quickly, the sense of pride you get from working consistently on something and being able to watch it as it grows is something else entirely.
HON: Anything else you would like to share about your experiences as a Hands On Nashville volunteer?
AL: I’ll end with a simple summary of my experiences…HON – A simple way to do some great with awesome people in your free time.
Interested in joining Hands On Nashville for an upcoming volunteer project? Visit HON.org to sign up today.