The accidental volunteer

When A Lack Of Planning Is The Best Plan Of All

For one woman, a sudden impulse led to a weekly good turn

Jewelry-maker Megan Stelzer was passing the Chase Home for Children in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, when the thought struck her.

“I think it was the elections that made me realize the country was going in a direction I didn’t think it would ever go,” Stelzer told Good Turns. “There wasn’t enough goodness happening. So, when I see something that needs fixing, I try to not think, ‘Why hasn’t somebody fixed that?’ I try to just fix it if I can, or find somebody to fix it. So I realized that I needed to donate my time, instead of just my money, to something.”

Stelzer had been thinking of donating her time to a farm run by and for refugees, but the prospect of adding an hour’s commute to her week dissuaded her. (“I had to get realistic about who I am.”) But she passed the Chase Home almost every day. And though she hadn’t been planning to stop and volunteer there, that’s exactly what she did. “I’m not a good planner, I’m just kind of direct,” she says. “I just stopped one day and asked whether they needed any help — and of course they did.”

The kids get to see that there are people who just do things, not for money or because somebody’s telling them to, but just because they want to

That was three months ago, and since then she’s showed up one afternoon a week for a four- to five-hour shift in the Chase Home’s kitchen, cooking dinner for the 10 to 15 at-risk youth who are resident there at any given time. “One afternoon a week I go in and work from 3:30 to 8 or so. I make dinner for both the boys and the girls, who eat separately, and then I’ll make the next day’s breakfast burritos and something else — last week I made a ton of berry apple crisp, the week before I made granola — just something that will help the main cook function smoothly the next day.”

“I love cooking, and it’s this really cool old building, this giant kitchen. There’ll be five or six kids hanging out in the kitchen, just talking about whatever kids talk about, and I try to just be a fly on the wall in those instances,” Stelzer says. “The kids get to see that there are people who just do things, not for money or because somebody’s telling them to, but just because they want to. I’m still kind of new there and I’m not a huge talker, and I know that a lot of the kids have walls up and they’re dealing with a lot of stuff. Just the fact that they can walk and talk and function in life, they’re doing great.”

Stelzer is doing something great as well, and all because she was moved to stop one day. Who knows, maybe less planning and more stopping to offer a helping hand is just what the world and the country needs.

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