What do you do when you move to a new city and don’t know anyone and don’t have a job lined up? You volunteer! Shanle Vandermeer had recently moved to San Diego, Calif., 5 years ago, and she wanted to get a job working in nonprofit events. It turns out, volunteering would serve a dual purpose for her, helping her gain valuable experience and connecting her with her new community. After seeing a post on Idealist.org for a volunteer Event Chair position with the local affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Shanle jumped at the opportunity.
She didn’t have a connection to pancreatic cancer or know very much about the disease, but she was grateful for the opportunity and treated it like a job. When learning about pancreatic cancer, it hit her that getting a chance to raise awareness and funds for the disease was a very important.
Three years later when another move took her to Los Angeles, she leveraged her time spent volunteering and her knowledge of the disease and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and got a job with the organization’s Community Engagement team at its national office. In this position, she gets to work with Event Chairs in the Northeast and Midwest who do what she did as a volunteer with the San Diego Affiliate. She remains impressed by their enthusiasm, commitment and positivity.
“When I first started volunteering with the San Diego Affiliate, I met so many people who had been personally touched by pancreatic cancer, she said.
“The story of this disease unfolded in front of me. It’s amazing and inspiring that so many of our volunteers have been through unimaginable loss and somehow find their way to hope.”
Shanle’s volunteer experience influences how she approaches her job. Now that she is in a role that directly supports PurpleStride Chairs, she encourages them to ask for help when they need it.
“One person can’t do everything. In fact, delegating to their core team or planning committee will free up PurpleStride Chairs to see the event holistically – that’s how their events will grow and reach more people!”
She also said volunteering puts life in perspective.
“Giving your time to this cause has the power to help realize what is really important. Suddenly, making time to mow the lawn becomes a little less pressing.”