Sunday, January 22, 2012

High Five to Lauren Yaffe!

Last week on Monday (1/16/12), Americans across the country observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day. While some spent the day off from work and classes relaxing, others spent the day giving back to the community. Lauren Yaffe falls into the latter group. After hearing about Will Work for Food from her cousin, co-founder Steve Weinberg, Lauren has spent the last four Martin Luther King Jr. Days at the Chicago Cares MLK Jr. Day of Service event. We caught up with Lauren to talk about how she spent her MLK Jr. Day, how she has maintained sponsorship for three years (a difficult feat!), and her advice for those who are interested in Will Work for Food.

Lauren (wearing the Michigan sweatshirt) with fellow volunteers.

What activities did you do for MLK Day this year?
I annually attend the Chicago Cares MLK Jr. Day of Service volunteering event. I have attended the event the last four years and it's a well organized event with lots of volunteers from all over Chicago.Chicago Cares assigns each volunteer to a project each year so you never know what you'll do until the day of the event! This year, I volunteered at an elementary school on the south side of Chicago. The event was open to children and teenagers to participate in activities at the school for most of the day on Saturday Jan 14th. I volunteered with older kids ages 8-14 doing interactive activities throughout the day. We did a "love your neighbor" activity allowing the kids to interact with their peers as well as learn that we are all similar in many ways. We then did a game called the Bully Machine in which we taught kids about bullying and how to respond when they get bullied or if they see a friend or fellow student getting bullied. Cyberbullying is a major issue in schools right now due to Facebook, Twitter and even texting, so it is important to teach kids tolerance and acceptance as well as how to respond if they are being bullied. The last activity allowed the kids to paint their ideas of what symbols of peace look like throughout the world. We glued all the paintings together into a mural that was hung in the school foyer for all the kids to see.

Describe how you have continued your relationship with your sponsors over the years.
I only choose one volunteer event each year to get WWFF sponsorship for. I have decided that a large annual full day volunteer project seems worthy of asking for sponsorship from my friends and family. Plus, it is an annual commitment that I have made to Chicago Cares and WWFF that most of my friends and family recognize. I also make it known that any form of financial support is appreciated and can make an impact on child malnutrition. I also encourage my friends to volunteer with me each year! Each year, I've had 1-2 friends to volunteer with me (usually U of M grads!). When asking for sponsorship/donations, I usually only reach out to friends that I have a strong relationship with. I also like to ask co-workers that I'm close with if I think that they would be passionate about the WWFF cause. Lastly, after the volunteer activity, I write all the sponsors a follow up email sharing with them what volunteer activity I did for the day (with pictures attached) as well as how much they helped to raise in total. I think this email allows the sponsors to feel included in the work effort rather than feel just like a person who donated.

Do you have any advice for those who are interested in Will Work for Food but need ideas or inspiration going forward?
I think that people should volunteer for a cause that they are passionate about. I am passionate about fighting child malnutrition in Africa (I've traveled to Kenya, Morocco, South Africa and Zambia and have seen the living conditions, poverty and lack of clean water) and think the cause is worthy of our support. Also, I enjoy giving back to my community while also making friends. Thus, I often try to volunteer with Chicago Cares activities which has many young professionals. I also enjoy volunteering with University of Michigan alumni to stay connected to my college roots. It's important to be selective in asking for sponsors. If someone chooses to tutor children every other week at a local elementary school, that person could ask for sponsorship for the entire year based on their bi-weekly commitment to serve in the community. I have chosen to partner with WWFF for my annual Chicago Cares MLK Jr. Day of Service.

Lauren, thank you so much for your continued support for Will Work for Food and your philanthropic spirit. We look forward to hearing about your future accomplishments!

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