For one week this summer five job seekers will participate in Volunteer Odyssey Forward Week
, volunteering for seven different non-profit organizations and then blogging about their experiences. The application process is open now and runs until July 11.
"The idea came about as a way to help people who are unemployed and looking for something to drag them out of a rut and galvanize them to do something positive with their time while they are job seeking," says Dr. Sarah Petschonek, Volunteer Odyssey
Founder and CEO, who worked for 30 different non-profits in 30 days during 2012 and then honed that experience down into a one-week program.
Odyssey Week is funded by a $10,000 grant from Chicken of the Sea, which unexpectedly contacted Petschonek about the grant in April.
"I'm still sort of in shock about the way it happened. A couple of months after getting our non-profit status, we just got an email out of the blue with a donation from Chicken of the Sea," says Petschonek, who explained the grant was part of Chicken of the Sea's "Pay It Forward" campaign marking their centennial anniversary. Volunteer Odyssey became the campaign's Memphis representative.
Volunteer Odyssey partners year-round with a wide range of 30 local non-profits, including MIFA
, Indie Memphis
, The Bridge
, Ave Maria Home
, LeBonheur Children's Hospital
, Mid-South Food Bank
, Room in the Inn
and many others.
"We match each person with non-profits based on their skill sets and interests," explains Petschonek.
Later, when participants are in job interviews, they are able to show they have used specific skills at various non-profits during their time between jobs as a way of giving back to the community.
"The idea is that they can really leverage their experiences during the job-searching process," says Petschonek.
Since forming 16 months ago, Volunteer Odyssey has helped 25 job seekers, who have donated more than 1,000 hours of volunteer time to local non-profits.
Odyssey Week participants will be announced on July 21.
By Michael Waddell