As we kick off the new year, Xtreme is excited to announce our 2015 Volunteer of the Year! Leah Cole has been working with Xtreme since March 2013. Outside of her role as a Project Manager, Leah has continually made time in her schedule to volunteer and give back to her community. Through the XtremeCares Volunteer Program, Leah submitted her monthly volunteer hours to earn grants for the non-profit organizations she is passionate about and worked toward being named Xtreme's 2015 Volunteer of the Year.
Over the course of last year, Leah volunteered a total of 202 hours. Leah's dedication led her to be named Xtreme's top volunteer and awarded her an all-expenses paid week-long volunteer mission, anywhere in the world.
We sat down with Leah to hear about her passions in the community, and the path that lead her to becoming Xtreme's Volunteer of the Year.
+ Village Volunteers: I started working with Village Volunteers in May 2014. VV is an international non-profit that supports sustainable solutions to community challenges in developing countries such as Kenya, India, Nepal, Ghana, and Malawi. I wanted to diversify my professional experience and had always been curious about how non-profits were run. I found VV while perusing the Idealist listings and the organization’s core values really resonated with me. I had no idea I’d still be there year and a half later as both a volunteer and board member!
+ Cowgirl Spirit Equine Rescue: Volunteering with Cowgirl Spirit Equine Rescue has been a more recent addition to my community involvement this last fall. Cowgirl Spirit Equine Rescue shelters, rehabilitates, and re-homes unwanted and slaughter-bound horses. I am a horse lover at heart and grew up with one of my own but was looking to challenge myself and thought, what better way than to work with rescues and learn new skills while giving back to the local horse community that greatly impacted my youth? Cowgirl Spirit Equine Rescue’s ad popped up while I was searching for opportunities on Volunteer Match and the rest was history!
+ I volunteer for a variety of reasons, but in particular three stand out for me. The first is because I genuinely believe in actively giving back to my community. As cliché as it may sound, we’re all responsible for the world we live in, and our actions today shape it for the generations to come. I feel that getting involved in areas you’re passionate about (be it environmental, social, etc.) is the best way to actively contribute to your world. In my experience, action creates impact which causes investment. The second reason I volunteer is for personal growth. It’s really easy to get caught up in your daily life, staying so focused on reaching your own goals that it’s easy to forget about the privileges you take for granted. Whether I make a weekly commitment or find a one day volunteer opportunity, I like to feel pushed outside of my comfort zone, to learn new skills, and to meet new people. The third reason? It’s so rewarding! In ways I can’t articulate, being involved supplements my life in a really positive way.
+ This is a hard question. I choose volunteer opportunities that speak to my passions and interests. As a result, most of the time I end up enjoying all of my volunteer experiences, however, I’ll admit that it’s typically for reasons I didn’t anticipate. If I had to choose one favorite experience, I would choose my time with VV solely because of the impact I’ve been able to make. I love working with the Executive Director each week to establish and work towards goals and hash out new ideas. VV is truly a grassroots organization with phenomenal values, and it’s been rewarding to have a direct impact. That being said, making sack lunches and handing them to extremely grateful homeless people in downtown Seattle was the strongest and most humbling feeling I will never forget.
+ Next year I’d like to increase my impact by organizing more single day events and influencing more people to get involved. Last year, I organized a group to plant trees by a local river for a few hours and had an epiphany about how great it is to encourage others to give back with you. Instead of planting trees alone with Sound Salmon Solutions, I recruited more volunteers which significantly added to the experience. I’ve really enjoyed my individual volunteer efforts over the last year, so this year I’d like to focus more on empowering others to join me.
+ I love that the XtremeCares Volunteer Program is so supportive of Xtreme employees’ volunteer interests. Xtreme’s community involvement was what initially drew me to the company, and it hasn’t disappointed! The XtremeCares Volunteer Program team is quick to help you fulfill the activities you are interested in. They provide support by helping organize volunteer events that mean a lot to you, giving back via their grants program, or posting pictures you submit of your volunteer efforts. If you’re willing to reach out, you’ll get the support you need!
+ It’s always been a dream of mine to work on sea turtle conservation in Costa Rica. Now I’m going to have to look further into it!