Stranger 73, Day 73 - Meet Kailee

Stranger 73, Day 73 – Meet Kailee, the “Volunteer for Good”

Welcome back to Monday! I had an idea of a few people I could’ve met today because I’ve seen so many people around my office that I still haven’t met them, yet. They’re still the familiar Stranger faces. So when I was in the kitchen area and one of them walked up, I was eager to say hello and FINALLY meet her. No surprise from the number of times that she’s smiled and was courteous that she was also happy to meet and be today’s Stranger. Little did I know how much volunteering and connecting with others was so much a part of her.

Meet Kailee, 24

Who are you?

“I am from the Midwest originally. I am a daughter and sister to my brother. I’m a girlfriend, and a family member. Definitely a passionate coworker. Very passionate about non-profits. Work with 501 Auctions. We work with non-profits all the time. I’m also an avid volunteer. I work with a handful of organizations. I’m pretty new to Atlanta — a new Atlantan. Yeah! It’s good to be here!”

She’s been here almost exactly a year ago — “drove down Thanksgiving of last year, and moved in the Friday after Thanksgiving.” (Today’s the Monday after Thanksgiving.)

You talk about non-profits and volunteering. What do you to volunteer?

“I volunteer at the community garden at the Blue Heron Nature Preserve. It’s right up on Roswell Rd., and right on the corner. I can walk down to the Blue Heron Nature Preserve. It’s a community garden, so a lot of people pay for their plots. They can garden right there. But then, there’s also three plots for the homeless. I volunteer, and I’m in charge of one of the plots for the homeless. I also work with the two other gardeners that run the two other plots. I help harvest all of the stuff, and then I run it downtown to Crossroads Kitchen.”

She continues, “And then, I’ve actually volunteered in the kitchen as well. Clyde run the kitchen (for a while). It’s associated with St. Luke’s, and they basically make all the food, and then they give out a ton of meals a day. I think they’re open from 10 and noon. It’s part of a program for homeless people. To be able to get your meal ticket, you have to sign up for their program. So you get a mailbox. If you’re a veteran, you can get your checks there. You can get your ID. A lot of programs. They don’t actually have a shelter, but it’s basically getting you on track to try to not be homeless anymore. That’s my main project.”

“And then, I just signed up La Amistad which is a tutoring program for Latina youth, and they’re getting a lot of help for their homework especially because English is a second language mostly.”

Why are you volunteering so much?

“I’ve done it my whole life. Growing up, we used to stop at a bunch of local grocery stores, and then take ’em to downtown Grand Rapids to a place called God’s Kitchen. I’m from the Grand Rapids area, and that’s something that I just did on the weekend with my parents for as long as I remember. So it’s really important to me. I think food’s a very important cause especially for those who don’t have it.”

“Then, I went to school. I went to college in Chicago. So I was exposed to a lot of homelessness there. A lot of cold. I went to a Jesuit college, which is very social justice-y. I worked with children. I’ve worked with the homeless. I’ve worked with the elderly.”

“I just think it’s a really good way to give back, and meet other people and connect! So I’ve really enjoyed it.”

I’m sure there’s been several moments when you’re volunteering, and something just hits you like, “wow, I made this impact” or “this person was so grateful”. Can you describe one of these moments that you had?

“I taught an after-school program in Chicago. I was a tutor, but then, they also needed a way for the kids to get some of their energy out. I’ve been a dancer my whole life, so I taught a dance class. A lot of them were mostly boys. I think I had a class of 18, and I think I only had three girls. So most of them weren’t very into it. But I had one little boy who was super into it. He would come in — I volunteered Tuesdays and Thursdays — so he would show me how he had practiced, and his little routine. I think that was really important because it gave him something to work on. He said he had been working on it at home, and I gave him something to look forward to. He hated homework, so he hated going to the after-school program. But he loved the physical aspect of being able to dance and get his energy out. I think that was a really, really good moment.”

“Also, I volunteered with a program called Caring Connections for seniors. I worked with this woman who was 85, and she had been working as a tenant advocate in the Chicago community for low-income housing. I totally had no idea all of… kind of the hardships a lot of low-income tenants have, and how landlords can use and abuse them. She really worked for awareness and advocating for them. She couldn’t read her computer. She could type, so I would sit there and read her emails for her and have to type back. She was really appreciative. She was a little sassy, but even more, was seeing how thankful the tenants that needed her help were. And thankful that me and then another volunteer were able to help and keep the program running. She’s like a huge name in that circle, but she definitely needed the help to keep it organized and keep it running.”

So you mentioned your family a lot, so far. What is one of your earliest/ fondest memories that you have with your family?

“My parents always joke that we only remember the negative parts of our vacations because we’ve had some weird things happen on our vacations. Like my mom, when we were on vacation, when she bit into a burger, there was a tack in it. There was a time when we went on this boat, and everyone got sea sickness and was puking. But I’ve never gotten motion sickness, so I was helping all of the staff pass out puke bags when I was 10.”

“I think one of my favorite memories, though, was when I got sun poisoning when we were in St. Thomas — an island. My brother and my parents stayed in and watched movies with me all day even though we were on this beautiful island. They stayed in and watched movies because I couldn’t go in the sun.”

“I think just the little things when bad things have happened, my family’s really good at sticking together, and kind of making the best out of any situation.”

So it’s the end of November, and the election just happened. Both candidates have some “negative sides” to them. Thinking about who you voted for, how did you vote for that person while overlooking/ reconciling the negative stuff the person had attributed to them? (Thanks to Toby, Stranger 72)

“Yeah, so that’s a really good question. I think for a lot of people, similarly for myself, it came down to who’s the lesser of two evils. But also, what’s important to you? What are the main causes that you care about?”

“I think about things that are really important to me like women’s issues, education, the environment is huge… I think that’s something we’re all on the same boat. Like, if we don’t act, I think there’s just a number of things, and even though Hillary definitely has a number of skeletons in her closet, she did represent a lot of the things that I found that were important. And just hearing some of the opposition’s views on things, particularly, the environment is the thing I’m most passionate about. So while I definitely don’t want anyone to fail, like we’re all in the same sinking ship with the environment, we’re all in the same sinking ship as a country, we don’t want anyone to fail, but I think my greatest worry is more about his appointment for Myron Ebell who doesn’t believe in global warming and doesn’t believe in our effect on the environment. And so as the country that pollutes the most out of the entire world, I think it’s important for us to still keep awareness that our actions do have consequences. So that was one of the main reasons I voted the way I did. But I’m not an overly radical person when it comes to politics. I think every President has their point of influence, but nothing’s going to change over night. The world isn’t going to explode. Just keeping in mind the things that are important to me, and trying to advocate for them the way I can.”

What is a question you’d like to ask anyone (effectively, tomorrow’s Stranger)?

“Hmm, that’s a really good one!”

“I’ve been watching this show Westworld.” She asked me if I had heard of it to which I said I didn’t. “So it’s very interesting. It’s very dark. It’s on HBO. It basically was created by the creator of Jurassic Park. It’s his first screenplay that he’s wrote. It’s a similar premise. Basically, you can go into this world and do whatever you want. You pay $40,000 a day, and you go in and do whatever you want. It’s set up like the Wild West, but instead of actual humans, they’re robots, but they look very human-like and life-like. So there’s a number of things… you can do whatever you want. You can drink. You can kill people. You can steal. You can do all these different things.”

“The new kind of premise from it is what do you want to know about your consciousness. If you were stuck in that world, would you want to know because some of the robots are becoming aware of it.” She admits at this point that she’s unsure of the question she wants to ask, but she thinks about it.

“If you were in a bad situation, and you didn’t know it, would you want to know? Or would you want to live in like blissful ignorance?” It’s similar to the Matrix!

After the handshake.

First, Kailee, we’re glad you’re here! (I’m speaking for Atlanta and the startup community at ATV, of course, but I’d say for Mother Earth.)

As Kailee was sharing how much she volunteered for others, it was just… astounding. I was so thoroughly impressed with how much she helped others, let alone wanted to help others. When she mentioned she volunteered for kids and the elderly and the environment, and so on, she really, really did. She has helped in so many ways in charities and causes directly impacting these groups. All I can think of was how great it was that she’s out there helping others.

I also wanted to add that she was smiling and happy throughout our meet. She was laughing at parts, but she was largely smiling as she shared her passion for volunteering and helping others. It was a great energy, and one that I brought back with me to my own office as I shared tidbits of her story with my coworkers.

Meet Kailee. No longer a Stranger.