Nerd of the Week

Meet Tracy, a Volunteer Nerd

Interview by Terra Olsen

You volunteer more than anyone else I have ever met, so it is clear that you are a complete ‘volunteer nerd.’ How did volunteering spark the nerd in you? 

It’s just really gratifying, and I love being around people who have similar interests and are working towards the same cause.  I’m definitely a nerd when it comes to helping others—I tend to think that everyone shares my mindset, so I find myself asking my friends to volunteer for things like cleaning the beach on a Saturday morning. I get a lot of “no’s” for that question…I don’t know why. lol.

How did you first get involved in volunteering? IMG_1371

I think it all started in high school when I had to complete a certain number of community service hours.  I found myself gravitating towards helping the homeless, so I started volunteering at a homeless shelter and haven’t really stopped since. From there, I’ve interned and volunteered for many different non-profits ranging from Cinequest (an independent film festival), Venice Family Clinic, GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), Heal the Bay, Habitat for Humanity, American Cancer Society, and President Obama’s campaign. 🙂  I think I’m a volunteer addict…

How has volunteering impacted your life? 

Volunteering is a part of me—I can’t imagine not helping others and giving back. I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s something I’ve always been really passionate about. It’s impacted my life by exposing me to so many different issues, causes, people, and much more.  I’ve learned an immense amount from volunteering. I love the energy that people have when working together for a certain cause.  Soon after college, I began volunteering and eventually working at a transitional homeless shelter for homeless families called Upward Bound House.  I was the Volunteer and Programs Coordinator there (surprise, surprise), and it was probably one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. I met so many amazing people while I was there.  I feel like this is what volunteering is all about—it not only expands your horizon, but it also opens doors to other adventures…like starting a non-profit.

tracy chin and deepa

Where do you want to take your volunteer work in the future?

As I mentioned in the previous question, I’m working on co-founding a non-profit called Food For Charity.  You can check it out on our website:www.foodforcharity.org.  It’s still very much a work in progress, but it’s growing steadily with the support from family and friends.  FFC’s mission is to connect Los Angeles-based businesses and restaurants that have excess food with charities that need food.  We’re basically the middle man/woman, if you will. I thought of this idea while at Upward Bound House since I was involved with the food program there.  The majority of that consisted of cold calling restaurants to see if they had excess food to donate.  It was a complicated process since there were so many logistical issues to work out (e.g. what kind of food, who could pick up and/or deliver, what day/time, etc.).  I knew there was an easier way of doing this, but I didn’t come up with FFC’s concept until a year later…which was about 1.5 years ago.  Since then, it’s been touch and go with getting it up and running, but my co-founder Ryan Wright has been instrumental in moving forward, so I’m very appreciative of that.

That is awesome! How can people help you accomplish this goal? 

At the moment, we’re in need of a lot of help! I’ll just bullet point it to make it more reader friendly.

  • We’d love someone to help us with the website, so if there are any tech-savvy nerds out there, please contact us at info@foodforcharity.org.
  • We’re also trying to fundraise to pay for 501c3 filing fees to become a non-profit.  If any of you would like to donate, please visit https://www.wepay.com/donations/food-for-charity.
  • We want to involve more businesses and charities in this, so if you know of anyone (e.g. restaurant owners, charities, catering businesses, etc.) who might be interested in this…contact us at info@foodforcharity.org.
  • And last but not least, we’re looking for drivers to help us with pick-ups and deliveries.  If you’re in the LA area, please let us know.  We’ll work with your schedule–just let us know how much time you’re willing to commit, and we’ll go from there!
  • If you can’t do any of the above, please “like” and/or share our FB page “Food For Charity LA” with your friends and family.  You can follow us on Twitter as well. We’d really appreciate it. Thank you in advance!

Favorite moment or memory volunteering? 

Hmm, there are a lot—there are two that come to mind though.  I don’t know if this first one would count since I was technically working at Upward Bound House, but I facilitated a program called “Adopt-an-Apartment” that consists of fundraising and purchasing items to make over an apartment for an incoming family.  I remember we had a family that had a baby and they had been living out of a car for months until the police found them.  We didn’t have a crib for them, so I sent out a mass email to all of our volunteers asking for their help—and I can’t even tell you how many people responded.  It was amazing the amount of support we received from everyone.  People even started to forward the email to others, and I think we ended up with 4 or 5 cribs along with money and other items to help the family.  That’s probably one of the best memories I have from working with volunteers. It still makes me smile. 🙂

Another favorite was volunteering in Uganda as a nursing student (I’m now an official RN…yay!). I volunteered with a team of ~16 people and we treated over 1,300 people for various conditions like malaria, typhoid fever, hypertension, HIV—to name a few.  It was an incredibly rewarding experience and something I will never forget. I plan to do more of these medical missions in the future; it’s just a matter of when and where.

Uganda Nursing Tracy

Tracy lives in southern California where she works as a nurse. She graduated from UCLA with a BA in Sociology and a MS in Nursing. Before becoming a nurse, Tracy worked in nonprofit and spent many hours throughout college and her professional life donating her time and energy to various causes. As noted in her interview, Tracy recently started the nonprofit Food for Charity and is excited to see how it will grow! Be sure to check out Food for Charity’s website  and *like* its facebook page. In addition to volunteering and nursing, Tracy enjoys yoga, running, Star Wars, the outdoors, and traveling.

Do you know a self-proclaimed nerd we should interview? If so, please contact Terra at terra@haveyounerd.com and tell us about them.
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