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Giving Back While Building Community

It is so easy to get caught up in the "grind" of everyday life which is why it is so important to schedule volunteer time in your community. Giving back now and giving back often is a great way to feel and show gratitude, appreciation, and love for the community that you live in and the community that you want to build and share with others.

Many volunteers from the local community come together to paint a mural facilitated by the Emmaus Arts Commission. Keep your eyes open for more community art engagement out and about town. Here we have barn stars designed by our member, Lauren Kuhn, as a tribute to the heritage of many of the settlers in the greater Emmaus area. You can also find members of the Emmaus Arts Commission at the Emmaus Farmers Market in the Emmaus Triangle or down by South Mountain Cycle on Sunday mornings from 10am-1:15pm until August 22 when we conclude our "PS I Miss You" Mailbox Auction and Greetings card Fundraiser. We are co-hosting Tunes in the Triangle in the Emmaus Triangle on the 2nd and 4th Fridays of July and August. We are also around town facilitating the Paint-A-Hydrant program in collaboration with our local Fire Dept and Public Works.

Members of the Finding Place LV work together with other community volunteers to paint a mural at Emmaus Community Park. The mural was created and facilitated by the Emmaus Arts Commission and designed by EAC member, Lauren Kuhn, who works at the Banana Factory Studio in Bethlehem, PA. Members of the EAC drew and outlined the design on a 158 foot building at the community park as a way to encourage and raise awareness for the need of public, environmental art in the borough and surrounding areas.


“From the freedom to explore comes the joy of learning. From knowledge acquired by personal initiative arises the desire for more knowledge. And from mastery of the novel and beautiful world awaiting every child comes self-confidence.” ~E.O. Wilson,

Part of learning, for us, comes from exploration. We explore and investigate within our home, our school, our gardens, our block—we continuously work in spiraling concentric circles around our homebase working wider and bigger and then coming back to the start. As we learn more and grow, we want to give back. We work so much with the life cycle in our gardening and compost systems focusing on Grow-Eat-Soil-Repeat and we have realized that there is so much more to that idea and lifestyle. It is about working on the land around us, growing and flourishing, nourishing our bodies and our hearts, giving back, and finally repeating the process in a never ending cycle. As we complete our cycles we cast more ripples out into the world around us. We want to live a regenerative and sustainable life. That is more than just recycling, growing food, offering pollinators, reducing consumption—this means community outreach. For us to become and maintain self-sufficiency, self-awareness, and self-confidence we reflect upon our interactions with the community that we work so hard to build.

Sustainable and Regenerative Lifestyle

My son always asks me, "Mom, why don't you get paid more?" I don't really know who set this thought into his mind but he's always been a sort of entrepreneur with a business frame of mind. We talk about items costing money and they help us add up prices in the grocery store, we save money from birthdays and holidays, but we don't focus on having lots of money or equate success to how much money we make from an occupation. He obviously doesn't see my paychecks or bank account but he just has the feeling that I do a lot of things without getting paid in money. While I have often held a job, employment, freelanced, or cared for a "million children" and found side jobs here and there since I was 12, the thing I have been most consistent with would be volunteering and community outreach.

Lately, we have been reading a lot about the law of attraction, and not in a way that relates to romantic relationships, but in a way that relates to the world. I want to live a life of meaning and memories. I don't want to merely exist while performing daily tasks set forth as a way to fit in with others. If we have extra food, extra produce, extra flowers, too many shirts, too much of something we don't use, we give it away to someone who really needs it. It seems as if the more I give away to others in need of that specific item, then later when I am in search of something, I often find it being offered by someone who I have previously helped out in one way or another. It is this hyper local flow of goods, services, and time and it feels so good. It also fits in with a regenerative and sustainable life, it is a way to increase the usable time of a product or item. It is a way to circulate and regenerate instead of sending things to the landfill. Yes, I understand we need money to survive but also we can trade, barter, share, give, and offer time as a way to flourish.

I want to think about the good in others and share my gifts and talents with others. I want to share these ideas with my children so they can find and identify the kindness and beauty in the world around them. One "thing" that may seem limited but actually is always there to donate or share is time. It seems as if everyone is running out of time, or doesn't have time for this or that. Well, I have found that if something is truly important, one will make the time needed. There is always time available, it is choices that take up time. So I have actively chosen to schedule time for volunteering weekly. The changes in myself and my family are evident and the feelings of gratitude, appreciation, awareness, empathy, and pride are abundant.


So along with honing my craft within Nature-based education, gardening, art, and basic homesteading I volunteer in a number of organizations that increase knowledge, build upon my network, and strengthen my own skills in relation to art, nature, farming, and community. I am an elected Commissioner and Secretary (yet also considered a volunteer) for the Emmaus Arts Commission. I volunteer at Rodale Institute on both the farm in Kutztown and at the Experimental Farm or Founder's Farm in Emmaus/Allentown. I often give goods and would be happy to volunteer at our local Foster Care organization. Since Covid lockdowns started in 2019-2020 I have also volunteered several Sundays at the Emmaus Farmers Market to encourage people to wear masks or clean hands before entering the market area. There are also many single events that come up asking for volunteers like Spring Plant Sales at Farms or Markets that I have attended as well. We are always willing to lend a hand to neighbors with yard work, child care, assembling items, gardening, and music or art advice. If we want to live a life that keeps on giving, then we have to give.

Earlier this year, I had expressed wanting to purchase a small (but bigger than we have now) piece of land for homesteading or housing a small farm. I would like to host gardening and nature classes for all ages and veterans, host art and music events, possibly host a few small weddings or gatherings. So my husband said, "If you want to buy a farm, you need to work on a farm." I could have easily found a farm job that paid and had set hours but instead I reached out to local farms and signed up for volunteer opportunities. This way I could get different experiences, meet new people, learn the tricks of the trade from various farmers and and gain their individual perspectives. Then as a way to take back control of my life and my existence I scheduled weekly volunteer hours at a local organic, regenerative farm. Every week, normally on a Wednesday, I work somewhere between 8am-12pm on a farm doing various hot, sweaty tasks from planting to picking to harvesting to weeding to mulching. Sometimes on very hot July days it is very strenuous work but I love it. This is an organization that I have supported for years, I appreciate their focus and path, their mission aligns with my own, and they need help with day-to-day functions on site that is close to my house. For me, donating money to their research is great and obviously beneficial, but actually pitching in with my own two hands seems equally important.

While many parents may spend time volunteering at their children's school or nature program, it is important to involve the little ones in volunteering experiences as well. Practicing the act of giving back to others and our local community is a tangible and visible way to interact with the time and efforts that are given. Coming together as a community to paint a mural in a public park is a visible way to remember that experience. Collecting clothes and toys in good condition and giving them to children who need them is a tangible way to give back. Openly talking about having an excess and sharing it with others enlightens my children to the concept of need and want. Actively creating the environment that I want to live in, boosts self-confidence, self-awareness, and self-sufficiency. These attributes will offer a lifetime of problem-solving skills, higher order thinking processes, and internally grounded adults. Choosing areas and topics which are of interest to me or my family, increases productivity, deepens meaningful experiences and memories, fosters contextual opportunities for learning, and creates personal satisfaction.

Volunteering also offers insight to employment opportunities that children may not realize exist for them when they are older. While they spend time volunteering in an area that interests them they may realize they LOVE this subject and what kind of work someone would do in this field or they could realize they do not like it and maybe another path would be more suited towards their needs and interests. Many public high schools now offer learning tracks for students who have an idea of what they'd like to do after graduation. Volunteering offers necessary time in the field for older students to see some ins and outs of many types of job experiences.

Even if you only have a little time here and there, finding a few places to volunteer your time or joining a newsletter/active calendar for local volunteer opportunities is a beneficial way to stay connected to your community. Hospitals, libraries, shelters, food kitchens and pantries, gardens and farms, farm stands, churches, schools, historical societies, and museums are always looking for help. You may even find a part-time or full-time job out of volunteering after recognizing new strengths or interests. You never know what waits around the corner, and you won't know until you find out for yourself.


Thank you for joining me this week. If you are looking for ways to volunteer in your own community try reaching out to your borough, town, or city hall website or spokesperson. You could also Google something you are interested in and your town and look up small non-profit organizations, farms, urban gardens, food pantries, shelters, and other outreach programs that are looking for help. There are a lot of farms and food pantries that could use any help available and many farms offer some food or produce as additional payment or a gift for working. #volunteer #Giveback #outreach #community #suport #buildingcommunity #lovelocal #LoveLehighValley #supportlocal #lehighValleyMurals #RodaleInstitute #emmausartiseverywhere @emmausarts #EmmausArtsMurals #EmmausArts #BoroughofEmmaus #thefindingplaceLV #EmmausCommunityPark #QualityTime #AuthenticChildhood #PublicArt

For more information about the Emmaus Arts Commission Community Mural Project, Hydrants, "PS I Miss You" Mailbox Auction and Greeting Card fundraiser, and other initiatives to beautify our local community, please check out our website We are always looking for volunteers for our events and projects. You don't have to be a commissioner to offer a few hours of your time. You can find us at Tunes at the Triangle this Friday, July 23 with Fireside Avenue. If you have an idea for an event or a collaboration in or around Emmaus, feel free to reach out

To see more images of volunteers working on the Community Mural Project, you can visit the Morning Call Photo Gallery at

If you have an idea for a school, church, or nature-program garden with children and you need some assistance, email me at


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