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The Art of Volunteering: A Day with Nonprofits

December Blog by Neil Patel, Reactor Engineer, Exelon Generation.

The December session was focused on the art of volunteering. Throughout the entire day we focused on how we can effectively participate and influence nonprofit volunteering in our community. The day started off with the group visiting three completely different nonprofits and to be honest, I am now inspired to go out on my own and visit nonprofits that interest me. The nonprofits we visited were Steel River Playhouse, The Salvation Army, and The Carousel at Pottstown and even if I read about them online or heard about them from a friend, I do not think I would have appreciated them as much as I did by visiting them.

At the Steel River Playhouse, we engaged with General Manager Diane Nester and got an exciting behind-the-scenes tour of the set of A Christmas Story, their play that runs from December 6th-22nd, so be sure to get your tickets! I gained an appreciation for the service that Steel River offers by providing a complete package for people of all age groups to come and express themselves through the performing arts.

Next, we were rewarded with the opportunity to do community service at Salvation Army

with Major Jeny Shertleff. With the spirit of teamwork radiating throughout the building, the group split up and organized newly donated toys and clothing into similar categories to ensure distribution to the families was efficient. From this visit, I learned that like other nonprofits there are many more families that the Salvation Army wants to help and with more generous donations of time and money they will be able to do just that.

The final nonprofit we travelled to was The Carousel at Pottstown where the group was delighted by Deborah Byerly-McFarlin and Alan MacBain on the history of the carousel. It was built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company in 1905 and after much moving, dismantling, and upgrading it was erected in Pottstown and open to the public in December 2016. The space is now an area where anyone can come to ride an indoor carousel, learn local history, and spend time with friends and family. The Leadership Tri-County class members had a blast there as we rode the wide assortment of intricately painted animals three times each. After eating our delicious and expertly packed boxed lunches from Bause Catering we bid farewell to The Carousel. Our next activity put us in the role of judges for a holiday planter decorating competition. Led by fellow classmate Alex Thigpen of Pottstown Area Industrial Development, the class walked around downtown and enthusiastically judged 15 holiday planters. A few planters were definitely favorites among the judges and we are all looking forward to getting the results published to see which planter had the most holiday spirit, originality, and creative design.

To finish the day we had an education session titled BoardCorps Bootcamp Part II: The Board's Role in Finance with Thomas Scurto-Davis. He began the lesson by giving a little background on his life about how the only field he was professionally trained in was opera singing. He stressed that if an opera singer can understand and be in charge of finances for a nonprofit then anyone can. Thomas taught the class about knowing what basic terms in nonprofit financial statements mean. The three statements we discussed were the statement of financial position which shows a financial snapshot for the nonprofit, statement of activities which shows the change in assets for a nonprofit, and statement of cash flows which shows how changes in the balance sheet affect the nonprofit's cash account. My main takeaway from this session was to ask questions three layers deep when talks about financials come up in a board meeting or financial committee meeting because a number on a statement does not always tell the whole story. All in all, it was another wonderful day for the Class of 2020 as we closed out a great year. I look forward to next year's sessions and experiences as I continue on my journey to become a better community leader.

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