Boston Globe Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Do you volunteer here often?
By Meredith Goldstein
On Saturday, environmentally conscious volunteers will gather on the banks of the Charles River to clean it up just in time for Earth Day. And if all goes well, they'll be picking up more than trash.One of the groups participating in the event is Single Volunteers Boston, a nearly five-year-old organization that helps local singles with philanthropic aspirations find one another.
"It's the best of all worlds, not going to a regular singles function," said Ruth Wishengrad, a single volunteer in her 40s. "I think it's so much more diffused. It doesn't feel as stark -- like you're waiting for someone to notice you. It doesn't feel as structured."
Wishengrad was part of a group of about 15 SVB members who were at Franklin Park Zoo's Spring Fling last weekend to help run the craft table, the moon bounce, and the scavenger hunt sponsored by Radio Disney. She was helping children pick out animal masks to color and wear: "We have a giraffe, we have a monkey, we have a lion ..."
Wishengrad said that for the most part, SVB events are just like any other volunteer activity. You spend most of your time working, whether it's in a soup kitchen or cleaning up a park. The bonus is knowing there are others there who are open to meeting new people. And the group usually gathers afterward for a social hour; after the zoo event, the volunteers planned to get drinks at Doyle's in Jamaica Plain.
Singles Volunteer Boston has a mailing list of more than 2,000 people, about 60 percent of whom are between 25 and 35, said president Bob Tamulis; many are Boston newcomers. The organization hosts at least one event each weekend, and most of the time, about 15 to 20 singles show up. The most popular activities are outdoor events, particularly the cleanups.
Alex Lella and Charlie Taylor, two 30-somethings from the Boston area who were helping children get into the moon bounce, said they feel better socializing with like-minded singles at SVB events than at regular singles parties. "I find the cocktail parties to be difficult," Taylor said. "I think people are focusing on their jobs, their looks -- there's a sense of shallowness to it."
Getting involved with SVB is simple. You visit the group's website (svboston.org) to check out upcoming events and then RSVP. It's free to participate, and there's a new crop of people at every event, according to Tamulis.
SVB vice president Fred Moreau says there's no pressure once you get there: "We operate with the KISS philosophy -- Keep It Simple, Stupid." SVB doesn't police the group to make sure volunteers are actually single but asks that if you meet a partner, you stop attending events. "If you are in a committed relationship, we'll connect you with other opportunities," Moreau said.
The group also doesn't force interaction by pairing strangers to run booths or assist kids; organizers hope connections happen naturally. The singles can find one another by their SVB name tags. Neither Moreau or Tamulis knew how many couples have been spawned by SVB, but Tamulis did say the group's founder, who now lives in Pennsylvania, met her husband at an SVB volunteer activity.
Jen Gruz and Jessie Pinkham, both newcomers to Boston, stood in front of the leopards helping children with the scavenger hunt on Saturday. They were hopeful about meeting someone, even if it was just a crop of new friends. So far, the two 26-year-olds had only come in contact with the kids and the leopards, but they were staking out a cute volunteer in a Red Sox hat they could see through the zoo trees.
Because making new friends is nice and all, but, Pinkham said, "We wouldn't be opposed to meeting some great guys