How VolunteerMatch Employees Volunteer: Tess Marstaller, Client Relations Associate

We’ve talked and talked (and talked and talked) about the benefits of employee volunteer programs, including volunteer time off (VTO). Now we want to show you. In this series of blog posts, we’ll interview some of our own employees to find out how they spend their volunteer hours, and why they love VTO.

Tess Marstaller, of VolunteerMatch, speaking about her time volunteering with the Peace CorpsSo, who are you?
I’m Tess, and I work on the Corporate Client Relations team here at VolunteerMatch. I help employees and CSR leaders use our tools to find, set-up, lead, and track volunteer activities.

Where do you volunteer?
I’m a member of the Northern California Peace Corps Association (NorCal PCA), which supports prospective, current and returned Peace Corps volunteers.

I’ve been volunteering with NorCal PCA for a couple of years. I’ve helped run workshops for newly returned Peace Corps volunteers transitioning back after two years abroad, spoken at public storytelling events about my time in Cameroon, and been on a few panels at schools and universities about what it’s like to serve in the Peace Corps.

What drew you to NorCal PCA?
Being a Peace Corps volunteer doing health education work in Cameroon was a hugely formative and direction-setting experience for me. When I heard there was a large and active association of returned volunteers in the Bay Area, it was one of the many perks that drew me to move across the country.

Tess leading a transition workshop for newly returned Peace Corps volunteers
Tess leading a transition workshop for recently-returned Peace Corps volunteers.

What is the most fun part of your volunteering? What’s the most valuable?
In the workshops I’ve run for recently-returned volunteers, stress melts into laughter as people share their quirky stories of what if feels like to be back home.

One now-friend told me she’d spit on the floor of a Walgreens out of a habit formed while living in Peru, but luckily had some toilet paper stocked in her purse: Another habit that’s hard to lose. Meanwhile I’d been forgetting to flush toilets and inappropriately snapping my fingers to get people’s attention. I burst out laughing, gave her a hug, and knew that I’d found my people.

Also, when I volunteer with this group, I feel like I’m honoring those who meant so much to me in Cameroon, and that makes me feel less far away from them now.

Would you be able to volunteer if VolunteerMatch didn’t offer VTO? Why or why not?
VTO has allowed me to respond to requests for volunteers during business hours, which is really helpful since our organization gets a lot of speaking requests from schools. I recently spoke at Berkeley City College on International Education day, and loved sharing photos and stories and answering questions from those interested in applying. Soon I’ll get to use VTO to speak to a group at my Alma Mater, GWU.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Sometimes I start to convince myself that I’m too busy, or too tired, to volunteer. Then I remind myself that feeling tired can be largely in my own head. Volunteering can be like a chat with a best friend; even if I was tired going into it, I come out feeling refreshed and reinvigorated.

Finding a cause and a group that inspires you is truly a gift to yourself as much as to your community, which is why I’m proud to work for an organization that helps others explore how to find that joy.

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