I had my first real exposure to The 6th Branch (T6B) in May 2012 at a community service event in Oliver that didn’t actually involve T6B at the start. A few members of T6B who lived in the neighborhood saw our group working at Dr. Bernard Harris Elementary School and asked what they could do to help. Within minutes they had gathered up some brooms and other tools and were picking up glass from the basketball and tennis courts so we had a safe area for the kids to enjoy their field day. At this moment, it became apparent to me that T6B was a “roll up your sleeves and jump in where needed” kind of group and their awesomeness shined through brightly.
My first official volunteer effort with T6B was MLK Day of Service in January 2013. I had an idea of the work they were doing and knew a few of the volunteers, but was blown away when I saw how T6B had inspired hundreds of volunteers to come help and how they flawlessly executed elaborate plans that day. I realized this group is about so much more than just picking up trash and then going home feeling good because they had done some work in the community. T6B wants to take on the most challenging work in areas of the city that many people don’t even realize exist and they want to effect monumental change that will be felt by those most in need. They know there are no easy answers to fix the problems that the community faces yet they tirelessly plow ahead in their work, continuously making a positive difference.
I was in between jobs during this time and not my usual ray of sunshine and happiness. I was busy sitting around feeling sorry for myself and I had let inactivity become a staple of my daily routine. A friend of mine pointed out how happy I am when I am involved in community service projects and asked why I didn’t go out and volunteer with T6B during my free time. She reminded me how much I enjoy the work T6B is doing. That was the push I needed to go and explore Semper Fridays and bring some happiness and peace back into my life!
I knew a few members of T6B at this point, but arrived at my first Semper Friday not really knowing anyone that well. Being the new kid is always a little intimidating, but the group welcomed me with open arms and new friendships quickly began to blossom. Volunteering alongside the always hardworking and entertaining Dave, Briony, Lisa, Meg and Lynne, among others, made my time in Oliver really enjoyable and meaningful. My new friends inspired me with their vision of what we could help build in this community. A new playscape for the kids, a community garden for the adults and a farm for those who battle food insecurity every day. Like many others, at that time I didn’t really know what food insecurity was. People in this community, many of them children or elderly, not having access to fresh fruits and vegetables wasn’t something that I really gave much thought to as I occasionally drove through this part of town in my reliable car headed back to my nice home with my full fridge and warm bed. Before becoming part of the T6B family, of course I realized that some in our community lacked many basic needs, but until I immersed myself in this community I didn’t really know what all of this meant. Now it has become a part of who I am. My T6B involvement defines me, and for that I am truly proud.