Blog: Andrew Clock

If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito. - Betty Reese
Water Street Trail Project founder Andrew Clock, volunteer coordinator of the Michigan Roots Jamboree and barfly philanthropist, offers the pick-me-ups to prove that no one is ever a speck on the wall.

Post 1: The Model Volunteer

I never really thought of myself as the type to be involved in volunteer work, let alone leading volunteer efforts. To be perfectly honest, I'm kind of selfish with my free time. I'd always felt like I had enough going on to keep me interested and occupied. Besides, there were clearly better candidates. I have a tendency to spend too much time at the bar, talk too loud, cuss more than I should, and generally act in a way that is not consistent with the ideal for role models or community leaders.

What I've found over that last couple of years is that none of that matters. I was thrown right into the deep end of volunteer work when I agreed to become the volunteer coordinator for the Michigan Roots Jamboree, a not for profit music festival. My first leadership role in the community, my first real volunteer experience, gave me a staff of over 100 people to run a brand new event. It was a huge learning curve, extraordinarily time consuming and stressful, and the time of my life.

That experience also introduced me to Ypsilanti politics through the Great "Tucky" debate, which in turn brought me into more and more volunteer opportunities. It took less than a year before I had created my own project, an effort to build a recreation trail on Ypsilanti's Water Street Property. Suddenly I had to learn how to talk to leaders at the city and county level and to recruit a volunteer staff of my own. I had to create a mission statement, create interest, and find allies. I picked up what I could from my own very limited volunteer and political experience, and the rest I made up as I went along. In less than one year, with a lot of help, I was able to realize my initial goal. I'm proud of what my volunteers and I have accomplished, and I'm ready for more.

I think there's a lesson in my experience. I was typically lazy and uninvolved. Someone else would take care of it, someone else would be better at it. The truth is that the best person for the job is the person with an idea and the willingness to carry it out. Sometime it's just the person with some free time and the willingness to give it to a cause. I'm under-employed, under-funded, and still prone to occasional bouts of laziness and irresponsibility, but it hasn't stopped me from accomplishing good things in the community. I'm not special, I have no training that prepared me for the challenges I faced. I made it all up as I went along, and so far that has been good enough to get results.

In Michigan, we are facing tough times. Now more than ever, we need to take responsibility for the health and growth of our communities. Our state and municipal governments can't afford to take on the types of community development projects they have in the past. It's up to us as citizens to bridge the gap between funding and need.

If a poor, lazy, vulgar barfly like me can create and promote a project, recruit and lead a volunteer force, and produce positive results, any one here reading this can, too.