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How to Strengthen Your Ties to the Tulsa Community by Volunteering

I have a distinct memory from when I moved to Tulsa many years ago. One night, I was sitting on my couch, sipping a milkshake from Braum's, and crying about not having any friends. I grew up in a small town, and being in a "community" was not something I ever intentionally thought of or had to do; it was just a manner of being and living where I did.

Sitting on my couch that night, I realized I am a community-oriented person. It's who I am to my core, and not being a part of something bigger than myself or having a true sense of purpose had really taken a toll on my mental health and my outlook on where I lived.

Fast forward a few years, and I was recognized as Tulsa Young Professional's "Most Involved Volunteer." This wasn't something I set out to do; I just really enjoyed the initiatives, which gave me the opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals, allowed me to build my network, and informed me of what is happening in our city. This knowledge not only impacted my desire to volunteer but strengthened my ties to the Tulsa community. 

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Me (far left) and other members of the Hispanic Leadership Institute Cohort 3, a Leadership Tulsa program, are working on our community project, increasing Latino voter engagement in Tulsa. Photo provided by Tania Garza. 

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Me (far left) and fellow TYPROS members Alex Poppe and Lauren Miers at Leadership Tulsa Day of Caring volunteering at the Oklahoma Food Bank. Photo provided by Tania Garza. 

Terence Crutcher Foundation

A community walk with the Terence Crutcher Foundation. We were getting to know our neighbors by knocking on doors across Tulsa neighborhoods. Photo provided by Tania Garza. 

Have you ever heard the saying, "If you want to go fast, you go alone; if you want to go far, you go together"? Volunteering is the going together- it is the act of contributing your time to community service benefiting your environment. Volunteering can be formal and organized by organizations or informal within friend groups or networks.  

As a Member Integration Specialist at Tulsa Remote, one of the things I ask during my first meeting with our new members is, "Where do you want to spend your time, energy, or skillset?" This question, along with learning more about their skills and interests, helps me to make suggestions about where they can invest and make an impact in their new community. 

How to Start Volunteering in Your Community

After conducting over 400 one-on-one meetings with members, I've gained valuable insights that I'd like to share with others interested in beginning their journey of volunteering in their communities.

1. Speak out on a problem: Lived experience is the number one contributor to volunteer engagement. Think about your environment and past experiences and how those have painted the strokes of your life today. Find an organization that provides service to communities prone to experiencing similar problems. Your story makes you an expert problem solver, and sharing your experiences helps the organization create a more holistic solution. 

2. Identify an Organization: No matter where you live, organizations such as United Way, an international network of local nonprofit agencies, or Volunteer Match have helpful volunteer portals aggregating opportunities in your community. Once you've identified the cause you're passionate about, head to these platforms to identify the local organizations making a difference in the areas you care most about. 

At Tulsa Remote, we introduce our community to Tulsa's robust non-profit network from the start of their Tulsa journey. Program finalists have the opportunity to meet our friendly community collaborators like 918 Vote, APIDA Tulsa, and Oklahomans for Equality, to name a few, during their Hosted Visit. Once they are official members of the program, there's another opportunity to connect with local organizations and learn how they can get involved as new Tulsa residents at our New Member Welcome Mixer event.

Tulsa Remoters interested in learning more about serving the Tulsa community can visit theirMember Portal  for a full list of local resources and organizations. 

3. Drive impact: Change doesn't happen on its own; become active with groups that organize around problems and solutions that you support and value. For instance, if you value making a change in a child's life, you may enjoy Reading Partners, My Brothers Keeper, or the Foundation for Tulsa School's Partners in Education program. 

If you enjoy the outdoors, opportunities with Global Gardens or Kendall Whitter's Tipton Garden might be the Vitamin D you are seeking. If you care about social justice and liberation, community walks with the Terence Crutcher Foundation or community connection circles with Restorative Justice might be where you find a calling. Or, if you are looking to nerd out and provide kids with the future of work skills such as coding or STEM, check out Urban Coders Guild and Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance

In Tulsa, there are many opportunities for you to join others in driving change. For instance, Tulsa Remoters share upcoming volunteer opportunities in the volunteer-specific Slack channel. Tulsa Remote members can also discover new organizations in the Tulsa Remote newsletter, where our team compiles various resources and opportunities. 

Strengthening Your Ties to the Tulsa Community

Although a good, ugly cry on the couch with ice cream is sometimes just what you need, I don't want anyone to experience the loneliness and purposelessness I felt for my first few months in a new city.

That's why I'm passionate about bringing together purpose-driven individuals to work daily to drive change. That's also why I applied for my role at Tulsa Remote. I want to help our newest Tulsans integrate into the community, support organizations that are driving impact, and hopefully, make some friends along the way. The people I met the first time I volunteered with TYPROS are the reason I have stayed in Tulsa for over a decade. While Tulsa may not be my "hometown," I can wholeheartedly say I am from Tulsa.

If you want to get started on your volunteering journey in Tulsa, let me help you discover your "why" and how volunteering in Tulsa will help you achieve that. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or reach out to me on Slack. 

Tania Garza
Tania Garza
Tania Garza joined the Tulsa Remote team in October 2021 as a part of the Member Integration Team. She describes her role as a "cultural connector" and is passionate about connecting Rmeoters to the community through acquiring an understanding of individuals' passions and objectives.

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