Today’s post comes from Bridget Altenburg, Executive Director.

Building bridges in the Zone of Separation (Bosnia 1996)

I’ve been at Chicago Cares 12 days now and every day reminds me more and more of being a platoon leader building bridges and roads in Bosnia.

When I was a platoon leader the first thing we did was recon the route where we needed to build bridges. Here, our program teams work with community service organizations to identify the needs that they have.

In the Army we spent lots of time planning our mission, down to practicing for the big day. Here at Chicago Cares our program teams practice everything before they roll it out for real. They even practice following their instructions to make sure they haven’t missed a step.

In the Army I relied on my squad leaders to get the job done. We said they were “where the rubber meets the road.” Here at Chicago Cares our volunteer leaders are the ones who make the magic happen. They take all of the planning and practicing and make the programs work for their communities. Just like in the Army, we would be lost without them.

Most importantly, the missions are similar. In Bosnia my mission was to improve freedom of movement so that people could vote in local elections. Here at Chicago Cares we respond to the critical human service, education and environmental needs of Chicago by creating, managing and leading effective and innovative volunteer service programs. In short, we are bringing people together to make our communities a little bit better.

Creating a bright mural at a Chicago school (June 2010)

I feel very lucky to be at Chicago Cares. Not only do we have a great team of dedicated staff, we have an incredible group of volunteers and volunteer leaders. I have heard so many wonderful stories about the work that they are doing, from Women’s Wellness BINGO to History Hunters to Vital Bridges. I’m looking forward to meeting you at these and other wonderful Chicago Cares projects. And, I promise not to tell anyone to drop for pushups!