COMMENT: In The Field
Serving Your Community
By Mike Riley
From schools to software, volunteers make the world a better place.
The heart of an independent user group is its volunteers—people who give their time to advance the organization. Some of these volunteers might be board members who help guide the organization strategically. Some might be meeting or conference speakers who volunteer their time to help educate other attendees. Still others might be onsite volunteers, who help monitor rooms, pass out evaluations, and collect lunch tickets, among other tasks.
In this column, which customarily focuses on technology and the benefits of being a user group member, community service usually means doing service for a technical or professional community. But of course there are many other kinds of communities that depend on volunteers to meet the needs of their members—for example, painting houses for the disadvantaged, handicapped, or elderly; working in your local library; reading to youngsters; or greeting new patients at a local hospital.
Oracle Development Tools User Group (ODTUG) set out on a mission to merge these two types of volunteerism—serving your user group and serving your community—into a single type focused on the communities that play host to our annual conference.
ODTUG started an initiative at our 2008 Kaleidoscope conference that we called a Community Service Day. That year, three years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, the ODTUG community banded together to help rehabilitate a school that was in desperate need of repair, refurbishing, and cleaning up. More than 80 volunteers braved the midsummer heat and humidity of the Gulf Coast of the U.S. to start this renovation project. These members of the technology community arrived a day before the start of the conference to volunteer their time. It was a unique opportunity to work for the greater good of the community we were visiting. A side benefit was that we all got to know each other a bit better without feeling the need to talk about technology. ODTUG board members, Oracle product managers, vendors, and attendees alike all participated in this one-day event.
In 2009, our conference visited the community of Monterey, California, where we once again held a Community Service Day. Monterey is certainly different from New Orleans, and there we found a different but still important cause to support: helping the Big Sur Land Trust eradicate an invasive plant species, the South African Ice Plant, which is destroying much of the local Martin Dunes ecosystem.
Once again, a large contingent of volunteers gave their time for the good of the community, going to the dunes on a chilly day to get on their hands and knees and pull weeds. The day provided another great opportunity to share our passion for volunteerism, and we capped the event with a picnic lunch right in the middle of the dunes area.
As this issue of Oracle Magazine goes to press, we are looking forward to June 26, 2010, when ODTUG Kaleidoscope plays host to its third annual Community Service Day. Coordinating with the organization Greater DC Cares, we are again going back to school: Ronald H. Brown Middle School in Washington DC is our destination, and our tasks will include painting, gardening, and library work. As in previous years, interest is high for this event, and we anticipate many attendees will turn out on the Saturday before the start of our conference.
The synergy that Community Service Day creates is distinct and unique to the ODTUG Kaleidoscope conference. We pride ourselves on the fact that we deliver this important aspect of volunteerism to the communities we visit. It is our creative effort to help the world in some small fashion. After all, if we could all donate at least one day a year to volunteer in efforts such as these, think how much better our world could truly be.
We are always looking for personal or corporate sponsors for these events. And if you are interested in participating in Community Service Days as a volunteer, keep a close eye on our conference Website for the next conference location and community service event.
Mike Riley ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) is the president of ODTUG. Riley is a project manager/DBA for Hortica Insurance & Employee Benefits in Edwardsville, Illinois, where he has developed applications using Oracle Database and Oracle tools for more than 20 years. Riley was ODTUG’s vice president in 2007 and 2008 and the 2008 Kaleidoscope conference chair.