This is just a quick one, but I felt I should do a post on my recent experience volunteering for Surly Brewing.
Surly has been involved in supporting local volunteer work since the very beginning. With their rapid rise to fame and stardom in the beer world their name has continued to draw increasing numbers of volunteer workers for various community projects. At this point they will announce the need for volunteers on their facebook page and sometimes on their web site. The demand for these spots can be high and often fill up very quickly due to a large amount of excited Surly fans wanting to help out. My wife, Sj, has taken part in two of these events over the past year, but only this week has my schedule allowed me to help out as well. They do things ranging from organizing and helping at fund-raisers and races, to land clean-up, to food shelf and blood drive work.
We met up for this event on a bike trail behind Punch Pizza near Lake Calhoun. There were at least 60 of us, way more than I expected! The first time you volunteer, you get a Surly Gives a Damn shirt to wear, so I came out of this with something to show off! Because of the "profanity" volunteers often have to leave these shirts behind when volunteering at schools and foodshelves. Led by the energetic Mary Sellke and an equally garrulous Rich Harrison, our large group gathered up and got a quick primer on botany. Our jobs this pleasant and mosquito-filled evening involved some hard physical labor to clean up a stretch of the path and a small park alongside it. We learned how to identify and dig up buckthorn, motherwort, garlic mustard, and several other invasive species, as well as how to avoid the wicked dangers of poison ivy. We were split into groups working on different areas to cover a larger amount of ground.
Sj and I started off at the park. This was a small space along the path that was heavily overgrown with weeds and creeping vines. Even the "good" plants were out of control and needed some pruning. We all shared a bunch of tools (shovels, trowels, weeders, pruners, etc.) and took turns doing different activities to mix it up a bit. As the weeds were torn out, we were able to start working on shoveling and moving mulch to cover the newly opened ground. One of the mulch piles had started to "ferment" and was quite malodorous and disgusting--luckily I had picked out the better smelling pile to work on! The weather was hot, but not unbearable, but mosquitos and ant swarms were out in full force!
It was immensely gratifying when bikers or runners going by would shout "thank yous" to us as they whipped by. Our group itself was a good bunch of people and everyone seemed to really be making the best out of the event. It was also nice running into Jesse, a guy I've only known virtually before this from Internet homebrewing talk. Our whole group was a sweaty, itchy mess by the time we were finished. The big question on nearly every one's minds as we finished up, was just how much toxic poison ivy had we inadvertently rubbed all over our faces...
We made good time over the two hours we worked and managed to really improve a pretty impressive stretch of land. This was far and above the "trash pickup" that one would expect from this type of volunteer work! Surly does nothing by half measures! We all gathered our filthy selves into a tight group in front of a Surly sign and Mary took a picture of us wielding our dirt-encrusted garden tools like demented rejects from American Gothic.
As a reward for this activity we were all given a fabled Surly wooden nickel for a free Surly beer at Burger Jones afterward. I'm pretty sure just about everyone cashed that one in! We filed into the restaurant, coated in grime and still dragging along tools and gloves, but received not a second look from the staff. We took turns taking hobo showers in the bathroom, to the amusement of the regular patrons. Once cleaned up, I had a wonderfully refreshing Furious that was probably the best I've ever tasted! We hung out with some of the other volunteers as we ate a late dinner, all enjoying the air conditioning and revitalizing Surly beers. I met several cool people, notably Veronica who may have actually talked me into finally figuring out Twitter. We'll see if I can wrap my head around this newfangled concept and use it to expand the readership of this blog...
Overall, this was a great event! We all worked hard, but it was rewarding nonetheless. The free beer was nice, but I think the best part was just being involved in something socially conscious getting to meet some other craft beer lovers that I wouldn't have otherwise met. If the stars align just right again, I'll certainly volunteer for Surly Gives a Damn again.