Joblessness spurs quest to help others

We’ve Got Time to Help is a small but growing organization with the goal of helping people in Portland and the surrounding area. As their blog states, “We are a group of people that have found some extra time on our hands. Most of us have been laid off and are having a tough time finding a job in this awful economy. We are using a small portion of that time to make our entire community a better place.”

Portland natives created We’ve Got Time to Help after Seth was laid off from his job in December. Seth found out first-hand about the struggling economy as his search for work lasted longer than he had initially anticipated.

Michelle became aware of Seth’s demeanor changing and depression creeping in during that time. She could see that he was personalizing not being able to get a job, so she suggested to Seth that he get out of the house and volunteer for a few hours. And, getting out and volunteering actually helped Seth feel better. He posted a couple of listings on craigslist.org and realized that there were other people in the same situation—people who wanted to help but didn’t know where to go.

From this experience, Seth and Michelle got the idea to create a blog as a way of connecting volunteers and those who needed their help. With this goal in mind, all they had to do was find people who needed their help.

Once again Seth turned to craigslist, hoping to find projects for the newly-formed group. They started the blog at the end of January and on February 1 posted their first We’ve Got Time to Help ad on craigslist.

The responses they got were overwhelming. People from all different walks of life responded by saying, “I want to help.” Those who responded included unemployed people who were in the same boat as Seth, high school students, those who are lucky enough to have a job (like Michelle), and business owners who said, “I have materials and time—let me know how I can help.”

As Seth expected, there were also plenty of projects people needed help with or things to fix. For example, somebody with a leaky pipe might not have the money right now to hire a plumber or they may not have the knowledge, skill, or ability to fix it themselves. We’ve Got Time to Help would provide the help to resolve the leaky pipe before the problem becomes a crisis situation.
Seth and Michelle are proud that We’ve Got Time to Help is not a nine-to-five organization. It was created as a way to connect people to people while bypassing the middleman. There is no bureaucratic process to go through before those who need help get it, and there are no restrictions on who can ask for assistance.

Seth and Michelle’s philosophy is, “People who are reaching out and asking for help probably genuinely need it. It doesn’t matter if they live in a million-dollar home. It is not our place to judge. If they ask for help, we will do our best to help them. It is about connecting neighbor to neighbor without the expectation of anything in return.” It is a pay-it-forward mentality. Seth explained that knowing that there is no expectation for anything in return, everybody who has gotten in touch with them has said, ‘This is what I need [and] here is what I can do to help.’

For Seth and Michelle the most surprising part of this project has been the overwhelming response in general — not only from the volunteers who want to help, but from the people and organizations who want to help spread the word about We’ve Got Time to Help. They have also been featured on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s “Think Out Loud” radio program, KBOO radio’s “Bread and Roses” program, and were also contacted by donorsresource.org, various magazines and others who want to start a We’ve Got Time to Help group in their community.

Both Seth and Michelle said they have met many good people through this service, and it has helped restore their faith in humanity. As volunteers themselves, they feel that they get so much out of volunteering. The couple states, “We couldn’t feel better. We are gaining knowledge and constantly learning new things from those who are volunteering with us. We are showing people that there are people out there who care about you because you are a part of humanity.”

Seth noted that people keep asking him, “Are you trying to change the world?”

His response is, “Yeah. We want to change the status quo and societal norms of everybody fending for themselves, being afraid to ask for help…We want people to open their eyes. There are people who need help everywhere. I’m just going through life, trying to get people to come with me.”

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