Voices of VU PHL: Meet Allora Buckshon!

Hello members and friends of the VU PHL Crew! Welcome to the inaugural post of Voices of VU PHL series :) Over the past two years, we have worked to build a thriving service community in the Philadelphia area, offering like-minded individuals the opportunity to volunteer, partner with leading nonprofits and ultimately give back to the City of Brotherly Love. Led by our dedicated board, the VU Crew has partnered with 12 nonprofits annually, enlisting the help of hundreds of volunteers. 

In this series, our goal is to give our leaders, volunteers and nonprofit partners a voice to share their background, experiences with VU PHL, as well as insight into why giving back is so important to our community. Keep reading to learn more about Co-Founder and President Allora Buckshon and our September event at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.

Co-founder and board chair Allora Buckshon at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge!

Co-founder and board chair Allora Buckshon at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge!

How did you get involved in VU PHL? 

I am one of the founders of VU PHL. 

I’ve always been passionate about volunteering and using my time to give back to the community around me. I found that after college, that became increasingly difficult to do. Most places I spoke with wanted volunteers at a time when I was at work, like 11 AM on Tuesdays, or needed me to commit 10 hours a month for a year, which at that point, I simply wasn’t sure if my career and life would allow me to do.

My husband (Joe, another founding member) had a coworker who lived in Baltimore who raved about a group he volunteered with called Volunteering Untapped. On the second Saturday of the month, they planned a volunteering event, as well as a happy hour after. I loved this idea, not only for myself, but as a way to get so many people involved in volunteering. This format was simple, easy, social and built community while exposing people to the diverse nonprofit culture of the city. I was sold. 

Unfortunately, it didn’t exist in Philadelphia. After about a month of constant Googling to try to find something similar, Joe and I looked at each other one night and the lightbulb went off. Why don’t we start it? So we did. (With the immense help of 8 other board members and the guidance of the Baltimore chapter!) 

What is your favorite part of volunteering with VU PHL?

The people: the volunteers, the non-profit partners, the community members who benefit from those nonprofits and the board members who put so much time in to make this happen. I love that we have the best volunteers, work with some of the most amazing partners, and I am surrounded at every event by 20 - 80 people who want to do good work and make a difference. 

Why is giving back so important to you? 

This is a tough question for me, because my gut reaction is just that it’s part of who I am. I am very conscious of the opportunities I have been given and what luck has thrown my way. While I recognize that I work hard, I know that so many factors have allowed my hard work to afford me more opportunities than many and I want to use my time and resources to try to give back to Philadelphia. I am hopeful that Volunteering Untapped PHL can serve as a platform to increase volunteerism within Philadelphia, allowing volunteers to come to our events, connect with organizations and then become more involved in volunteerism across the city. 

What advice do you have for young Philadelphians looking to get more involved in the community?

Come to our events! We host a volunteer event every second Saturday of the month from 10 AM -1 PM. If second Saturdays don’t work for you, check our Partner Events page or look in to some of the great groups we partner with who also work to find ways to get young people involved like Young Involved Philadelphia or Repair the World.  

Can you give us a recap of our September event at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge? 

On Saturday, September 14th we partnered with John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge to host about 60 volunteers for a marsh cleanup event. Volunteering with John Heinz is always one of my favorite events of the year. Volunteers strapped on waders and went waist-deep into the marsh to pull out over 2,000 pounds of trash from the waterway. We learned that every day, more and more trash and plastic waste comes in to the marsh with the tides. Volunteer efforts are key to helping remove the trash and increase educational awareness around reducing the amount of plastic waste we’re all creating.

Lastly, what’s your go-to restaurant in Philly?

Stock (the Fishtown location). I conveniently live about a block and a half from Stock, but even if that wasn’t the case, it would still be one of my favorite places in the city. The restaurant is small, simple, and everything on the menu is perfect. Nine times out of ten, you will find me here after I leave a Volunteering Untapped afterjawn, refueling with a bowl of Chicken Pho and a Vietnamese iced coffee. Stock was also the first place I overheard someone randomly talking to a friend about a Volunteering Untapped PHL event they had attended and enjoyed, so it will always have a special place in my heart.  

Joe Buckshon