For some people, summer in Austin means staying inside out of the heat as much as humanly possible. But for Jeny Crouch, the months between June and September will be about getting outside whenever she can.
That's because Crouch, a filmmaker and self-proclaimed "community hell-raiser," is the founder of a new grassroots volunteer effort, Moving Difference, which encourages community members to become the change they want to see in their world.
According to the website, everyone is welcome to join in the gradual volunteer efforts of Moving Difference. Simply decide to commit to one hour of volunteering per week during the summer (officially starting June 20 and ending Sep. 21) or some total of 12 hours total within that time frame. And the volunteer action can be anything that is active and improves Austin life.
"Life is short, so twelve hours isn't that long in the scheme of things," says Crouch, who has been diligent about volunteerism since she was a teen. "There is no greater knowledge in this world until you stop and realize that this life is all you get. It's a one-shot. If you're happy just passing through, that's okay for you. But that's not me."
In the next three months, Crouch has stated that she plans to teach chess to deaf orphans in Kenya over Skype, take CPR classes, volunteer at a golf tournament and help at a pet shelter.
"I've been doing dry runs with the project for the last two years because I wanted to make sure that I could do it first before asking other people to. I'll be doing my one hour per week alongside everyone else."
For those who might get nervous about the "active" portion of the volunteer descriptions, Crouch clarifies that it simply means getting up, getting out and doing something you wouldn't normally do.
"The word 'moving' was put on the project because it implies action," she says. "If someone wants to run a 5k for charity, sweet. If someone wants to knit baby blankets for charity, great. Either case, though, it is moving and making a difference. It isn't a fitness goal really, it's more of an 'excuse preventer.'"
You can get ideas for volunteer opportunities on the organization's Facebook page where Crouch and others will be posting upcoming events. Additionally, Crouch is organizing specific Moving Difference events like the Silly Hat Big Clean on Sep 8. From 8 - 11 a.m., folks looking to add some hours can come help clean Town Lake between MoPac and Lamar in — of course — a big silly hat.
As with any activity challenge, Moving Difference will likely be more fun and more rewarding when done with friends and family, so Crouch encourages participants to spread the excitement. The principles can be applied anywhere, not just in Austin, so literally everyone in the world can join in the movement to make subtle differences in their own neighborhood.
The more people that get involved, however, the more impact that can be made. With just 83 volunteers doing 12 hours a week, the movement would accumulate a total of 1,000 Moving Difference volunteer hours by Sep. 21. With volunteers numbering in the thousands, the impact would become exponentially larger. (Crouch, who admits to being a math nerd, loves figuring out just how many volunteer hours are possible as the sign-ups keep rolling in.)
At the end of the summer, volunteers from across the globe are invited to take time on the evening of Sep. 21 to watch the last summer sunset of the year and reflect on the significant changes that will have happened over the previous three months. In Austin, all volunteers are invited to gather together at the RunTex on Riverside to enjoy a sunset viewing and thank-you party.
The sunset is the perfect way, Crouch says, to realize that something beautiful and completely free can unite all of us together if we take the time to appreciate it.
"I didn't have an easy childhood, but I turned it into a life of giving back, thinking differently and really being a person in this world. If you and I are going to be anything in this world," she asserts, "it is going to have to start with you and me."
Twelve hours in three months. Do you have it in you?
To get involved in Moving Difference, visit their website and read Crouch's instructions on how to pledge your 12 summer hours to the cause. Follow them on Facebook to see who else is participating and how, and follow them on Twitter to get updates on what other volunteers are saying.