The Multitalented Man: Andrew Fairbanks

Andrew and I met in September 2010 at the U of MN. He was taking a capstone class and needed 30 community service learning hours to complete his psychology degree. Ultimately Andrew would like to pursue a career in law enforcement and is considering going to either the police academy or entering the Air Force. We talked about the importance of people in law enforcement having an understanding about diverse populations including people with developmental disabilities.

Andrew Volunteering at Lifeworks Burnsville

Andrew Volunteering at Lifeworks Burnsville

Andrew agreed to volunteer once a week at our Burnsville center. Initially we asked Andrew to facilitate a sports talk group. Now reflecting back I realize that he has done so much more. Andrew completed his 30 hour capstone requirement before the end of 2010 but continues to come to our center once a week being open to whatever we need him to do. He has volunteered more than 113 hours to be exact and we have discovered that he is a multitalented man. His interests go far beyond law enforcement and sporting event scores.

Andrew has taught us French, gone for walks, played a variety of outdoor games like bean bag toss, catch and even croquet. He has helped us clean at a local church and a park and also assisted us at the Lifeworks Annual Celebration in a myriad of roles.

I sat down with him recently and asked him why he continues to come, week after week knowing that the school commitment is long behind him. His response was quick and heartfelt. He said,

“By the time I had finished the 30 hours I had grown in my relationships with the people here and felt that I had established true friendships. I thought about other college students who might just come to complete their required service learning hours and then leave. I just couldn’t do that. It wouldn’t be right; it would feel like I was using these people. I have time in my week. There was just no question for me; of course I would continue to come.”

I also asked Andrew what surprised him the most about people with developmental disabilities. He said he was impressed by how open and authentic everyone is, how quick our clients are to accept someone new, how friendly they are but mostly how they just take you for who you are, no question.

Andrew graduated from the U of MN in May 2010 and is taking the summer to work at the Eagan Community Center and also volunteer with us while he ponders the next chapter in his life adventure. How will we know when his time with us is going to end I asked. He said, “I don’t know yet but I will continue to come until I am ready to move on to something that doesn’t allow time for this.”

Derek Bucher, Burnsville Program Supervisor made this comment about Andrew’s volunteer commitment, “Wednesdays are highly anticipated at Lifeworks in Burnsville, not because the weekend is nearing but because our friend Andrew is coming! Andrew is fun, energetic and compassionate. We wish we could keep him forever.”

Finally I asked him, “What would you tell others about Lifeworks?” Andrew said,

“Lifeworks is something that really reflects my personal values. I have never done anything like this before but anyone could come here to volunteer. Everyone is so welcoming. This experience has changed me a lot; I can’t even put it into words. Originally I was deciding between the Children’s Museum and Lifeworks. I am so glad I came here.”

We are glad that you came here too Andrew and we appreciate the gift of time that you have shared with us. Lifeworks partners with more than ten colleges and universities and we are ready to create many more volunteer opportunities. You might be just one person in the world but to one person you might be the world. Just give me call at 651-365-3720 or email kpengelly@lifeworks.org

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