Volunteering for Introverts + Why Your Town Needs Its Own Mushroom Festival with RuthAnn Deveney

RuthAnn had been living in Kennett Square, PA for seven years before she started finding real connection to the town around her. It started with her church, where she learned of volunteer opportunities in the area. 

That led to her working at the library, where she could restock books in peace—and, over time, get to know both the staff and the patrons.

RuthAnn's tricks for remembering names:

  1. Repeat their name back to them after they say it
  2. Ask them about one thing they're really into
  3. After your conversation, repeat their name and that one thing back to yourself.

Example: "Tony loves karaoke."

She learned about all the creative and valuable programming the library was hosting, the constraints it dealt with in terms of resources and space, even the controversies about how different kinds of people made use of the free computer stations.

Eventually, she ended up on the library's board, where she learned even more about the role the library plays in the town and the dynamics around its direction. 

The best part? RuthAnn is an avowed introvert.

Feeling connected to your neighborhood doesn't have to mean being super social—you could find the most un-social volunteering opportunity imaginable, and end up more involved and connected to your neighborhood than you ever would have expected otherwise. 

Watch the full video interview here:

Or grab the audio here:

Embracing a town's identity - especially when it's mushrooms

Kennett Square has a rich history of producing the majority of the country's mushrooms—and they're not afraid to celebrate it. 

Each fall, they host a mushroom festival—by far the biggest event of the year. 

RuthAnn pointed out that this served as far more than a whimsical diversion—it helped the town develop an identity for itself.

Residents have a shared understanding of what their town is about—a shared pride, shared memories—the annual mushroom festival is the big moment for the town.

Compare this to any town or city that *doesn't* have its own equivalent of a mushroom festival: do their residents feel quite the same level of loyalty, affiliation, affection for their home town? 

The urban planning takeaway: if your town lacks a clear identity, look to its history and play with opportunities to celebrate it.