By Shane Raymond, Hammer Volunteer

A few years back I found myself wanting to give back to my community in a personally meaninful way. My intent was to mesh that hope with my desire to spend more time with Indy, our Border Collie mix. Indy was going through a midlife crisis, of sorts, and needed something to keep him busy and active. I guess I kind of needed the same. After a quick Google search, I came upon Hammer Residences and quickly lined up Indy and myself to visit a house every two weeks – pet therapy of sorts. Unfortunately, it took about three visits to realize that pet therapy was not Indy’s calling!

Shane Raymond's DogA year went by and I again felt the need to get involved and help somebody in some way. The idea came to me that maybe if I volunteered with Indy in the spring and summer, we’d be able to be outside and run…and that might work better than trying to keep him calm indoors. I also wanted to utilize my recently discovered passion for fitness and running. I had really enjoyed working with the team at Hammer the first time around so I thought I’d reach out to them again. I sent an e-mail, and within a couple hours got a call from Joe. It took about three minutes of my sharing with Joe where I was at and the volunteer opportunity I was looking for, when he stopped me to say: “Nathan’s the one.”

Nathan is a young man living at Hammer’s Holdridge house. Joe believed he’d love a volunteer with whom he could go walking, someone to work out with, or just to hang. Also, Nathan likes dogs – a big plus!  A week or so later, I met with the house manager to chat about Nathan and my role as a volunteer; the next day I met Nathan.

On my first visit I brought Indy along, because everybody loves a cute dog, right? I work downtown, so I had to leave early and head home to scenic Albertville (home of the famous Outlet Mall) to pick up Indy and then run back to Minnetonka to meet Nathan. The first two “visits” were about playing with Indy in the yard and going for walks. By the third trip we had decided to ditch Indy so we could go out on the town for some dinner, shopping, etc.

Shane Raymond and NathanWhen I first met Nathan I was a little surprised. He was not what I expected. The first night we got together he started asking some pretty deep questions about my job. “Do you like it? Are you good at it? Do you like your boss?” It just so happened that the work/life balance questions were front and center in my mind at the time. Right off the bat, I got a lot out of my time with Nathan. He helped me address some truly real questions. That was the first time I asked myself, “Who’s the volunteer here?”

It’s been two years now that Nathan and I have been hanging out. We have our routines down pretty good; we have our favorite spots. I’m fitness minded, health conscious, an organics focused eater, and I love breakfast food. Nathan is awesome; he indulges me on the food front. By indulging me, I mean he teases me non-stop. For example, “Let’s go to Dairy Queen; dairy is healthy, right?” In addition to going out for healthy dinners and walking around the mall, we’ve found another shared pleasure: brewery tours! So far we’ve toured Summit, 612 Brewing, and next on our list is trip to New Ulm for Schell Brewing.

I truly feel that I get as much, or more, out of spending time with Nathan than what he gets out of it. Every time I come over to Holdridge it goes the same way; he starts teasing me about something then quickly gets serious with a question about my job, the kids, my running, or other things he knows are important to me. Then he asks: “Did you get me a pen on your trip?” (As Danny Ngo has mentioned in a previous blog, Nathan collects pens!)

I’m greatly looking forward to this weekend. My kids and I are going out to lunch with Nathan. We’ll be going to Maggie’s in Wayzata for some breakfast food. Yum! As usual, Nathan will indulge me and likely do some teasing.