Meet Friba – VM Story – Conflict Resolution Center

Friba describes herself as social, confident, and leader by nature. She’s strategic, analytical, and loves to study by reading books.

When asked what motivated her to do a year of service with Volunteer Maryland Friba said, ” I have knowledge and this is the time to use and work practically for my community and it is a great opportunity for me to build my career and learn new skills with helping and working in new field.” Friba also loves to travel, is a proud mother and good wife and a good person in the community. “I have a great time management in my work and have a good relationship with my colleague and friends.”

Friba graduated from Law School and hopes to use this year to gain experience. “After completing my service I have plan to go to back school and take another Master in Peace and conflict Resolution. Then I will be able to take my dream job and achieve at my goal to help people and my community!”

You can learn more about Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County by visiting


Pamela Evans – VM Story -Serving from the Start

Pamela Evans is “a proud mother of three adult children and three, but soon to be four, wonderful grand children. I was born and raised in Baltimore and taught as a young child to serve the community through the church.”

Pamela brings 38 years of public service experience with the State of Maryland Department of Human Resources (DHR) and community based programs. “Within DHR, I served roles at the local and state levels ranging from case manager, social work supervisor, adult services program specialist, child care operations supervisor to program administrator and accreditation coordinator. I coordinated and led DHR’s statewide accreditation process and was nominated to the National Council on Accreditation’s Board of Commissioners. Outside of DHR, I worked in places such as, but not limited to, children’s diagnostic centers, homeless shelters, alternative living units, hospitals, and inpatient psychiatric (Walter Reed).  I also served the community through the American Red Cross (ARC) for ten plus years responding to Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy (Maryland & New Jersey), Illinois Flood Disaster Relief Operations and the South Caroline Church shooting.  While with the ARC I served disaster survivors in a variety of positions such as disaster action team member, case manager, shelter worker, Regional and Division Mental Health Advisor and Advance Trainer.  I was proud and honored to be nominated and to receive the John T. Mendies and the Clara Burton awards for service and volunteer leadership.”

Volunteer Maryland is excited to have Pamela serve at Pigtown Main Street and continue her journey with our AmeriCorps program. To her, “volunteerism and giving back to the community has been a strong aspect of my raising and values and I wanted to continue to find new ways to remain involved and active in the community. The Main Street Project presented an unique opportunity learn a new approach to revitalizing Baltimore Communities. I see this opportunity as a challenge to approach our communities that are struggle from a different perspective.”

You can learn more about Pamela and volunteer opportunities regarding Pigtown Main Street at . 

Sophia – Ulman Cancer Fund – VM Story

Sophia Garber is a recent graduate of SUNY Geneseo where she was heavily involved with the campus’s Relay for Life and dance community where she was part of the dance team and Geneseo Dance Ensemble.

In spring 2016,  Sophia traveled to Borgne, Haiti as part of a service learning trip and was inspired by the culture and people to continue to engage in service. “I decided to study abroad the following semester in Cusco, Peru where I took classes and volunteered. After graduating Geneseo, I partook in a cross country bike ride called the 4K for Cancer where I was introduced to The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. I raised over $9,500 for the organization and biked 4,000 miles from Baltimore to San Francisco.”

She wanted to find a way to transition into the working world while still helping people. “I found The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults through participation in the 4K for Cancer program and was inspired and motivated to stay involved with them and their fight to improve the lives of young adults with cancer.”

During her service year, Sophia hopes hopes to gain an understanding of nonprofit organizations, become a strong team player, and be able to leave a lasting legacy in the incredible organization, The Ulman Cancer Fund. “I hope to gain stronger public speaking  and problem solving skills. This is a perfect first step in my end goal of working with nonprofit organizations.”

Volunteer Maryland is excited to see Sophia shine in the next year as she serves the Baltimore Community as Volunteer Coordinator. You can learn more about The Ulman Cancer Fund by visiting

Jackson Hickey – CHAI – VM Story


I am Jackson Hickey, a recent graduate of Goucher College. It is with great excitement that I start my ten months of service with AmeriCorps. While I have worked with volunteers before, prior to accepting this position I was working in architectural sheet metal fabrication. I am lucky to accept this position and I hope that my wide variety of experience will come to together to help me through it.

I have lead volunteer groups from both my time with the Cheyenne River Youth Project and my time as a Peer Facilitator at Goucher College. Volunteer work is deeply meaningful to me as a practical way to make meaningful local change. The opportunity to work with Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc in a program that could expand to help hundreds of people was not an opportunity I could pass up.

I have lead volunteer groups from both my time with the Cheyenne River Youth Project and my time as a Peer Facilitator at Goucher College. Volunteer work is deeply meaningful to me as a practical way to make meaningful local change. The opportunity to work with CHAI in a program that could expand to help hundreds of people was not an opportunity I could pass up.

To learn more about Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc and opportunities to volunteer at their organization visit

Thanuja Rajapakse Cares at Hospice Caring Inc.

Our next VM AmeriCorps spotlight is Thanuja who is serving at Hospice Caring Inc. She was born in Sri Lanka and moved to the United States when she was just eight years old.

“Sinhala is my first language. I got my bachelor’s degree in Marriage and Family Studies with an emphasis in Professional Clinical and a minor in Sociology. I served as a missionary for my church in Chile for 18 months. I loved living in Chile. I loved the people and the culture. I visit Sri Lanka almost every two years. All of my extended family still lives there. I really enjoy learning about other cultures. I love being around people and serving in any way that I can.”

Thanuja learned about the opportunity of serving in AmeriCorps from a friend who encouraged her to apply. “He only had good things to say about it.” She enjoys volunteering and hopes to encourage many folks to volunteer while she is the Volunteer Coordinator at Hospice Caring Inc. “I really do believe that some people would love to serve if only they knew where to start. I wanted the opportunity to learn more about how to help people find opportunities to serve as well as have the opportunity to serve myself. ”

“I am hoping to gain some experience. I hope to gain a sense of purpose. I hope that I can serve my community. I also really hope to have some networking opportunities. I hope that I learn how to lead and organize. I know that whatever career path I end up pursuing, it will involve dealing with people. And so I know that AmeriCorp will help me learn about how to work with people as well as how to motivate people.”

You can learn more about Hospice Caring Inc. by visiting and if you or someone you know would be interested in volunteering at Hospice Caring Inc. contact Thanuja!

Kelsey Eastman – Deep Roots Inc. – MY VM Story

Kelsey is a recent graduate from East Carolina University with a degree in Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and Global Understanding serving as Volunteer Coordinator at Deep Roots Inc. who’s mission is ‘ending children’s homesessness one child at a time’ in Cecil County, Maryland.

“When I was a sophomore in college, I went on a service trip with an organization called Students Helping Honduras. This experience was ultimately the turning point and would change the direction of my life. By then end of this short eight day service trip, I had decided that I wanted to dedicate the rest of my life towards helping those who do not have the resources to help themselves.”

I have done a lot of service work across the globe form Honduras, to Peru, to South Africa—but I haven’t had the opportunity to serve in my own community since high school. I wanted to take some time to make an impact in a place close to home and close to my heart. I am also always trying to further my leadership skills and this position will help me to learn more and participate in the management aspect of volunteerism.

During Kelsey’s service year her goal is to gain experience and expertise in volunteer management and coordination. “Serving at my site will give me more experience volunteering with youth populations. After the completion of my service term, I hope to leave for the Peace Corps and serve in youth and development and youth empowerment. My professional goal is to work with global nonprofits in human rights and sustainable development.”

We’re so happy to have Kelsey serve as an AmeriCorps Member with Volunteer Maryland for the 30th VM class! Visit to learn more about Deep Roots in action!

Peer Leader Maggie – VM Story

This year Volunteer Maryland will be hosting the class of #VM30! Today help me in introducing our second peer leader Maggie Straub!

“I served with Volunteer Maryland last year at Crossroads Community, Inc. where I recruited and managed volunteers to work one-on-one with individuals who have behavioral health needs.

I continued my service with AmeriCorps and Volunteer Maryland this year as a Peer Leader because I feel a deep sense of dedication to volunteer service and the community around me. I wanted to take the next step as a Peer Leader to serve in a new capacity by mentoring fellow AmeriCorps members in this program.

It is my hope to use my past experience with Volunteer Maryland to motivate other AmeriCorps Members throughout the cohort to reach their full potential while taking advantage of as many professional development opportunities they can throughout the year.

Fun fact, I spent two months living in Dublin, Ireland where I interned at a non-profit focused on providing services to at-risk youth, to include after-school clubs and resume workshops.”

We’re so excited to have Maggie serve with the support team this year! Subscribe to our blog to continue getting updates on our rad upcoming service year!

#VolunteerMD #serveMaryland #AmeriCorps

Peer Leader Yinka – My VM Story

This year Volunteer Maryland will be hosting the class of #VM30! Today help me in introducing one of our two peer leaders Yinka Taiwo!

“I was a part of VM 29 at Montgomery County Community Action Agency. At CAA I helped run the volunteer program for the VITA & SNAP program. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program helped low income family prepare their taxes. The SNAP program’s goal is to make food more accessible for Montgomery County residents.

One important thing I learned about myself as a VM is that I like to connect people with resources. My passion to help individuals with chronic illness may have sparked my drive to bridge the gap between individuals, organizations and the services they provide.

I became a peer leader because I enjoy being a source of support and I enjoy interacting with people. Most especially people willing to sacrifice their time for the good of their community.

I grew up in Nigeria and have lived in the US for over half of my life now. Despite that I feel my journey is still at the beginning because I still have so much to learn.

One thing I will like to share with you going forward is not to be so self-conscious about what you consider a weakness. For example, I used to think I was really short, but I learned that there are people out there who will consider me tall. When I auditioned to be Mickey/ Minnie Mouse at Disney world. I was rejected because I was too tall! With that being said see your weakness as your strength especially the ones that cannot be changed.”

Yinka Taiwo

We’re so excited to have Yinka serve with the support team this year! Stay tuned tomorrow to meet our other peer leader!



Swipe Right for this Volunteer Opportunity

How does your organization recruit its volunteers? Does it use a general ask with generic position descriptions, or is it a personal ask?

As a Peer Leader at Volunteer Maryland I have the opportunity to connect with our Volunteer Maryland Coordinators (AmeriCorps Members in the field) on a regular basis, either by phone or in person. We often discuss challenges and celebrate their successes. Oftentimes I learn about creative strategies they are using for their site’s volunteer program. During one of my recent check-ins, I learned about an ingenious approach for tackling an urgent volunteer need…by using a dating ad format!

Joyce Plaxen, serving at Olney Home for Life, connects volunteers with driving opportunities to connect individuals who are aging or disabled. In order to make a Volunteer Driver position more enticing to her already committed volunteers she gives her clients a short bio, similar to a dating profile. This may seem a bit radical, but by bolstering the clients interests, and highlighting the benefits of driving them, Joyce found that within an hour all volunteer needs were met! Previously in the week, these rides were passed over, but with this innovative “dating ad” the client rides were taken quickly.

Why did this work? Personal connection- by reading these Dating Ads a volunteer feels a connection with the individual and is motivated to pick up the ride for the day. This is not a new idea. As Vue Le discusses in his blog Nonprofit with Balls, in the US volunteers
contribute over 8 billion hours of service, which is equal to over $173 billion. He claims that we tend to treat donors and volunteers differently, making donors feel personally connected to the organization for their monetary donations, but leaving volunteers feel not as connected to the clients for donating their time. So what can we do to correct this?

We need to get volunteers personalized quicker, before the volunteers even begin. If we find a way to make volunteer opportunities more personalized, volunteer recruitment efforts could be easier. Volunteers have already swiped right for your organization. So, create the personalized volunteer ask that won’t just get you a first date, but a long term volunteer relationship.c00c98d75bbe6c6a0a3eaa1e37f53298_oprah-dating-app-memes_620-588

National Service in My Life

National Service has been a guiding light for me in my life, something that has always led me in the right direction when I’ve found myself too far off the beaten path. In addition to being a second year AmeriCorps member, I am also a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Mali ’02-’04). We are celebrating AmeriCorps Week this week–a very important time for us at Volunteer Maryland–and last week was Peace Corps Week. It’s important to have this time devoted to National Service in order to spotlight the people devoted to National Service. For me personally, the experience has been profound and those people have made all the difference.

Riding a camel in the Sahara just outside Timbuktu!

Peace Corps was the experience of a lifetime, as I was a 22 year old, barely out of college and placed wide-eyed in an extremely rural village as a Natural Resource Management Volunteer. Virtually every step was a challenge (as the line went, “the toughest job you’ll ever love”): completely different climate, completely different diet, completely different language, completely different culture altogether. I eventually found my footing and adapted to these things, but in a lot of ways, the most life-changing element was the Volunteers I served with. They were a group of idealistic people, up to the task but with an extreme willingness to be vulnerable that I didn’t always understand but was drawn to nevertheless.

For the next decade following Peace Corps, it became obvious to me how spoiled I had been to be surrounded by such remarkable people. When I wanted to recenter my life, I started looking at the things in Peace Corps that had made me happy: the people, the camaraderie, the constant challenge. Naturally, I looked at AmeriCorps, a program I was well aware of largely due to Volunteers who had participated either before or after Peace Corps service. Before I knew it, I was living quite a ways from home (Michigan) in Baltimore, Md, and was surrounded by people cut from the same cloth as those who inspired me so much in Mali. My VISTA year with Strong City Baltimore (July 2015-July 2016) was an excellent way to get me onto a better path, mind, body, and soul: I helped coordinate various middle school robotics programs for Baltimore City Schools with the JHU Center for Educational Outreach.

Proud Strong City VISTAs at the JHU CEO!
Visiting VM’s Habitat for Humanity Wicomico Co site!

This time, I wasn’t one of the young ones, I was one of the “old” ones. And that opened new doors to me as well. I loved watching and helping people fifteen years younger than me press through and do great things, and the taste of mentoring I got inspired me to spend a second AmeriCorps year as a Peer Leader at Volunteer Maryland, where it is now my role to give Volunteer Maryland Coordinators support of all types to help them through their service year. They inspire me constantly to reach down deep for my better nature, and they give me avenues to use my powers–meager though they are–for good.

For me, National Service has always been my North Star, the compass point that leads me to a meaningful life when I can’t find any other way to get there. Whatever National Service means to you, take this week to reflect upon it, and share in the community that we’ve all created with our service.