Members in Action! – Sophia

Sophia an AmeriCorps Member at Ulman Cancer Fund (UCF) whose passion for raising awareness for UCF has helped her developed skills that many seek. Being a volunteer coordinator requires various skills, public speaking is one of them. Sophia shares how her experience so far helped her to hone this skill.

She says, “In the month of December, I was able to travel back to my Alma mater, Geneseo and speak about 4K for Cancer and my involvement with UCF. I have been working on my goal of improving my public speaking quite a bit this month through presentations to the UCF staff and also through outreach opportunities that I have helped out with. Speaking for an hour as a part of the All-College-Hour Speaker Series at Geneseo was a huge test to the work that I had put into my public speaking and it was a really exciting and challenging experience for me. I was able to share my personal story as well as the stories that I have heard throughout my involvement with Ulman that inspire me to keep working with UCF. My goal of the speech was to inspire others in this community to get involved with UCF and hopefully other types of service in and outside of their community. I was really happy with how the speech went and I spoke to a few people afterwards who really wanted to get involved with UCF. It felt great to be able to see the improvement in my public speaking since the start of the service year and someone who attended the speech reached out to inquire about having me come and present at their university.

Another skill necessary to be a volunteer coordinator is being able to inspire volunteers to commit their time and effort, the challenging part being recruiting and retaining this volunteers.

For Martin Luther King day, UCF hosted a day of service well attended by 56 people of all ages. According to her,the UCF tradition of the Dedication Circle was an opportunity to hear the people that inspired the volunteers to give up their day off to serve with us. Some of the names said were familiar ones and some were names I had never heard before, but it was so inspiring to take a moment like that in which we were reminded the importance of what we were doing.”

Sophia goes further to share about one of the volunteers that served on MLK Day.

“A woman came to the MLK day of service after hearing about it through her company. She showed up with her kids and not knowing much about UCF, still took time out of her life to attend. I spoke with her about the UCF mission and my involvement and she told me about her life and where she had come from. Like me, she was new to Baltimore and looking for a community. She not only stayed the entire day, but was one of the most dedicated volunteers as her and her kids were knee deep in garbage cleaning out an area near the UCF House. She hopes to get more involved and told me how inspired she was by the UCF mission.”

However recruiting and learning what inspires volunteers is only a part of the job. Sophia faces the challenge of engaging volunteers, as volunteer opportunities are inconsistent.

She explains how they focused on creating an impactful opportunity.

“The greatest challenge this month was trying to figure out how to continue to engage volunteers after the initial interaction. I noticed that a lot of volunteer lose interest after the first event because our volunteer opportunities are less consistent. I don’t want to lose the interest of the volunteers, but still want to make sure that the work the volunteers are doing is meaningful and is making an impact. Lauriann and I have started doing Chemo Care Bag Builds every other week so that we will always have the bags ready to give to the Patient Navigators and also there will always be a volunteer opportunity for volunteers to get involved in.”

Volunteer Management is a cycle, the process is not stagnant and needs to be readdressed on all levels.  From the Big Picture to the Implementation of volunteer engagement, a Volunteer Coordinator or Manager is ultimatum responsible for relationship building and without constant care and attention eventually the relationships can end.  Sophia understands the importance of this constant need to nurture the relationship with new and excited volunteers and she’s up to the challenge to inspire them to stay engaged with the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. #PickmeupWednesday



Members in Action! -Andrew

During the month of November the spirit of giving was thriving throughout the state of Maryland.
Andrew Zagwodzki‘s site, End hunger in Calvert County Warehouse successfully prepared over 4000 Holiday meal boxes and turkeys to 43 partner feeding organizations. 600 of the Holiday Meal Boxes was packed by the Chesapeake Beach/North Beach Town council. These meals were scheduled to go down to Lusby which is at the other end of the county. According to Andrew,”When the group was done packing, and we told them where these meals were going, they were blown away. They could not believe that they packed over 600 boxes, but on top of that, where it was going. They did not realize the need through the county. It really opened their eyes, to be able to see the impact of serving at the warehouse, and who was positively affected by it.”
Andrew further explains, “For me personally, it was difficult to be able to think everything through. Such as counting out specific number of green beans that needed to be packed for a county Holiday Meal and then figuring out where to make up the difference if we did not have enough. I survived though, thanks to the help of my amazing site supervisors and our volunteers everyone was able to obtain their meals in time for thanksgiving.”
Volunteers efforts reaching far and wide throughout Calvert County, This is a good example of how to bring volunteers in to the organizations mission and help them see their impact on the community


Nora – My VM Story – Habitat for Humanity Choptank

And last, but certainly not least we have our wisest VM30 AmeriCorps Member in Nora! Nora quit school in the 10th grade and worked as a waitress making just $0.50 an hour. Fast forward 20 years later and she was offered an opportunity by the State to pay for vocational training to become a nurse. “First I  had to obtain my GED and after 6 months of tutoring I received my diploma. I then took an accelerated 2 year course in 1 year, graduated, and took my State Board exams, thus beginning my 41 year career as an LPN (licensed practitioner nurse. I recently retired on August 31st 2017.”

“My family is of course my greatest source of pride.” She’s a mother of three grown children ( 2 daughters, 1 son); 4  grandchildren (3 grandsons and 1 granddaughter) who refer to her as “Gagy.”

“Nine years ago, due to an unexpected life change I moved to the Eastern Shore, Maryland. During the first 5 years I moved a total of 6 times due to the cost of  housing. Out of 3 of those places, I rented houses that were sitting empty and for sale. I was able to convince the homeowners to let me rent for a decreased amount. During that time I began to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. The first time was for Women Build Week. After that, I was hooked on volunteering with them.”

In 2012, Nora found out that she met the parameters of homeownership with Habitat for Humanity Choptank and was able to assist in the building of her own home! “I have been living there for 3 years.

Now, Nora is a full time AmeriCorps Member serving at the same Habitat for Humanity Choptank managing their volunteer program! When she’s not out and about recruiting or recognizing volunteer achievements you may find Nora in the kitchen whipping up some delectable treats! “I love to cook and even more so, love to feed people. I am no stranger to struggles in life, but always refuse to accept defeat!”

“I was approached by the Executive Director, Nancy Andrews and Program Manager, Pat Ingram at Habitat for Humanity Choptank with the idea of serving. I  did some  online  research and  decided to go  forward with my retirement and pursue this  opportunity  to  serve with an organization I  believe very  strongly  about.

I  knew I wanted to retire, but was hesitant for a couple of reasons, one being  that I am  not a  sit around-do nothing  person and the  second  was  transitioning into a different  financial category. I strongly  believe  that nothing  happens  by  chance and  the fact  that  Nancy  and  Pat  had  confidence  in  me  was all  the “push” I  needed. At 66 years  of  age I desire to give back to my community and an organization that has given so much to me.”

During her service year Nora believes that she will develop new relationships and strengthen current friendships. “I hope to  not  only  share  some of  my professional skills and knowledge, but also glean the same  from  those I come in contact with over the  next 11 months. I look forward to developing more interpersonal skills and increasing my skills in the area of  the “electronic world” as well as in public speaking.”

Nora wants folks to know that there are health benefits to giving back. “I hope to keep my mind active and positive, thereby making the impact I have in my community a positive one. With this idea  in  mind , I am  certain that my positive attitude will generate confidence in my current  and  soon to  be  learned skills making me a more capable and  useful  person  for  those  around me.”

“At this point in my life-my long term goal is to maintain a  productive and healthy lifestyle, enjoy my  family and friends and hopefully leave “my world” a little better than I found it.”

You can learn more about volunteer opportunities at Habitat for Humanity Choptank by visiting www.Habitat

Melinda – My VM Story – Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry

Melinda is our youngest AmeriCorps Members to serve this year at just 18 years old, but don’t let age lead you to believe that she’s not already making an impact in Calvert County!

“I’m an animal loving vegan, and absolutely obsessed with my little poodle. Faith is very important to me, I was baptized this summer with one of my best friends and consider it to be one of the greatest life choices I’ve ever made. I’m quite young and relatively without much life experience, but I’ve been through a few traumas and what I feel is my greatest accomplishment is persevering through things that very easily could’ve pushed me down a different path- I’m a big fan of “beating the odds”.

Before I even knew what Volunteer Maryland was, my service site (Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry) reached out to me about possibly filling the position as an AmeriCorps Member. At first, I had brushed it off, planning to leave for college in Texas in less than a month. Luckily, my current site supervisor reached out to me and asked to meet up for a brief chat. Before I knew it, I was offering to volunteer at one of the pantry openings, and quickly fell in love with what they were doing for several hundred people each month. As I watched small children, single mothers, disabled individuals, etc. sit in the waiting room patiently, I was in absolute awe of how the staff had devoted their lives to take care of people that were so often swept under the rug. The tug at my heart to stay and serve with Volunteer Maryland was too great to ignore.

Serving as an AmeriCorps Member is a unique opportunity, and being right out of high school I am hoping to get a better idea of what I’d like to do with my life. I’m sure these 11 months will equip me with the skills to function as a working adult and give my resume something to make it really stand out on college and job applications. I’m also hoping to gain a deeper love and appreciation for the role that nonprofits play in taking care of people all over our country, and get the connections and skills I need to work in nonprofit if my heart keeps being pulled that way!”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry you can visit

If your organization would benefit from an AmeriCorps Member who would serve as volunteer coordinator please visit for more details.

Members in Action! – Mallory

“In the face of critical need in our communities, many of us feel concern: but when does that concern move us to act? At the story telling workshop hosted by Project Change and CASA, we tackled the challenge of telling our stories of service. Mallory’s story of service and engaging the community’s compassion compelled listeners.

Mallory Jones is the ​AmeriCorps member serving with Volunteer Maryland as a ​volunteer coordinator at The Samaritan Women, a shelter in Baltimore City for women rescued from domestic sex trafficking. She shared that when she gives presentations about human trafficking to the community, it sometimes elicits a response of sympathy or emotion. What resonated with participants at the storytelling workshop was Mallory’s goal to turn that sympathy into action. Mallory’s task at hand is channeling the community’s sympathetic feelings into actively serving the community.


According to Mallory, this is what true compassion looks like: Service and Action.
​In her role a​s​ a ​volunteer coordinator, she knows the impact one individual can make in the fight against human trafficking, and wants potential volunteers to know that if you act on your concerns, you truly can make a difference.
Mallory reminds us of how important it is to get our own story out there and inspire our community to act.”



Becky – My VM Story – Elms

She’s slow to anger, quick to laugh, and describes herself as a loyal friend. Becky joins our VM30 Class, serving at Elms Environmental Education Center in St. Mary’s. “I am proud of my decades of involvement with outdoor environmental work, whether building and maintaining the Appalachian trail and other trails in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, or in helping build trails centers and shelters and campgrounds so that others who share my love of the American outdoors can better enjoy the experience. One tidbit about me is that I hate to drive and I am especially fond of all animals, so when I do drive I will always brake my car for animals. Therefore, other drivers should not tailgate me.”

“I am doing this term because I could not believe a vacancy existed for such a noble and challenging opportunity.  When I learned during my Master Naturalist Certification Training that it was actually possible to spend time encouraging and helping my fellow Marylanders become involved as volunteers in and for their communities, I realized that a life-long dream of mine was on the cusp of fulfillment.  Doing something positive to help my world be a better place, and also helping my neighbors become more involved citizens allows me to “give back” to all those men and women who helped me in prior years to get to the place I enjoy in life and to become the person I am today.

As I progress through this program and become more and more acclimated in the role and responsibilities my position entails, I hope to gain an increased measure of self confidence in my ability to organize and inspire others to be more effective volunteers.

I believe serving in the capacity will help me become more organized in my own thoughts and actions, and help me help others gain that confidence and awareness that comes from the satisfaction of serving their towns and cities and state.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at Elms please visit

If you know an organization that would be interesting in having an AmeriCorps Member serve as a Volunteer Coordinator for the 2018-2019 service year please visit

Jessica – My VM Story – Calvert Cash

Our first VM Story feature of 2018 brings us to Jessica who is serving in Calvert County!

“When the opportunity presented itself for me to become an Americorps Member with Volunteer Maryland serving at Calvert Cash, I was excited to find a good outlet for helping others in my hometown community.  I have seen many people in our community impacted by hunger for many reasons, and those folks need a hand and an opportunity to change their circumstances. The reasons don’t matter, the people do. This is also a great way for me to ease back into the work force after taking an extended maternity leave and relocating from my previous professional position.

Volunteerism and service are not new concepts for me.  My family has participated in service in large and small ways.  Whether as an Air Force Pilot, a Police Officer, Secretary/Treasurer for a church fundraiser, a Sunday School Teacher, Christmas in April Volunteer or Special Olympics supporter. My family has shown me a myriad of ways to be of service to individuals as well as whole communities. I enjoy working with people, especially those who also have a heart for service, many hands, one goal. Together with some newly recruited volunteers, we can make an even larger impact on Calvert County. For me personally as someone who had such a positive experience as a customer of Calvert cash I hope I can make an impact on someone and pay it forward.

I’m looking at this coming year as an opportunity to really grow in the area of leadership and training. Specifically, I am wanting to grow and learn how to better manage and network. I am hoping that by creating this new position at this site, it will encourage others to join in.  I would like to move up the Americorps ladder after my service year because Volunteer Maryland is the best organized and professional company since my career at LU online and I’d enjoy being a part of this for the rest of my working career. One of my personal goals since 2016 has been committed to  enjoying Maryland and since the Volunteer Maryland training, I have found nearly 30 new and wonderful reasons which have been reflected in my peers site programs!

When Jessica’s not serving with Volunteer Maryland this is what she had to say. “I enjoy the outdoors, hiking, walking, biking. I also enjoy exercising and hope to one day soon get a chance to try yoga.  I enjoy worshiping and the fellowship my church provides.

I am thrilled to get started as a Volunteer Coordinator for AmeriCorps and Volunteer Maryland at Calvert Ca$h and End Hunger Calvert.  Got some time you can spare? Come see me, we can always find a spot PERFECT for you and your talents and gifts!”

You can learn more about volunteer opportunities at Calvert Cash by visiting

If you know of an organization that needs to strengthen their volunteer program and it’s a goal of theirs’ to make an impact in 2018 and beyond, then they could get an AmeriCorps Member of their own! Visit to get started!

Rachel – My VM Story – St. Franis Neighborhood Center

Today’s VM Story takes us to Rachel, who is serving at St. Francis Neighborhood Center in Baltimore!

“There are several reasons that I am doing this. For one, I think that this year of service will help me reach my professional goals. Specifically, the education award will allow me to pay off some of my loans from undergrad and someday attend graduate school. The Volunteer Maryland networking opportunities and professional development are also enticing.

I’m hoping that my time at St. Francis will give me a more concrete sense of the needs of the communities in Baltimore that are struggling with overcoming generational poverty and hunger. I will have situated myself in a community, lived experience, and perspective that is invaluable to my professional goals, and can ultimately create a model for my urban education program that I will be returning to school to pursue with the insights from the community. I would like to give the St. Francis community the tools to be self-sufficient and managing their resources responsibly and in a manner that minimizes waste. In the same vein, ideally the volunteer program would be more robust and consistent year to year. Finally, I’d like to learn what I need to work on in order to help other communities do so in the future.

My Puerto Rican heritage is very important to me. I do not have preferred gender pronouns and identify as queer and non-binary. I am a fiery Leo! I am an aunt to a beautiful toddler, and a new cat mom! I am originally from Baltimore County, but I attended undergrad in Ohio and lived in South Florida prior to returning to Baltimore earlier this year.

I like to sing, play with animals, garden (or be in nature in general). My love of nature led me to study Geology at Oberlin College, where I obtained a 3.6 GPA while also playing field hockey and acting as the treasurer of two campus organizations, La Alianza Latinx (our Latinx student union) and Oberlin Food Justice, and volunteering at the local George Jones Farm and tutoring at Eastwood Elementary School. I also had the privilege of studying away with my advisor and conduct research on a coral reef in Cane Bay, St. Croix. Ideally, I would return to St. Croix or any island or coastal region and assist in conceptualizing creative solutions to food scarcity and public health crises created by climate change, overfishing, and resource mismanagement.

That said, I am very passionate about resource management, outdoor education, and critical pedagogy as creative solutions to generational poverty, holes in our education system, and food scarcity. My grandmother was a Spanish teacher and channeled her energy into empowering the community; in a similar vein, I want to use my skillset and vast experience with plant life and gardening to empower communities to grow their own food and take their nutrition into their own hands. I also want to empower communities to manage their resources in a responsible fashion, such that food waste is eliminated and unnecessary hunger is a thing of the past. I have 10 years of progressively responsible experience working in garden centers, water gardens, and farms and ranches, and intend to instill and encourage the community of St. Francis to cultivate their green thumbs, too. My parents encouraged me to always be critical and learn as much as possible, and I am excited to do the same with volunteer coordination and in tutoring children at St. Francis.

The summer VISTA associate position at St. Francis that I originally took was for a STEM educator position, which was, more or less, exactly how I saw myself using my Geology degree after undergrad. Along with these responsibilities, my time was spent managing food distribution. My time as a member of Oberlin Food Justice organization motivated me to focus my energies on resource distribution and waste reduction. This translated into me developing close relationships with a bunch of the campers during meal and snack times, and ultimately led to me falling in love with the kids and community of St. Francis. Since I’ve gotten to know them and gotten a sense of their needs and how to mentor them, I felt that taking a position as their Volunteer Coordinator would allow me to further take care of these wonderful children that I care about deeply.”

You can learn more about the volunteer opportunities at St. Francis Neighborhood Center by visiting

If you know an organization that would benefit from having an AmeriCorps Member serve as Volunteer Coordinator at their organization for the 2018-1019 service year please email, call 410-697-9285 or visit today!

Members in Action! – Alisha

Alisha Parzanese is determined to meet every problem with a solution. She says, “My greatest challenge this month was developing the material for the Weed Resistance Program. I decided that I had to take several steps to overcome this challenge. I began looking over material on Montgomery’s Weed Warrior program which was given to me by my Site Supervisor. I decided that we could borrow some of the material from Montgomery counties Weed Warrior program such as documents on volunteer hours, frequently asked questions, prevention of poison ivy and Lyme disease, native alternatives, and a list for targeted invasive plant species. However, I had to rewrite some of this material to incorporate it into our program and to avoid copyright. In addition to looking over other neighboring counties Weed Warrior programs, I had to develop documents for the program such as policy and procedures. To do this, I looked over how to develop policy and procedures in our Volunteer Maryland Training Tool Book. I decided that I had to include policy and procedures on confidentiality, volunteer-client relations, volunteer – staff relations, health and safety, legal liability, volunteer records, dress code, and speaking on behalf of the organization. Throughout the year, I will be updating and developing several other documents such as descriptions for Weed Warrior Peer Squad Leader’s and the material in volunteer’s work packets.”
Alisha proves you can find solutions by looking into other similar programs. She researched and found resources around her and used it to the advantage of her organization.

Mallory Returns – My VM Story – The Samaritan Women

We’re happy to have Mallory join us again for her second service year with Volunteer Maryland! “As I start my second term of service with Volunteer Maryland, I have thought a lot about how much I’ve learned at my service site, The Samaritan Women.” The Samaritan Women is a long-term residential program for women who have survived domestic sex trafficking, and is located on a beautiful farm in southwest Baltimore City.

“In working with volunteers at The Samaritan Women, I get to share with the community about the enormous problem of human trafficking–also known as slavery–also known as the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. Recent statistics have been released that tell us that human trafficking is almost twice the problem we thought: I used to tell volunteer groups that 28 million people are still enslaved in labor and sex trafficking worldwide. Now I have to tell them 48 million are enslaved.” Mallory noted, “this isn’t to say that trafficking has doubled in the past year, but that we are still learning the full extent of this crime and about the proliferation of slavery worldwide.”

Before joining AmeriCorps, Mallory accomplished one of her biggest personal goals; completing her M.F.A. in Creative Writing through a fellowship at Hollins University. “Writing is a craft I hope to hone throughout my life!” In her spare time she enjoys writing and even arranging flowers.

“I love leading volunteer groups in projects on our amazing farm (the largest in Baltimore City), or beautifying the grounds of our 23-acre Maryland Historic Trust property. It was hard to imagine leaving after just one service term: there is so much work to be done, and it’s such a pleasure to work with our amazing volunteers at The Samaritan Women. Last year I had the privilege of recruiting and managing almost 900 volunteers during my service year at The Samaritan Women–this is why being a volunteer coordinator fills me with hope, despite the darkness of trafficking. I get to see the community’s eagerness to answer this need and work to end human trafficking and provide opportunities for restoration and hope for survivors of trafficking.

I can’t say enough about how seeing the impact volunteers make on our program and our residence has shifted my perspective towards lifelong service. During my last service year, I met people who have dedicated their lives to feeding the homeless, reaching out to those struggling with addiction, providing housing and therapeutic spaces for survivors of sex trafficking, and other urgent community needs. It’s hard to imagine going back to a cubicle after seeing these things. In my future after AmeriCorps, I hope to continue working to empower the community to make an impact on these needs, whether as a volunteer or in my career.

After AmeriCorps, I hope to stay involved in anti-trafficking awareness efforts. If someone had told me two years ago that I’d take on a role that required early morning public speaking in my gym clothes, I wouldn’t have believed it. But now almost every Saturday morning I am out on The Samaritan Women’s farm, sharing with our volunteers and leading them in service projects, and it’s an absolute pleasure. When this cause resonated with me so deeply it wasn’t hard to step out of my comfort zone. Serving at The Samaritan Women has empowered me to find my voice for survivors of trafficking and for youth in our communities who are vulnerable to being trafficked, and I hope to continue using my voice to fight for these populations in any way I can, during this service year and in the future.”

Learn more about volunteer opportunities at The Samaritan Women by visiting

If you know an organization that would benefit from having an AmeriCorps Member serve as Volunteer Coordinator at their organization for the 2018-1019 service year please email, call 410-697-9285 or visit today!