The last thing I did before I fell asleep last Friday night was set my alarm clock to 5:50 am. Why in the world did I dare wake up at such an hour? That particular morning I was part of the Volunteer Maryland team at the Squeal Appeal, a 5k walk/run at the M&T Bank Stadium organized by/supporting Paul’s Place, one of the organizations hosting an AmeriCorps member (Tamara) from my region.
Paul’s Place is located in the Pigtown/Washington Village neighborhood of Baltimore City. For over 27 years multiple services- including a soup kitchen, health clinic, education services and after-school program- have been provided to the residents of this community. The mission of Paul’s Place states that the services of this organization “strengthen individuals and families, fostering hope, personal dignity and growth.”
I like the feeling of positivity and energy that typically arises at fundraising runs. It’s really nice being surrounded by a large group of enthusiastic people. While that physical energy is great, I am more connected with the level of thoughtfulness that a cause worthy event inspires. I attempted to run at the beginning of the track but decided to walk the majority of it, not only because I was lazy but thought it would give me more of an opportunity to try to absorb my surroundings and the community I was passing through. I knew that there was probably not going to be another time I would be walking around this neighborhood alone, especially so early in the day. In the silence of the morning I didn’t think about trying to make the best race time but observed the poor conditions of many of the buildings surrounding me, an environment very different from where I grew up. As an AmeriCorps member, I feel that experiences like these are special; the work we do, either in a support role or every day direct work at our sites or communities, allows us to reflect on our personal life experiences, the true social issues within our country, and how we play a role in trying to alleviate community challenges. Yes, I could potentially seek out a staff position in a neighborhood in need of these services, but I feel that AmeriCorps provides me with a unique chance to make a specific impact while also spending time as a volunteer. In other words, I have a particular goal under a deadline (approximately a year) that I believe produces a practically immediate improvement towards a larger change. The improvement may not always be obvious or apparent but is certainly existent.
In my second term as an AmeriCorps member, it has been interesting trying to measure my level of impact as a supporter rather than being directly involved with local volunteers as a coordinator, as I did last year. Time after time I have to remind myself of my previous statement (that the impact is not always obvious or apparent). Not only that, thinking about the RC team’s and my chance to mentor strong leaders across Maryland reminds me of how amazing and powerful the AmeriCorps experience truly is.