Meagan Paulk is the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator for LifeStyles of Maryland in La Plata. LifeStyles provides a variety of services to the community, including senior transportation, temporary housing for the homeless, a food pantry and a clothing bank. Meagan works with volunteers to staff LifeStyles’ year-round programs and their Safe Nights program, a temporary housing program for the homeless in Charles County during the winter months.
I asked Meagan why she joined Volunteer Maryland at LifeStyles’ first volunteer recognition event. “I always wanted to get into AmeriCorps, I like service. It ended up being really cool… I’ve met some really amazing people and it’s probably one of the best jobs I’ve ever chosen to take.”
Meagan has faced some difficult challenges over the course of her service year. From a complete lack of volunteers to more volunteers than she knew what to do with because LifeStyles was participating in Disney’s Give a Day Get a Disney Day program. She came to an organization with no formal volunteer program, and a community that wanted to volunteer their time. LifeStyles accepts court appointed volunteers, and Meagan has been working to make sure that those volunteers have a meaningful experience instead of just being given work that no one else wants to do.
A lack of funds for the volunteer program has impacted LifeStles’ ability to formally recognize their volunteers. Undaunted, Meagan planned an event on a shoestring budget to recognize the hard work and commitment of LifeStyles’ volunteers. Meagan solicited in-kind donations from local restaurants and grocery stores to make sure her volunteers had a tasty dinner and knew that community businesses appreciated the work that the volunteers did. Meagan has also been able to work with a screen printer to get sweatshirts and t-shirts made for LifeStyles staff and long-time Safe Nights volunteers.
Meagan has realized that AmeriCorps isn’t “just a job,” that it’s about building communities. She’s applying for another year with Volunteer Maryland, this time as a Regional Coordinator. She’s looking at positions with nonprofits in the Washington, DC metro area, too. For now, though, she’s a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator working to get things done.