Hello, Goodbye

In the past week we have seen 16 VISTA members successfully exit our program while 16 more began, graduated class 22 of Volunteer Maryland Coordinators, and said farewell to 5 amazing support team members. In addition, at my host site we had a council fire to celebrate the centennial year of Camp Fire and ended our summer camps. Lastly, I had the chance to head to Camp F.E.V.E.R with our program manager Linda to speak to several astoundingly smart and interested kids and teens about vegetarianism and veganism. It has been, as the kids say these days, epic. With so much having happened over the past week I don’t even know how to begin to try to focus this post on one topic.

To avoid too many tears on the keyboard, I’m going to hope that I’ve done a decent job of telling each individual how important they’ve been to me over the past year. Comparing myself now to the Lauren of last September, I’m more comfortable with groups of people, I’m more confident in sharing ideas and knowledge, I’m more proactive, and after being here less than two years I have more of a bond to Maryland than I have to any other state in which I’ve lived. I’ve gone from reading about the hard work of those in the nonprofit sector and the perils of under-served populations to having actually experienced some of the great things that go on and seen why it’s so important. VMCs, VISTAs and Support Team Members alike, you have on countless occasions saved me from failure without knowing it, and helped me move on when I’ve failed anyway. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people with whom to navigate this year of unknowns.

Moving forward, I am so excited for our new class of VISTA members who I got to meet last Friday! Even having high hopes going in, they completely blew me out of the water with their passion, drive, intelligence and experience. Knowing how much the service year has impacted myself and others and seeing where these guys and gals are all starting- watch out, world! Knowing the passion each site supervisor has for their organization and project and having spent even a short time with the individuals who will be taking these projects on, I have no doubt that good things are going to happen over the next twelve months.

I am finishing my own service year, and want to make sure that I can help these amazing people get off to a good start. The beginning of any service year is a bit of an overwhelming time, where you need to balance idealism and energy with getting to know your site and you start figuring out how to complete full projects in the time it takes most people to acclimate to a workplace. In addition to making calls to see how everyone is settling in, I’m working on a webinar that will be something of an introduction to nonprofits. I remember hearing lots of new terms thrown around and spending a good bit of time in my first few weeks Googling around to see what exactly a board of directors does or what makes and executive director different from a CEO.

To anyone in the nonprofit or national service field: do you remember your burning questions early on? Is there anything you wish someone had explained a couple of weeks in? I want to make sure I don’t make too many assumptions based on my own personal experiences.

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