Six Months of Stories!

As you’ve read, we’ve said our goodbyes to Volunteer Maryland Coordinators and VISTA members in the last few weeks and, at the same time, we’ve welcomed new VISTA members and are preparing for our 23rd class of VM Coordinators.  Rest assured we’re busy and full of emotion!

Six months ago we launched this blog, hoping to share some stories from the AmeriCorps service year.  And share we did!  We learned about social networking and video-making, took part in an Extreme Makeover Home Edition build in Baltimore, explored job-hunting resources, and shared stories of service of all kinds.  As I had hoped, this has been a fun ride.

Now, as Lauren inches toward the end of her service year, you may be wondering what happens next.  Well, Laura, Lauren, Michael, Kimberly, and Katelyn each have their own journey to take now.  At Volunteer Maryland, we’re looking forward to engaging some new AmeriCorps members in September – and we’ll introduce them to you then.  For the next few weeks, though, you’ll get to keep hearing from Lauren and we’ll share some stories from the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator service year.  Be warned!  This is some seriously inspiring stuff.

In the first blog post, I mentioned how privileged I am to work with the Volunteer Maryland team of AmeriCorps members, Service Sites, and staff.  Let me tell you now – that is a pretty big understatement.  The work they accomplish is simply astounding.  Without their service, there are needs across Maryland that simply wouldn’t be met.  Here’s one example from Volunteer Maryland Coordinator Amanda Lewis, who spent her year at the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless.

He wasn’t asking for much. He wasn’t looking for all these handouts. He just wanted a pair of shoes; nothing fancy he just needed a basic, black pair of shoes. The only pair in his possession was sneakers worn and dirty. These would not work for his job interview the following week.

This is why he was one of the first in line for the “Our Hearts to Your Soles” event at the Home Builders Care Assessment Center.  This event allowed the men to receive foot exams, have their feet properly sized, and then lastly receive a new pair of shoes to fit their specifications.  All of this was accomplished by volunteer doctors and shoe fitters and about 150 donated pairs of shoes.  These shoes came in all different sizes and were mainly warm boots for the upcoming winter weather.  There were not many that could be considered dressy.

Our client maneuvered his way through the process and received his proper shoe size of a 15 triple E.  As one can imagine, there were not many options for that size.  The volunteers did not have the back room of a department store to work with.

The volunteer delivered the only style in that size: a camouflage print snow boot.  Immediately the face of the client dropped. There was no way he could wear something like that to an interview.  The volunteer went back several times with no avail.  Everyone could see the disappointment and sadness on the client’s face.  He looked so broken.

Soon several volunteers were scouring the boxes of shoes to find something that that might work. Finally someone found a black pair of dress shoes, two sizes too small.  It was a long shot but they just might work.  After some finagling and changing of his socks the shoes fit well enough to be worn to the interview.

This calm then came over the client.  He not only looked happy but relieved. With these shoes there was no more doubt that the missing piece had been fixed.  He finally felt he was moving in the right direction.

I don’t think we can thank Amanda enough for working with the volunteers who helped this gentleman find calm and keep moving forward in the right direction.  I’m looking forward to sharing more stories with you over the next few weeks and hope you’ll share your thoughts and stories with us as well.

Maureen K. Eccleston
Director, Volunteer Maryland

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