I have a confession. I am a sentimentalist. I grew up in a family of storytellers and have spent my professional life in organizations that value reflection. I have a hard time letting go of anything that I can attach to a good memory – birthday cards and photos are obvious, but I also have t-shirts that can’t be worn in public anymore and I’m pretty confident I have a stash of emails printed and filed in a folder from the first time I had an email account. While I love to make big goals, look ahead, and create plans, it is not uncommon for me to spend an hour reminiscing while looking through a box of trinkets.
I am the same way in my work, though, fortunately, I also love to dream about what’s to come, instead of just what’s been. Volunteer Maryland has been around for nearly 20 years now, so we have a fair amount of history. As one of the first AmeriCorps programs in the country, we helped set the stage for what AmeriCorps could become. And this was before email and PDFs, so much of our early records only exist in the one copy in our office! Sometimes I still stumble across something “new” and, like with my box of trinkets at home, I am transported to another time and place, imagining the excitement at starting this incredible service program.
It was in one of these moments when I discovered a book called The Bill, and found this description of community leaders and VM’s first Executive Director.
“Okay, everyone, close your eyes,” said Ellie Faulk Young, a coordinator of Volunteer Maryland… Around her sat representatives from forty groups, ranging from the Girl Scouts to City Year to the Delta Service Corps…. “I want to do an exercise.”
Everyone closed their eyes.
“Now think about why you’re here on a beautiful Saturday,” said Young, a thirty-year-old redhead in a knit sweater and long peasant dress. “Think about who you represent and what they’re all about. Now say one word that sums up what you’re feeling now.”
“Opportunity,” said one participant.
“Blast off,” another offered.
What an exciting time this must have been. It was a time of opportunity, of blasting off. It was a time to look at our sector and find out how we could increase impact. It was the start of AmeriCorps.
Volunteer Maryland has changed and grown over the years but that excitement, and that focus on impact, remains. This time of year is one of the most exciting. We are able to see the impact of the service – volunteers recruited, programs created and improved, and community members served – and, while we keep up the energy for our current partnerships, we’re looking toward next year. We’ve already received eleven applications from organizations interested in partnering with us for the next class of Volunteer Maryland Coordinators. We’re getting calls regularly with questions about the program and the application. March is a big month, and I’m excited about every aspect of it. It’s opportunity; it’s blast off; it’s impact.
I get to look back and ahead at the same time. It’s a sentimentalist’s dream.