These past couple of weeks, I’ve been focusing a lot of my attention on several important events on the Volunteer Maryland Calendar. First, I worked with Megan (fellow Regional Coordinator) to secure over prizes to recognize Volunteer Maryland Coordinators (VMCs) at our Annual Mid-Year Retreat this past week. The retreat is an annual opportunity for VMCs to come together, relax, and reflect on the first half of their service year.
I am now working with other staff members to plan another huge event, Destination AmeriCorps. Destination AmeriCorps (or DAC as we lovingly call it at Volunteer Maryland) is a networking event sponsored by the Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism. This event is for AmeriCorps members created by members and allows individuals throughout the state to come together for a night of fun, prizes, and networking. Throughout this planning process, I will be collecting the stories of AmeriCorps Alumni to launch at DAC. I have been interviewing people and asking them to reflect on their service year and how it impacted the decisions that they made after the completion of their service. Being there as former members reflected on their experiences in combination with listening to VMCs reflect on the first half of their service year has caused me to do a little reflection of my own.
I’ve been reflecting on my service year as a VMC at the St. Francis Neighborhood Center. It was a year of challenges as well as rewards. I had the opportunity to start a volunteer program. I had the opportunity to create partnerships. I had the opportunity to recognize the efforts of our wonderful volunteers. I have also recently been reflecting on the relationships that I built during my time at St. Francis.
I’m not originally from Maryland; I moved here in August of 2008 for graduate school. I had no friends in Maryland. It was my time at St. Francis that allowed me to establish bonds that eventually turned into friendships. One particular relationship that is on the forefront of my mind was a very peculiar one. It was with our Executive Director at the time, Father Tom Composto. Tom’s character is known widely throughout the city of Baltimore. Some would describe him as energetic, others as eccentric. Getting to know Tom, allowed me the opportunity to discover my own quirks and idiosyncrasies. Getting to know Tom allowed me to establish my personal boundaries when it came to building relationships with others.
I can now say that I’m comfortable in my own skin, with all of my weird quirks, and strange habits (for example: I like to organize items by color order). I’m comfortable laughing at myself for my absentmindedness and my flightiness. This time that I’ve spent as an AmeriCorps member has taught me to have more confidence in myself and my abilities. Prior to this experience, I would’ve never thought I could start a program for a nonprofit organization in Baltimore. I’m grateful to the experience because I would’ve never met the individuals who I call “friends” and would’ve never been able to attribute a portion of my success to those relationships.
The relationship between Tom and myself was one filled with strange turns and chance encounters. My interaction with him taught me that no one is perfect but it is the experience that matters most. Last Wednesday, I was informed that Tom had passed away. I was saddened because while our relationship had its moments, he remained a very pertinent part of my experience at St. Francis. Being able to look back at the development of relationships made with colleagues that I met at St. Francis and through Volunteer Maryland is a great feeling. It is my hope that current VMCs see the benefit of the AmeriCorps experience and the relationships that are built as a result of their service. As a Regional Coordinator, I have the honor of working to make that happen.