This past week was a huge deal for those of us in the service field. Last week was National Volunteer Week. During this week, the efforts of hundreds of thousands of volunteers were recognized throughout the United States. Millions of people volunteer every day by serving their communities in different capacities. I’m sure you know the importance of recognizing their service. I’m not about to preach to you about the need to acknowledge volunteers. What I would like to do is give you a glimpse of service recognition in action.
There were several events occurring in and around Maryland last week. I had the pleasure of attending two events honoring volunteers. The first was DO Something! Baltimore, an event sponsored by Business Volunteers Unlimited (BVU) held at the American Visionary Art Museum with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. The event was described as a networking opportunity for volunteers. At the event, nonprofit organizations had tables where potential volunteers could get information about different organizations and decide whether they wanted to become volunteers. The event also featured speeches that celebrated service from BVU’s founder, Kelly Hodge as well as remarks by the Mayor herself. Also, inspiring spoken word was performed by a group known as The 5th L. During the event, I noticed that there were several inflated balloons around the room. It wasn’t until the closing remarks that I understood the purpose of the balloons. We were instructed to write down our hourly commitment to service. I looked around as people thought about their responses and wrote their numbers. I too thought about my commitment to service. As an AmeriCorps member with Volunteer Maryland, I am responsible for completing 1750 hours of service over the course of eleven months. I only needed a minute to think about my response. I proudly wrote: 1750 Thanks, AmeriCorps! How impressive it was to see everyone’s service commitment written out on a sea of floating, pastel-colored latex. By the end of the night, I can honestly say that I was proud; not only of being an AmeriCorps member, but of being in a venue with so many like-minded individuals looking to participate in service opportunities.
The next event that I attended was even more heart-warming. I get the warm fuzzies just thinking about it. I was able to attend the Points of Light Institute’s Make a Difference Day Awards Luncheon in honor of volunteers committed to making a difference. Volunteers who created service projects last year for Make a Difference Day were honored and given $10,000 (funded by the Newman’s Own Foundation) to go towards the nonprofit organization of their choice. The stories of the service projects were posted around the reception hall. They were incredible! One particular story that stuck out to me was that of Addie and Delaney; two girls ages 8 and 9 who started an event called an “Almost Sleepover”. The requirements for their event were that had to enjoy hanging out in pj’s, dancing, eating ice cream, and helping other kids. Admission to the “Almost Sleepover” was a pair of new pajamas to be donated to kids living in shelters. When I talked to the girls, they happily told me that for this year’s Make a Difference Day, they want their “Almost Sleepover” to be held in every state! They even invited Sasha and Malia Obama to participate!
Seeing all that service being recognized was so inspiring to me! I’m curious to know, what others have done or are planning to do for Make a Difference Day. Tell us how you are making a difference in your community!