This week has been a week of service for me. On Wednesday, I joined our VISTAs for a day of service at Real Food Farm in Clifton Park. We spent three hours helping to construct a hoop house (similar to a greenhouse but covered in plastic instead of glass) and preparing another hoop house for planting by filling in the rows with good compost. The weather was unexpectedly warm, but the cool breeze and the hard work made the hours pass quickly. Unlike the VMCs, who focus most of their time on creating direct service opportunities for others and engaging in direct service themselves, the VISTAs focus more on organizational capacity building through fundraising, marketing, and evaluation and are limited in how much time they are allowed to spend doing direct service. This was a different experience for some of them and a great break from time in the office for all of them, and they jumped right in with enthusiasm.
After our three hours of service were up, we went on a tour of the farm and learned a little more about what Real Food Farm is and what they do. The goal of the farm is to increase access to healthy food options for residents of the surrounding neighborhoods, start a dialogue on healthy eating habits, and teach students about agriculture and healthy eating. Their volunteers are made up of high school interns, community members, and AmeriCorps members, all working together to care for the plants and keep the farm working. If you are interested in urban agriculture, I’d encourage you to check out Real Food Farm’s web site and consider getting involved as a volunteer!
Following my day of service with the VISTAs, I had the amazing opportunity to join the Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism (GOSV) on the Serve America Express, a bus which traveled around Baltimore City on Thursday morning to visit some programs engaging in service in the city. The tour was scheduled to celebrate the anniversary of the passage of the Serve America Act on April 21, 2009. We stopped by Paul’s Place (a VM partner) to see how they utilize volunteers and AmeriCorps members to better serve the residents of Washington Village/Pigtown. From there, we drove to Gilmor Homes, where an AmeriCorps*NCCC team was working on constructing a community picnic area in a space that used to be covered in 6,000 square feet of 18-inch deep concrete. There were members of the community volunteering with the NCCC members and they all expressed their gratitude for the work of the AmeriCorps members.
During the bus tour, we also got to hear about the work of Civic Works, the Parks and People Foundation, Volunteer Maryland, and Neighbors in Deed. It was really inspiring to hear how other organizations are working in Baltimore to bring communities together and make the city a safer, healthier, happier place to live. Volunteer Maryland is a part of this service spectrum and I’m proud to be a part of it!
Are you a current AmeriCorps member serving in Maryland? Join us on May 12 for Destination AmeriCorps, an evening of networking and fun! For more information and to register, click here!