For many members of the class of VM25, the past several weeks have been a countdown of sorts, to the actual work of direct service volunteers at their service sites. “Of sorts” because, as anyone familiar with Volunteer Maryland can tell you, VM’s method of program development is cyclical.
In fact, one thing I have to come to love about Volunteer Maryland is The Cycle of Program Development. Alas, I must admit, it was not love at first sight. And to do this day, my tongue twists around this seemingly simple name. The Program of Cycle Development? The Development of a Program Cycle? (Oddly, these misnomers are not entirely inaccurate — Volunteer Maryland does introduce the notion of a cyclical program, or, to put in another way — it introduces a program that is founded on the development of a cycle…)
Anyway, regardless of my mangling of the term and my slowness to warm to it, I have to come to see this concept as Volunteer Maryland’s pièce de résistance. At once linear and, well, cyclical, it begins, so to speak, with “The Big Picture.” What community need does the organization meet? How? And how do volunteers fit into this lofty mission and the hard work of paid staff?
Next comes foundation building. Volunteer Maryland Coordinators learn an important corollary to “If you build it, they will come.” Specifically, build it before they show up! For the past several weeks, members of VM25 have been deeply immersed in this phase of the cycle — surveying program managers, developing databases, writing policies, procedures, position descriptions, applications, interview questions — phew! I get winded just writing that list.
The third phase? Implementation! Lift off! It has been my honor to follow along as several VMCs have readied their organizations for volunteer programs that will, in some form or fashion, take wing in January. Whether VMCs are transitioning from coordinating an existing volunteer corps to developing a new one, or recruiting one of the very first volunteers their site has ever welcomed, the new year brings a new chapter in the service year.
The thing, of course, about cyclical processes is that we are always already engaged in each part. Members of VM25 will continue to consider how volunteers fit into the big picture of their service sites. They will continue to create, hone, and collaborate on foundational materials and resources. But from now until the end of the service year, they will see more and more actual volunteers engaged in direct service.
And if anything lifts the spirits on a cold winter day, it is the sight of individuals giving freely of their time to fulfill the mission of an organization that meets a vital community need. And like a shuttle that has just launched, this service year undoubtedly promises many more amazing moments and memorable adventures.