While we may be reaching an endpoint here at Volunteer Maryland, Volunteers of America Chesapeake celebrated a new beginning on Wednesday. And thanks to a gracious invitation from VOA Volunteer Maryland Coordinator Rhonda Nelson, Kelly MacBride-Gill and I were able to join in this celebration.
After years of providing residential re-entry services to ex-offenders in a small, outdated facility on East Monument Street in Baltimore, VOA proudly unveiled its new Residential Re-Entry Center just down the street from its old one. This new facility dwarfs the old one, and will allow VOA to provide a wide range of services to individuals as they prepare to re-enter society and the workforce.
The occasion was marked by visits from dignitaries (the Maryland State Secretaries of Veterans Affairs and Public Safety were there, along with Baltimore City Council President Jack Young), and the highlight was a moving speech given by Gary Antonino, an ex-offender whose life was changed by Volunteers of America. Thanks to the residential re-entry support Mr. Antonino received from VOA, he was able to reintegrate into his family’s life and begin a new career with the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives, where he helps individuals charged with crimes navigate the criminal justice system.
The event ended with tours of the new center and a lovely lunch, during which Kelly and I met Joseph Budzynski, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Volunteers of America National Office. Mr. Budzynski asked us thoughtful, probing questions about Volunteer Maryland, service and volunteerism, and Kelly and I were both taken by his genuine interest and grateful for the training we’ve received in talking about the value of the work we do.
All in all, a lovely day.