Rural Routes

I grew up in Central Illinois, a few miles outside the small, industrial City of Galesburg. My home was quite literally surrounded by corn and soybeans, and I probably counted more cows and pigs than actual people among my immediate neighbors. We Midwest transplants are good at finding each other here in Maryland, and my radar recently picked up on someone who grew up in Indiana. As we compared and contrasted the Midwest and the Mid-Atlantic, we realized that we had both discovered one thing pretty soon after moving here: if we want a taste of home, all we have to do is head to the Eastern Shore. Rural? Check. Agricultural? Check. Peaceful? You get the picture.

When I travel to the Eastern Shore and other rural parts of the State on behalf of Volunteer Maryland, I am reminded not just of home, but of all the rich community resources Maryland has to offer. Like other Statewide organizations, Volunteer Maryland strives to connect with communities in every region of Maryland. This has always been an exciting part of our work, and for the past year, we have been lucky enough to share it with the Rural Maryland Council, an independent state agency that “brings together citizens, community-based organizations, federal, state, county and municipal government officials as well as representatives of the for-profit and nonprofit sectors to collectively address the needs of Rural Maryland communities.” Our shared outreach has enabled Volunteer Maryland to develop even deeper connections in many rural areas of the State, and this year we are proud to continue in our tradition of great partnerships in rural communities, with organizations such as Crossroads Community, Inc., Patuxent Riverkeeper, Maryland Food Bank Eastern Shore, and Steppingstone Farm Museum.

Maryland’s strength is undoubtedly in its diversity. Each part of our State has its own unique history, industries, challenges and points of pride. Watermen, poultry farmers, military members and many, many others contribute to Maryland’s distinct mosaic.

At the same time, every community has, at its core, the same aspirations: good education, economic opportunity, access to health care, and environmental stewardship. Not only that, but every Maryland community I have encountered endeavors to realize these aspirations through homegrown, grassroots efforts. That fact makes me very proud of Volunteer Maryland’s multiplier model. When we partner with organizations, we make sure to understand how they meet community needs, and then we strive to leverage the work of one Volunteer Maryland Coordinator to engage a corps of local volunteers who address needs in their own way, in their own community.

Recently, the Rural Maryland Council and the Rural Maryland Foundation, asked people in rural communities in Maryland what they aspire for. The video below more than answers the question, and is a wonderful reminder of the passion Marylanders have for community, service and shared prosperity.

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