Get to Know Jason – VM31 Peer Leader

Jason is serving with Volunteer Maryland’s 31st class. Here’s what he had to say about service and what he’s most looking forward to this upcoming service year!

I didn’t get heavily involved in community service until my third year of college. The year prior to that, I had just transferred to Virginia Tech and I was having a really hard time finding my place at the university. In Spring 2016, I came across a promotional flyer for a co-ed service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega. I didn’t know anything about APO aside from the small handful of folks that I had heard mention the name before. Honestly, my initial thought was “Hey! I know some cool people in this and I really need friends, so let’s check it out!” I had no idea how much my life would be significantly impacted by a single organization. During my pledging semester, I remember having multiple conversations about how I wasn’t very active in my community during high school. “I have always loved helping others,” I would say, “but I was just never introduced to enough service opportunities.” As I continued on my path to becoming an official member of APO, I engaged in a wide variety of service projects. From helping third graders with their history homework to maintenance work on the Appalachian Trail to participating in one of the largest collegiate Relay for Life events, and everything in between, I was gaining a better understanding of what it takes to make a community thrive. While my initial motive for joining Alpha Phi Omega was to make more friends, my reason for staying was to make an impact in others’ lives through service. APO ignited a spark in me. Now I’m ready to take my passion for service and spread it like wildfire which leads me to where I am today…

I decided to do a year of service because I wanted the opportunity to immerse myself in
community engagement full-time. As strange it sounds, the number one thought that gets me out of bed in the morning is, “Someone needs me today.” When I started ingraining this idea into my head, I found that I had a much easier time waking up and starting my day than if I thought, “I need to do this or I need to do that for myself.” Instead, I try to channel my focus onto how I can support someone else.

My three greatest strengths have always been these: empathizing with others, making
connections, and utilizing my creative abilities to enhance the connections that I have made. As a Peer Leader, I hope to maximize my strengths to their full potential. I also hope to improve upon some weaknesses as well. I believe this role will help me build more confidence in myself and my abilities as a servant leader. I also hope that along the way I will discover more things that I am passionate about that may redirect my educational and career goals. Lastly, I would love to build lasting relationships between chapters of Alpha Phi Omega and Volunteer Maryland’s partner sites. APO opened the door that led me here and now, I would love to open a door of opportunity for others.

I am so excited for this brand new adventure at Volunteer Maryland! I can’t wait to start
motivating more people to get involved in service!

Jason wanted to leave us with this inspirational quote:

“As you grow older you will discover that you have two hands. One for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” – Audrey Hepburn

We are excited to have Jason be a part of the support team doing great things for VM31! Stay tuned to see and learn more about all of our AmeriCorps members who will be with us for the 2018-19 Service Year!

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Welcome Back Jessica – VM31 Peer Leader

Our first VM Story for the 2018-19 Service Year brings us to Jessica who is serving as one of this year’s Peer Leaders at VM HQ!

Jessica served as a Volunteer Coordinator in Volunteer Maryland Class 30 at End Hunger In Calvert County for the Calvert Cash Program in Huntingtown, Maryland. “I had been a client of the Calvert Cash Program and I filed my taxes for free and last service year I had the opportunity to create a sustainable structured volunteer program by implementing policies and procedures. I was able to gain valuable experience such as team work, excellent verbal and written skills, organization and execution of objectives.”

When asked about her journey as an AmeriCorps member; “I felt a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment throughout my service year and I wanted to have that opportunity to serve again but in a different capacity. At the same time, I appreciated how both Volunteer Maryland and AmeriCorps work with the sites as a team to accomplish their mission and vision and I wanted to be included in this effort!”

As for Jessica’s aspirations serving as a Peer Leader for the VM31 cohort, Jessica is most looking forward to working with the Volunteer Coordinators and getting to know them. “I am hoping that I can be a helping hand of support when they need it during their service year. I know for me personally, my site and my community was a huge support in helping me accomplish my professional goals. I truly enjoyed my service year of working with the staff and volunteers and I will continue to volunteer at End Hunger In Calvert County at every opportunity. I hope that in my service year I can serve the coordinators and guide them as they serve at their site. I am hoping that the relationship cultivated of trust, loyalty, and friendship I feel towards EHCC, could be established for other coordinators who serve at their site. I know I will be cheering them on every step of the way!”

To learn more about how Volunteer Maryland AmeriCorps members are making a difference to Maryland communities please visit us at volunteer.maryland.gov

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What’s Good with Yinka?

Yinka is a VM Alum who most recently served in Volunteer Maryland’s Class of VM 30 as a Peer Leader who helped the support team and cohort of AmeriCorps Members. She supported them in their role on the field, designed a multitude of digital/print materials with her graphic design experience, and has now moved on!

On the day of VM’s Class Finale, Yinka received the news that she would be working as the Outreach Specialist for Catholic Charities’ Share Food Network (for their Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery branch) a sustainable, social enterprise of Catholic Charities that helps anyone save money on nutritious, healthy food.  They are committed to supporting local community groups where all may participate, serve, and lead with dignity.  How’s that for timing?

We’re so excited to have seen Yinka grow through her two years of service to AmeriCorps with Volunteer Maryland. Not only did she serve as Peer Leader in the 2017-18 Service Year, she had also been the Volunteer Coordinator in 2016-17 at Montgomery County Community Action Agency. We are so proud and look forward to see Yinka achieve great things during her new journey.

Stay tuned to our blog for more What’s Good Wednesday news and other hot VM topics! If you’re interested in learning more about our AmeriCorps program and available positions please visit us at volunteer.maryland.gov

#What’sGoodWednesday

Flor de Lis – Service is Tough, Conquering Challenges is a Reward

Being an AmeriCorps member with Volunteer Maryland has been a rollercoaster filled with many learning experiences and so rewarding, I would not change it for anything. I have gained a lot of connections this year as well as creating new friendships. The world of service may be tough but working hard enough to conquer fears and challenges brings many rewards as well.  – Flor-de-Lis, Lutheran Social Services, VM 30

We are looking forward to see Flor de Lis shine her journey to follow! If you would like to be a part of something greater – have you considered joining AmeriCorps? We are seeking 32 individuals that want to make an impact in Maryland! visit volunteer.maryland.gov/ACM for more details and application.

Pam and Community Needs are not Retired!

General Feel Good Quotes about their Service Experience:
“I thought I was retired, but during this placement I found out my spirit, passion, and desire to make a difference and to work with communities struggling with urban plight, political indifference and exclusive gentrification has not retired–it was just resting. Yes, I am a retired social worker and therapist but I am still a project manager, community activist, event planner, public speaker, and an AmeriCorps Member and I will continue to get things done in VM 31 at Pigtown Main Street” – Pamela Evans, Pigtown Main Street, VM 30

On the Role of Volunteers in Organizations:
“I also consistently address and clarify that staff are the process owners not volunteers. As such, the direction and vision for project comes from us, volunteers assist and should not be fully responsible for carrying out a function that a staff”

We are so excited that Pamela has decided to continue her great work at Pigtown Main Street and will be serving in the upcoming VM31 2018-2019 Service Year! If you too would like to be a part of service minded and mission driven individuals serving as Volunteer Coordinators apply for our AmeriCorps program at www.volunteer.maryland.gov/ACM  

Nora – My VM Story – Habitat for Humanity Choptank

And last, but certainly not least we have our wisest VM30 AmeriCorps Member in Nora! Nora quit school in the 10th grade and worked as a waitress making just $0.50 an hour. Fast forward 20 years later and she was offered an opportunity by the State to pay for vocational training to become a nurse. “First I  had to obtain my GED and after 6 months of tutoring I received my diploma. I then took an accelerated 2 year course in 1 year, graduated, and took my State Board exams, thus beginning my 41 year career as an LPN (licensed practitioner nurse. I recently retired on August 31st 2017.”

“My family is of course my greatest source of pride.” She’s a mother of three grown children ( 2 daughters, 1 son); 4  grandchildren (3 grandsons and 1 granddaughter) who refer to her as “Gagy.”

“Nine years ago, due to an unexpected life change I moved to the Eastern Shore, Maryland. During the first 5 years I moved a total of 6 times due to the cost of  housing. Out of 3 of those places, I rented houses that were sitting empty and for sale. I was able to convince the homeowners to let me rent for a decreased amount. During that time I began to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. The first time was for Women Build Week. After that, I was hooked on volunteering with them.”

In 2012, Nora found out that she met the parameters of homeownership with Habitat for Humanity Choptank and was able to assist in the building of her own home! “I have been living there for 3 years.

Now, Nora is a full time AmeriCorps Member serving at the same Habitat for Humanity Choptank managing their volunteer program! When she’s not out and about recruiting or recognizing volunteer achievements you may find Nora in the kitchen whipping up some delectable treats! “I love to cook and even more so, love to feed people. I am no stranger to struggles in life, but always refuse to accept defeat!”

“I was approached by the Executive Director, Nancy Andrews and Program Manager, Pat Ingram at Habitat for Humanity Choptank with the idea of serving. I  did some  online  research and  decided to go  forward with my retirement and pursue this  opportunity  to  serve with an organization I  believe very  strongly  about.

I  knew I wanted to retire, but was hesitant for a couple of reasons, one being  that I am  not a  sit around-do nothing  person and the  second  was  transitioning into a different  financial category. I strongly  believe  that nothing  happens  by  chance and  the fact  that  Nancy  and  Pat  had  confidence  in  me  was all  the “push” I  needed. At 66 years  of  age I desire to give back to my community and an organization that has given so much to me.”

During her service year Nora believes that she will develop new relationships and strengthen current friendships. “I hope to  not  only  share  some of  my professional skills and knowledge, but also glean the same  from  those I come in contact with over the  next 11 months. I look forward to developing more interpersonal skills and increasing my skills in the area of  the “electronic world” as well as in public speaking.”

Nora wants folks to know that there are health benefits to giving back. “I hope to keep my mind active and positive, thereby making the impact I have in my community a positive one. With this idea  in  mind , I am  certain that my positive attitude will generate confidence in my current  and  soon to  be  learned skills making me a more capable and  useful  person  for  those  around me.”

“At this point in my life-my long term goal is to maintain a  productive and healthy lifestyle, enjoy my  family and friends and hopefully leave “my world” a little better than I found it.”

You can learn more about volunteer opportunities at Habitat for Humanity Choptank by visiting www.Habitat choptank.org

Melinda – My VM Story – Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry

Melinda is our youngest AmeriCorps Members to serve this year at just 18 years old, but don’t let age lead you to believe that she’s not already making an impact in Calvert County!

“I’m an animal loving vegan, and absolutely obsessed with my little poodle. Faith is very important to me, I was baptized this summer with one of my best friends and consider it to be one of the greatest life choices I’ve ever made. I’m quite young and relatively without much life experience, but I’ve been through a few traumas and what I feel is my greatest accomplishment is persevering through things that very easily could’ve pushed me down a different path- I’m a big fan of “beating the odds”.

Before I even knew what Volunteer Maryland was, my service site (Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry) reached out to me about possibly filling the position as an AmeriCorps Member. At first, I had brushed it off, planning to leave for college in Texas in less than a month. Luckily, my current site supervisor reached out to me and asked to meet up for a brief chat. Before I knew it, I was offering to volunteer at one of the pantry openings, and quickly fell in love with what they were doing for several hundred people each month. As I watched small children, single mothers, disabled individuals, etc. sit in the waiting room patiently, I was in absolute awe of how the staff had devoted their lives to take care of people that were so often swept under the rug. The tug at my heart to stay and serve with Volunteer Maryland was too great to ignore.

Serving as an AmeriCorps Member is a unique opportunity, and being right out of high school I am hoping to get a better idea of what I’d like to do with my life. I’m sure these 11 months will equip me with the skills to function as a working adult and give my resume something to make it really stand out on college and job applications. I’m also hoping to gain a deeper love and appreciation for the role that nonprofits play in taking care of people all over our country, and get the connections and skills I need to work in nonprofit if my heart keeps being pulled that way!”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry you can visit www.chesapeakechurch.org/foodpantry

If your organization would benefit from an AmeriCorps Member who would serve as volunteer coordinator please visit volunteer.maryland.gov for more details.

Becky – My VM Story – Elms

She’s slow to anger, quick to laugh, and describes herself as a loyal friend. Becky joins our VM30 Class, serving at Elms Environmental Education Center in St. Mary’s. “I am proud of my decades of involvement with outdoor environmental work, whether building and maintaining the Appalachian trail and other trails in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, or in helping build trails centers and shelters and campgrounds so that others who share my love of the American outdoors can better enjoy the experience. One tidbit about me is that I hate to drive and I am especially fond of all animals, so when I do drive I will always brake my car for animals. Therefore, other drivers should not tailgate me.”

“I am doing this term because I could not believe a vacancy existed for such a noble and challenging opportunity.  When I learned during my Master Naturalist Certification Training that it was actually possible to spend time encouraging and helping my fellow Marylanders become involved as volunteers in and for their communities, I realized that a life-long dream of mine was on the cusp of fulfillment.  Doing something positive to help my world be a better place, and also helping my neighbors become more involved citizens allows me to “give back” to all those men and women who helped me in prior years to get to the place I enjoy in life and to become the person I am today.

As I progress through this program and become more and more acclimated in the role and responsibilities my position entails, I hope to gain an increased measure of self confidence in my ability to organize and inspire others to be more effective volunteers.

I believe serving in the capacity will help me become more organized in my own thoughts and actions, and help me help others gain that confidence and awareness that comes from the satisfaction of serving their towns and cities and state.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at Elms please visit http://elms.smcps.org/

If you know an organization that would be interesting in having an AmeriCorps Member serve as a Volunteer Coordinator for the 2018-2019 service year please visit volunteer.maryland.gov

Jessica – My VM Story – Calvert Cash

Our first VM Story feature of 2018 brings us to Jessica who is serving in Calvert County!

“When the opportunity presented itself for me to become an Americorps Member with Volunteer Maryland serving at Calvert Cash, I was excited to find a good outlet for helping others in my hometown community.  I have seen many people in our community impacted by hunger for many reasons, and those folks need a hand and an opportunity to change their circumstances. The reasons don’t matter, the people do. This is also a great way for me to ease back into the work force after taking an extended maternity leave and relocating from my previous professional position.

Volunteerism and service are not new concepts for me.  My family has participated in service in large and small ways.  Whether as an Air Force Pilot, a Police Officer, Secretary/Treasurer for a church fundraiser, a Sunday School Teacher, Christmas in April Volunteer or Special Olympics supporter. My family has shown me a myriad of ways to be of service to individuals as well as whole communities. I enjoy working with people, especially those who also have a heart for service, many hands, one goal. Together with some newly recruited volunteers, we can make an even larger impact on Calvert County. For me personally as someone who had such a positive experience as a customer of Calvert cash I hope I can make an impact on someone and pay it forward.

I’m looking at this coming year as an opportunity to really grow in the area of leadership and training. Specifically, I am wanting to grow and learn how to better manage and network. I am hoping that by creating this new position at this site, it will encourage others to join in.  I would like to move up the Americorps ladder after my service year because Volunteer Maryland is the best organized and professional company since my career at LU online and I’d enjoy being a part of this for the rest of my working career. One of my personal goals since 2016 has been committed to  enjoying Maryland and since the Volunteer Maryland training, I have found nearly 30 new and wonderful reasons which have been reflected in my peers site programs!

When Jessica’s not serving with Volunteer Maryland this is what she had to say. “I enjoy the outdoors, hiking, walking, biking. I also enjoy exercising and hope to one day soon get a chance to try yoga.  I enjoy worshiping and the fellowship my church provides.

I am thrilled to get started as a Volunteer Coordinator for AmeriCorps and Volunteer Maryland at Calvert Ca$h and End Hunger Calvert.  Got some time you can spare? Come see me, we can always find a spot PERFECT for you and your talents and gifts!”

You can learn more about volunteer opportunities at Calvert Cash by visiting https://endhungercalvert.org/programs/calvert-cash/

If you know of an organization that needs to strengthen their volunteer program and it’s a goal of theirs’ to make an impact in 2018 and beyond, then they could get an AmeriCorps Member of their own! Visit Volunteer.Maryland.gov to get started!