A Tree Grows at Volunteer Maryland

VM Tree


Kind readers of our blog, meet the Volunteer Maryland tree. I guess if I am being accurate, it is a plant. It came with some pretty simple instructions, and a vessel for providing water about once a week. Occasionally it likes to have its leaves spritzed a bit, and enjoys a sunny, but not too sunny window.  It has been a part of the director’s office here at Volunteer Maryland for quite a while.  It has lived through several caretakers and a move. It has been a part of countless meetings, celebrations and difficult discussions. All standing stoically as time rolls through class after class of Volunteer Maryland Coordinators and Service Sites. It was there when we changed our logo from blue to one that reflected more of the colors of the Maryland flag. When Volunteer Maryland interviewed applicants for positions on the support team, it listened intently.  When directors agonized over grants applications and budgets, it provided a calming presence to an otherwise dull office landscape. It laughed with us as we retold stories from our Volunteer Maryland Coordinators. It huddled with us as the 15th floor chill descended in late fall, and reminded us of warmer times to come. It was there to help strategize new marketing techniques to help Volunteer Maryland stand out as an innovator among AmeriCorps programs. On late nights in the office working on deadlines, it never left early, and was there to greet us in the morning fresh, and ready to go. It was there when I entered the office to say I lost me sister in a freak complication from surgery. This tree has heard a lot.

I have talked a bit about the importance of preserving what is good with VM, and the tree is of course one of them. But what is next for VM as we look at the next 20 years of service? How will we continue to be a resource for nonprofits, government agencies and schools looking to build a volunteer program focused on results? What role will we play as National Service continues to evolve? This year, AmeriCorps enters the 20 year club.  More than 80,000 people serve as AmeriCorps members each year, and this year, 26 of them are working in Maryland communities as Volunteer Maryland Coordinators.  They will recruit tutors to help students with reading and math. They will recruit volunteers that will help students understand technology to better positions themselves for the ever growing need for positions in the STEM fields. They will recruit individuals to improve the health of Marylanders with more access to clinics and healthcare. The volunteers they recruit and manage will work to preserve and improve our natural world, ensuring a cleaner, healthier place to live. We are just getting started.  Volunteer Maryland will continue to answer the call of communities all across Maryland with a proven resource of people, knowledge and results. We will continue to grow and learn as an AmeriCorps program, and continue to develop service leaders who will continue to serve in their communities long after their term of service ends.  Most important, we will show the true value of a volunteer, not just in the hours committed to service, but in the impact that one volunteer can bring to individuals and communities. AmeriCorps and Volunteer Maryland are ready to provide even greater impact and growth, and are committed to providing solutions to our toughest problems. A tree does grow at Volunteer Maryland along with experience and resources on engaging volunteers in a more effective way. A tree does grow at Volunteer Maryland, and I plan on helping it grow even more. Thank you for connecting with Volunteer Maryland. Talk to you soon.


It’s the People

The following is a guest post from VM’s Outreach Manager, Patrice Beverly.

Patrice (in the middle) surrounded by people - AmeriCorps members and staff of Volunteer Maryland
Patrice (in the middle) surrounded by people – AmeriCorps members and staff of Volunteer Maryland

Ever think about why you do what you do?  If you are like me, this thought wanders into my mind as I am stuck in traffic on my commute into Baltimore, or during long meetings, or when the gate to my parking lot will not go up after multiple swipes of my card.  I know, not really deep problems, but these are just the things that can derail your passion for what you do.

As a culture, we are a tad obsessed with what we are doing, and why we are doing it.  Hello Facebook.  We search for books, blogs, and websites that will help us validate our choices or help us to be bold and strike out on new adventures.  Each day we are faced with more information about how what we are doing is either helping us live longer or ruining our health.  But in all of this, it never gets at the heart of why I do what I do; and then it came to me.

I am a self disclosed affiliator.  An affiliator, according to Dr. David McClelland’s theory on motivations, focuses on relationship with others, and enjoys team work and collaboration.  We also enjoy Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain, but that is for another post.  What this means to me is people motivate me in my life, and therefore in my work.  Volunteer Maryland talks a good bit about motivation.  So much so it is a part of training for the Volunteer Maryland Coordinators.  So this got me thinking about the next group of Volunteer Maryland Coordinators.

Currently, we are interviewing for this next group of AmeriCorps members, and as you can imagine, that motivation questions does pop up.  This is a tough question as it gets to the heart of why you want to do this.  I have heard many different responses to this question, but at the heart is always the need to make a difference.  To help.  To push the needle just a bit forward and to feel satisfied in doing so.  Not an easy task.  But here is the thing, this is a pretty broad motivation that will be narrowed and defined during the course of an AmeriCorps service term.  Maybe even more than once.  It really is amazing that each year Volunteer Maryland is flooded with applications from people who are motivated by a simple yet so complex desire: to see change.  Changes in communities, and people, and volunteer programs, and that is pretty cool stuff.  This blog is full of stories about just regular people who get up each morning motivated by making a difference.  Maybe you would like to add your story to this difference making effort.  There really is no time like right now to check in with your own motivation, and see if it is that you want to make things a little better.  If it is, I would love to hear from you.  Remember, I am motivated by people, and you are just the kind of person I am looking for.

Thanksgiving – A Lesson in Outsourcing

The following is a guest post from VM’s Outreach Manager, Patrice Beverly.

Today is a rather sad day.  It is the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers.  Sure the stuffing is not as moist as it was week ago, and the mashed potatoes may have lost a bit of their softness, but the taste is undeniably Thanksgiving.  As I scrap the container for the last few morsels, I started thinking about the amount of coordination that went into this food fete.  I come from a big family, so long ago we abandoned the one person does all mentality of Thanksgiving.  It has become a symphony of outsourcing.  Each year members of my family tackle the questions of how to feed about 30 – 40 people, or as we call it, a small intimate gathering.  I am a pretty good pie maker, and am always game for a side dish or two.  My nephew makes great mashed potatoes.  My niece makes a mean green bean casserole with jalapeño peppers as an awesome pick-me-up to an otherwise mushy concoction.  I realize this coordinated effort is not new as many a Thanksgiving table is set with contributions from all that attend.  But this year it got me thinking about outsourcing and Volunteer Maryland.

I am not great at cooking a turkey.  As a matter of fact, on one of my first attempts, a dish rag that I was using made its way into the cavity of the old bird, and was baked in with the stuffing.  Dish rag stuffing is still a favorite story in my family.  So I go to the experts here.  I want quality, and know that within my reach are several experts in preparing turkey. So why struggle with doing something I am not sure of, and will come away with so-so results?  This is where I see Volunteer Maryland.  Not in the turkey prep role, but in providing real solutions to volunteer program problems.  See, there are so many variables when looking at volunteer program development, it can bring on that feeling of an overwhelmed host trying to prepare the perfect feast.  Preparation, timing and execution not only are the keys in the kitchen, but the keys to volunteer programs as well, and Volunteer Maryland can take them all on.  With 20 years working in the volunteer program development test kitchen, we got this down and continue to find better, more effective ways of creating, building and sustaining volunteer programs.  It really is a no brainer.  So let’s talk turkey, I mean volunteer program development.  Join Volunteer Maryland for a 45 minute webinar detailing what we provide.  More information is on Volunteer Maryland’s web site.  You don’t even need to bring anything, and I promise you will leave full of information and food for thought.

Crissy van Hooff, GLCCB

Crissy van Hooff is a native of Baltimore, and since graduating from school in 2006, has called Baltimore City home.  Over the past few years, she has transitioned from a career in the automotive industry to become an advocate for environmental and social justice issues, devoting her time to LGBTQ causes.  This year she will continue her work as she serves as the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator with the Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, and Bisexual Community Center of Baltimore and Greater Maryland (GLCCB) recruiting and training volunteer facilitators for support groups.  She will also work to develop a schedule of programming for LGBT seniors and recruit volunteer session leaders to cover program sessions for LGBT seniors.  “I’m hoping to make a difference in the quality of life for the LGBT residents of Maryland  and learn what it takes to recruit, manage, and motivate volunteers to fulfill the needs of a community and the mission of an organization,” Crissy said.

Kristen Wharton, CHEARS

Kristen Wharton traveled a good bit through high school and college in both Europe and Southeast Asia. “I love rich culture, and experiencing places outside my bubble forced me to question my environment and different ways of cultural interaction,” Kristen said.  Her travels and time spent working on a few organic farms sparked her interest in agriculture and the food industry, which lead her to the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator position with CHEARS in Greenbelt, MD where she will coordinate and manage volunteers in the Three Sisters Demonstration Gardens and TapRoots, an environmental science program at Greenbelt Middle School.  Kristen will also provide support to volunteers for Earth Day and Arbor Day for the City of Greenbelt Department of Public Works.  Kristen hopes to broaden her involvement with experiential and service learning to provide meaningful volunteer opportunities and build her own professional skills.  Kristen plans on attending graduate school in the near future to obtain a degree in Public Policy.


Kristen is a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator sponsored by the Chesapeake Conservation Corps.

Olivia Straub, Project PLASE

Olivia Straub graduated from Colgate University with a BA in Peace and Conflicts Studies this past May.  Looking for a new challenge, Olivia moved from her New Jersey home to Baltimore City where she will serve as the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator with Project PLASE.  Project PLASE addresses homelessness by providing transitional housing, permanent housing, and supportive services to homeless adults.  As the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator, Olivia will work in the Transitional and Permanent Housing programs.  “I hope to be able to learn how to effectively manage and organize volunteers and look forward to the challenge of working within a smoothly running organization to help their volunteer program become sustainable,” Olivia said.

Kendra Tappin, Jubilee Association of Maryland

Kendra Tappin applied to serve with Volunteer Maryland because volunteering and public service are in her blood.  Her mother made a habit of bringing both Kendra and her brother to volunteer and community organizing events.  Kendra continues to exhibit this habit in her commitment to helping the Jubilee Association of Maryland recruit, orient, train and coordinate volunteers that will provide meaningful social interactions for people with developmental disabilities through various programs and classes.  Kendra hopes to develop a stronger sense of who she is professionally and gain better management skills. “I intend to use this year of service to develop a clearer sense of how to build a career in public service.”

Trayana Thomas, Mosaic Community Services

Trayana Thomas is doing a term of service with Volunteer Maryland to help empower her community.  A native of Baltimore, Trayana will serve with Mosaic Community Services, which provides community-based behavioral health services in Maryland.  Mosaic traditionally serves individuals with very limited incomes who are also facing the challenges of long-term unemployment, homelessness, substance abuse, encounters with the law, and other challenging life situations.  Trayana will develop a new volunteer program that engages community volunteers in working with clients one-on-one and in groups, assisting clients with job searches, painting and repairing of client homes, assisting clients on public transportation, and participating in special events.  A mother of two boys, Trayana is currently enrolled in school studying Criminal Justice with a concentration in Social Work.  Her goal is to become a Social Worker focusing on helping troubled youth.

George Olsen, Shepherd’s Clinic

George Olsen just completed the Johns Hopkins Post-Baccalaureate Program and is currently applying to Medical School.  After graduating from George Washington University with degrees in Economics and International Affairs, George spent three years teaching middle school mathematics in Denver, Colorado through Teach for America.  It was here that George saw his path of medicine reveal itself.  “I want to provide healthcare to underserved communities, and while I am applying to medical school, the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator position with Shepherd’s Clinic allows me to learn more about working within this community and provides the opportunity to engage volunteers,” George said concerning his reason for taking on this position.  George will engage skilled volunteers as medical providers, nurses, mental health providers, wellness practitioners and workshop facilitators, patient advocates, administrators, and more.

Katrin Patterson, Ardmore Enterprises

Katrin “Kat” Patterson graduated cum laude from the University of Maryland Baltimore County in May 2011 with two BAs.  A Fulbright Student Researcher at the University of Botswana studying the gendered and psychosocial dynamics of HIV transmission, Kat is now in the process of applying to graduate schools of public health.  She is pretty busy, so why a term of service?  Kat responded, “I want to take doing service to a new level and challenge myself and I see this as a great stepping stone between undergraduate and graduate studies.  I also want to make a positive and measurable impact upon my county, state, and country.”  Kat will work with Ardmore Enterprises, whose mission is to empower individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.  Kat will create a new volunteer program that will bring more awareness to the capabilities of individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities.