“In the face of critical need in our communities, many of us feel concern: but when does that concern move us to act? At the story telling workshop hosted by Project Change and CASA, we tackled the challenge of telling our stories of service. Mallory’s story of service and engaging the community’s compassion compelled listeners.
Mallory Jones is the AmeriCorps member serving with Volunteer Maryland as a volunteer coordinator at The Samaritan Women, a shelter in Baltimore City for women rescued from domestic sex trafficking. She shared that when she gives presentations about human trafficking to the community, it sometimes elicits a response of sympathy or emotion. What resonated with participants at the storytelling workshop was Mallory’s goal to turn that sympathy into action. Mallory’s task at hand is channeling the community’s sympathetic feelings into actively serving the community.
According to Mallory, this is what true compassion looks like: Service and Action.
In her role as a volunteer coordinator, she knows the impact one individual can make in the fight against human trafficking, and wants potential volunteers to know that if you act on your concerns, you truly can make a difference.
Mallory reminds us of how important it is to get our own story out there and inspire our community to act.”
For the past couple weeks, Amelia and I have been putting together materials for a meeting/workshop on self care. In my search for helpful tips on how to be less stressed, more healthy, and avoid burn out (something I definitely felt as a VMC last year), I was inundated with guides, charts, and quizzes all saying pretty similar things. Despite their formatting differences, they each followed the same logical framework.
They instructed the reader to consider the most important and overarching aspects of their life, such as their emotional state, physical health, psychological well being, professional life, etc. Most provided between four and eight categories, such as those in the diagram below.
Next, according to various psychologists, social workers, and holistic life coaches, we’re instructed to identify actions we can take, either preemptively or in case of crisis, to care for and enhance these facets of our lives, as, together, they are said to add up to a happy, healthy us.
Many of the activities suggested by these resources are things that even my mother no longer sends me nagging articles about (eat your vegetables, get enough sleep, go to the dentist, etc.), but as a person who frequently gets too wrapped up in work to remember to eat lunch, I can see the value in stating the obvious. Other activities are things I’d never thought about as self care. Some of my favorites include “go swimming,” “be curious,” and “wear clothes I like.”
The final step is to do it. Choose a manageable number of caring actions and make a conscious effort to add them to our routine. Easy, right? This is gloriously logical. So why aren’t we all self care experts?
Enter the Non Profit Professional’s Dilemma.
As Volunteer Maryland Coordinators, our work is intimately related to care. We organize volunteers to care for children, to care for trees, to care for isolated seniors, and more. This professional valuing of care might suggest that people in this role would find it easy to care for themselves, but the opposite is more often the case. We spend so much time caring for others that at the end of the day we either don’t have the energy or the time to prioritize ourselves.
This exhaustion is compounded with the fact that jobs in mission-based organizations often blur the traditional line between personal and professional. We like our jobs (most days) and often see ourselves as personally invested in the vision and goals of our organizations. Other people who work at mission-based organizations are awesome and interesting like us, so being at work counts as hanging out with friends, right? Our causes are near and dear to our hearts, so we can count staying late at the office as personal growth, can’t we?
This is the type of thinking that would keep me at work until nine o’clock at night last year, and these sorts of rationalization told me that was okay. The person who told me that was NOT okay was the organization’s previous Volunteer Maryland Coordinator. She called me out on not being fair to myself and not making time for the other things that I valued, like leisure reading and seeing out-of-work friends.
When compared with my organization’s mission these things seemed insignificant and selfish to prioritize. If we look back at the self care diagram, though, we can see how many moving parts go into keeping a multifaceted entity like a nonprofit or a human being going, and how important it is to actively support each one of them. What the prior VMC’s wisdom and half a dozen self care guides made me realize is that along with being our own Venn diagram of needs, we are but a single circle within our organizations’ interconnected diagrams, and like the gurus told us, we have to actively seek out ways to support and maintain ourselves so we don’t throw off the entire operation.
When you’re in this field, self care is mission-driven work, and that’s awesome. Let’s resolve to do it.
When I joined AmeriCorps two years ago, I chose a lifestyle of service and I will continue to embrace that lifestyle long after I’ve moved on from my AmeriJourney. Next week, my term of service with Volunteer Maryland and AmeriCorps will conclude and since my last post dealt with reflection and looking back, this final post will tackle looking towards the future.
Volunteer Maryland taught me that service can come in all shapes and sizes and even though I’ll be transitioning out of my AmeriRole, I will still engage in direct service and strive to impact the communities in which I live. I will also continue to cultivate the relationships and networks that I built as an AmeriCorps Member. The VM Program prides itself on its diversity and it’s that diversity that allowed me to meet people from all walks of life and gave me the chance to have some incredible experiences and adventures with those people. As a VM Alum, I plan to engage my fellow alums and current VM members and will remain connected with the Program that gave me the chance to explore my passions and join others who shared my love of service. As an AmeriCorps Alum, I will continue to GET THINGS DONE and I will embrace the values of the AmeriCorps Alumni Pledge.
Our Volunteer Maryland Coordinators have persevered this year as avid volunteer activist, while spear heading volunteer engagements, and coordinating service projects that drive academic achievement; improve economic opportunities, and restore and preserve our environmental resources. Now they will move forward joining the ranks of Alums of both Volunteer Maryland and AmeriCorps. Not leaving their service experience behind but taking what they have learned and gained as Volunteer Maryland Coordinators, and continuing to do service this year and beyond.
During the National Conference of Volunteerism and Service, Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) CEO, Wendy Spencer highlighted the topic of keeping AmeriCorps Alums of all programs connected to service after their AmeriCorps term. During the conference plenary, Wendy Spencer constantly circled back to her opening statement, which encouraged listeners to recognize that the dedication of AmeriCorps Alums adds value to AmeriCorps programs and inspires others. “AmeriCorps Alums are bound together by the commitment to service and it is your aspiration to serve as avid community members that is greatly treasured.”
She went on to further talk about how we can commit to making connections with our members after completion of service. The Baltimore City AmeriCorps Alum Chapter exists to connect, support, and mobilize alumni in Baltimore and Central Maryland in order to strengthen communities. This is exactly the engagement other AmeriCorps programs discussed during a networking session with Wendy Spencer. One stand out subject during this time was expanding service; looking to ways we can mobilize our alumni along with current members to increase meaningful impact in every community. She also discussed ways we can utilize milestones like the 20th Anniversary of AmeriCorps to elevate service and our individual experiences, which will undeniably keep citizens engaged in service, delivering on that promise created 20 years ago, that changed the way Americans thought about service and how the generations that were to follow would think about themselves as an AmeriCorps and Volunteer Maryland Alum I plan to fulfill my commitment as alum by continuing to take advantage of opportunities that inform people of AmeriCorps.
My experience has been incredible and I experienced more than I could ever hope for, and I want to expand on my Volunteer Maryland experience. I have grown as an individual, a leader, and as a professional. Being able to advocate and impact communities has significantly changed my outlook on service, which has impacted my role as a Volunteer Maryland, Peer Leader. Looking to the future, I look forward to connecting with the Baltimore Alum Chapter in order to stay fully engaged in service as I volunteer with in my community, looking for ways to expand my professional network. I believe in the power of service to impact change and promote well being for Americans in need. In an effort to serve my community, I am perusing my aspirations of becoming a counselor to help individuals who face economical, mental, and social challenges unlock their full potential. It is through service that I have become a pioneer for change. Service is and will forever be a part of who I am and I envision that as leaders of the today, all service members will continue to advocate, pushing forward to ignite social change creating a force for unity for generations to come.
One motivation for doing an AmeriCorps term of service is to gain skills for future employment or education. For this reason, VM takes time with each applicant listening to what they are looking for, and hoping to experience in order to find just the right fit. We know that the job market, though recovering is still a bit tight, and respect the fact that Volunteer Maryland Coordinators are hoping that service may lead in the direction of a job.
In about two weeks, the current group of coordinators will end their 11 month term of service. This can be a time filled with a bit of anxiety as our folks look at what comes next. For a few the futures involves a bit of the past. Six of the 23 VMCs have accepted jobs with their service site. That is great news on many levels. First, it speaks to the professionalism of the individuals that were offered employment. Their sites know that these folks can get things done, and are committed to the mission. It is also a good sign for the nonprofit community as this is an improvement over last year’s number of VMCs that stayed on as employees. Last year two of the amazing members of VM25 were hired on by their site. This is not a reflection at all on the members of that class, but rather a continued sign of the times. With a 200 percent increase over last year, my hope is that there will be more opportunities out there for truly talented VM alums.
I am so proud of the current group of Volunteer Maryland Coordinators. AmeriCorps is not easy, but these folks preserved, and went from novice volunteer coordinators to seasoned professionals. They developed management skills, facilitated trainings and put volunteer programs in a place where they could provide results. That is what makes them so hirable. They have the goods that equal a strong employee.
I wish I could keep them, but AmeriCorps is not meant to be a lifelong job, but rather a time of meaningful service that leads to new opportunities. Congratulations to all of the members of VM Class 26.
One recent day in the Volunteer Maryland office, Kerry Ose, came into my office and said, “Patrice! You have to go on Facebook right now!” Kerry is a pretty cool customer, so seeing her so animated; I knew this had to be good. There, in a Facebook group for Volunteer Maryland Coordinators from Class 25, was a picture of me, from my morning commute, taken by someone I did not know. Weird, right? Now for the really interesting part, the person who I will call John B. because that is his name, went to high school with Casey Lowe, a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator from Class 25. She saw this photo posted by John B. as she was looking through her own news feed, and shared it with me.
I have many thoughts about this. I drive a yellow Mini Cooper with a Charlie Brown stripe, so it is not like I am being shy. I am used to honks, smiles, waves, finger pointing, one man even sang a song to me at a stop light. But on this morning, during my routine commute, I became connected to a complete stranger through AmeriCorps. Okay, yes my car had something to do with it, but at the core of this is AmeriCorps. I would have never known about this photo if not for my connection to Casey. A few posts back, I talked about how people motivate me in my work. The connections that I make, and the relationships that form during each service year, continue to renew my commitment to Volunteer Maryland and AmeriCorps. These connections and relationships form friendships, professional alliances, and it all started with service.
We are just under one week until we launch Volunteer Maryland, Class 26. Our office is a bustling place as we prepare ourselves for the10 days of training to transition applicants into Volunteer Maryland Coordinators. They will go from timid to tenacious during this time, and I can’t wait to get them started.
There will be many miles for me and my Mini over the next 11 months as we work with Volunteer Maryland Class 26, and maybe I will see you out on the road. I hope we have a chance to wave, or smile as we go about our daily work. Connections are everywhere, and I thank you for continuing to connect with Volunteer Maryland. Talk to you soon.
Big News! Volunteer Maryland is getting a new director! Check out our announcement!
I can remember when I first heard of Volunteer Maryland. I was taking a class at Notre Dame of Maryland University when my professor introduced herself. Surprise! It was Barbara Reynolds, Director of Volunteer Maryland. A few months later, a position announcement for VM’s Project and Resource Manager came to me through the AmeriCorps Alums network and I knew I just had to join this organization.
Before VM, I had never stayed in a job for more than 18 months; though I had the pleasure of working with a number of amazing organizations, I was always ready for the next big challenge. Until VM. Since January 2008, I have been at home at in the exciting, fulfilling challenge that is Volunteer Maryland. So it is bittersweet that, like leaving home for college, I’m saying goodbye to a place where I have both history and family.
During my time with VM, I’ve had the incredible pleasure of working with amazing people and organizations. I’ve gotten to know and travel Maryland, to learn from the strongest volunteer management training program that exists, and to become even more connected to the AmeriCorps network that I have known and loved since I was 21.
When I became Director, we were riding the national service high – the Serve America Act had passed only two months prior and we were all talking about the upcoming growth of AmeriCorps. Things changed quickly; I’ll never forget talking with our members less than a year later about the very real possibility that AmeriCorps could be eliminated because of proposed federal budget cuts.
But we’re VM and we’re AmeriCorps and so we rallied our spirits and did what mattered – we served. Since becoming VM’s Director in 2009, I’ve been witness to incredible impact. In the last four years, our members mobilized 24,452 volunteers who provided 282,028 hours of service to 178,792 community members; 87 percent of our Service Sites reported an increased ability to recruit volunteers; and 85 percent of prior Service Sites note that they sustained or improved their ability to recruit and manage volunteers beyond the VM partnership.
We also increased our collaborations with other AmeriCorps programs, instituting an annual networking event called “Destination AmeriCorps” that brings together AmeriCorps members serving at programs throughout MD. In 2013, VM hosted the fourth Destination AmeriCorps, which engaged 71 members, alumni, and staff from 13 programs across the State.
And, in a wonderful celebration that happened just two weeks after the birth of my son, we celebrated VM’s 20th anniversary with alumni, current and former Service Site partners, community supporters, and all three of our previous directors. With stories, photos, vintage video footage, and original program displays, we celebrated 20 years of incredible impact. I couldn’t be happier to have been part of such an event.
Over these years, I’ve worked alongside some of the most passionate, intelligent, resilient people I’ve ever met. I’ve seen growth in individuals, organizations, and communities that many wouldn’t have thought possible. And I’ve seen real growth in myself.
Thanks to the community of VM, I’ve learned how to enjoy networking, to better listen, to meet others where they are. I’ve learned to dance in the hallway of a government building and accept that I don’t have to have all of the answers or know the dance moves in order to be a leader.
After all of this time and all of these people and every one of these experiences, I struggle to imagine a September that doesn’t include Pre-Service Training. But, come this September, I’ll face a new challenge – one that I am so happy to take on. After VM, Experience Corps, NCCC, VISTA, and Learn and Serve, I now get to join the Maryland Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism.
It’s also a really exciting time for Volunteer Maryland as we welcome VM alum and Outreach Manager Extraordinaire, Patrice Beverly to the role of Director. I hope you’ll join me in celebrating her promotion to this position!
I’ve known for a long time that service is my thing, that AmeriCorps works. That enabling others to serve – and to serve well and effectively – is a calling. My time at VM helped solidify that and I remain incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be a part of Volunteer Maryland. So I bittersweetly say goodbye to VM and hello to AmeriCorps programs throughout our State. I can’t wait to work with you.
As our Finale ceremony sneaks up on me, I am panicking slightly about wrapping everything up in time, but at the same time relishing the excitement of the successful completion of our 25th Class of Volunteer Maryland. I am gladdened to think this that class will join the proud ranks of alumni of both AmeriCorps and Volunteer Maryland. And guess what? Both Volunteer Maryland and AmeriCorps are celebrating their 20th anniversaries!
This September will mark 20 years since President Clinton signed into law the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993, which created the Corporation for National and Community Service and AmeriCorps. The following year, the first class of AmeriCorps members took their oath at the White House. Volunteer Maryland celebrated its own 20th anniversary of creation and the first class serving this year.
As our members transistion into alumni, they will be continuing two decades of tradition. It is powerful to think of how much has been achieved in that time by the numbers of those who have served through AmeriCorps. Not only is much achieved in the year of service, but it also inspires me to see what alumni go on to accomplish following their service. I hope to stay in touch with every member of this class so that I can see what they will tackle with their energy, passion, and experience next.
Marisa and Nicki both talked a lot about the ways their Volunteer Maryland experience equipped them for professional success, and as they did, one common theme emerged: Volunteer Maryland had taught them how to demonstrate the impact of their work. They both knew the importance of being able to tell a good story about a successful project or program, and the people whose lives were changed for the better because of it. They both also knew that these stories need to be complemented by cold hard numbers. How many volunteers were recruited? How many hours did they serve? How many clients did they serve? How was impact on the clients measured? What were the outcomes?
Being able to tell compelling, empirically supported stories about impact is crucial because, as we all know, funding is scarce, and the spoils go to those who can show that their work has made a difference.
Throughout the service year, Volunteer Maryland requires reporting of quantitative data accompanied by stories about volunteers, clients and the service experience. As such, VM alums are very skilled when it comes to measuring the impact of their work, and they are good at talking about it, too. In Nicki’s case, she was able to use her impact data and narrative to convince her current employer to create a position for her. And now that she is in that position, she uses the tools and skills she got from VM to continue documenting her service and its benefit to her employer and to the community.
I also just recently had the pleasure of reading narratives written by two of my VM24 classmates, Donté Taylor and Faith Savill, praising the work of volunteers in their current organizations. Full of vivid examples and impressive data, these narratives left no doubt in the reader’s mind that these volunteers were doing extraordinary work.
Making a difference and being able to show that I’ve made a difference? Just another perk of being a VM alum.
For many AmeriCorps programs July is a time of transition. AmeriCorps members might be coming up on the end of their time of service, or they have already graduated and are moving into the next stage, whatever that may be for them. Here at Volunteer Maryland, as Kerry said, we have just about five more weeks left in our service year. Many of our class are on the job hunt, looking for the best place to use their skills. Alumni of AmeriCorps bring special skills and experience with them, and Volunteer Maryland Coordinators especially. If you happen to be hiring, here are some of the benefits of hiring a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator, as originally printed by former VMer, Megan Stransky:
1) Volunteer Maryland Coordinators are well trained! Volunteer Maryland provides around 100 hours of training to our AmeriCorps members on topics ranging from the basics of volunteer management, to conflict resolution, to storytelling for nonprofits, to time management, and the list goes on. Not only that, they also have a toolbook that contains all the secrets to volunteer management that they get to take with them after the service year ends. That thing is a brick and contains a ton of information that they can share with you and your staff to help the whole organization better understand volunteer management.
2) They are committed. There is no better way to judge a person’s commitment than to offer them a difficult, full-time, 11 month job, for an AmeriCorps living stipend of $13,000 (after taxes, it’s more like $10,000). When you work that down to the hourly rate, it’s really not much money and for the challenges some of our members face, it shows how dedicated to the cause they are that they are willing to do the work for so little (after all, the goal of AmeriCorps is not to get rich, but to serve others).
3) They are creative problem solvers. VMCs either work with existing volunteer programs to make them more successful or work on creating brand new volunteer programs for organizations that have never worked with volunteers before. Either way, they generally face challenges in doing this and need to rely on their own creativity to solve the problem at hand.
4) They are fun to work with. When you work in a nonprofit, you deal with some pretty serious issues, but knowing how to have fun at work can make facing those issues a whole lot easier. Well, VMCs are a fun group of people—they like karaoke, gardening, going to the beach, bowling, etc.—and they could definitely help lighten the atmosphere at your organization.
5) They are part of a great network of AmeriCorps alumni that your organization can tap into. Since 1992, Volunteer Maryland has had over 500 AmeriCorps members serve at nonprofits across the state. Not only that, but thousands of people have served in AmeriCorps since its inception, every single one of them knows how much passion and determination it takes to serve in AmeriCorps, many still work in the nonprofit sector, and they are willing to help their fellow alumni succeed in life after AmeriCorps. So, if you need some connections in the nonprofit world, hiring an AmeriCorps alumnus (specifically, a VM alumnus) can really help you tap into that network.