Wendi – My VM Story –

 

Wendi is a an AmeriCorps member serving at the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office, serving in their Truancy Prevention Program. “Three things that come to mind when I think of Truancy Prevention Program is caring for children that need help in succeeding, active listening and sharing ideas to provide solutions, and being supportive to kids that need a voice.”

 Wendi joined AmeriCorps specifically to serve with Volunteer Maryland because she was looking for a position that was purposeful and doing good for the community.Growing up, my mother was the one who has made the most impact on my life because she stressed education, to never give up or settle for less, and that life will take you many places if you have the courage to walk in faith.” As a 12 year old I would have loved any reward that was art related – a book, art supplies or a kit, and perhaps tickets or trip to a museum.” That may be why Wendi has experience in working at historical museums in her professional career!

“In my spare time I love to read, mostly historical based material and mysteries.  I also continue with my artworks in painting, drawing, jewelry making, and mix media formats.” This year Wendi hopes to learn more sign language. “I would love to visit Japan and Southeast Asia!”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office, you may visit https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/sao/index.html

Are you an organization that serves the community with the use of volunteers? Discover how you can leverage your volunteer program by partnering with Volunteer Maryland and have an AmeriCorps member serve as Volunteer Coordinator with you! volunteer.maryland.gov/ServiceSites

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AmeriCorps Storytelling Event Reflection

On Friday, November 30th six AmeriCorps members of Volunteer Maryland attended the AmeriCorps Storytelling Festival hosted by CASA. The event was a six hour workshop where members from several different AmeriCorps programs came together and shared their service experiences with one another.

It was amazing to hear how service is impacting each individual. We all come from different backgrounds but each and every one of us, there’s something in us that drives us to be servant leaders in our community. It’s important for us to recognize the work that we do is important and we should share that recognition and our experiences with others because that is what brings us together, it’s what inspires change, and it’s what motivates others to get involved.

After this event, I began to reflect on my own stories of service prior to my AmeriCorps experience. I started to ask myself, “What do I think of when I hear the word service? What images come to mind when I think about service?” Suddenly, I felt a rush of nostalgia hit me and I began listing off a bunch of memories from my volunteer experiences throughout the last few years. When I think of service I think of playing bingo with Mary, a resident of a local senior center, and how she called me her “good luck charm” because she won every single game that day. She also called me a “good babysitter” to her three brand new stuffed animal prizes and she thanked me for taking such good care of them. I remember the moment I saw the light-bulb go off in a third-grader’s mind as we worked on his challenging writing assignment. He had the hardest time coming up with ideas, but after talking through the project, he wrote non-stop until our time working together came to an end. I think back on my weeklong service trip to New Orleans. We worked with an AmeriCorps program to help with repair work on the exterior of a home. That was where I first learned, in-depth, about AmeriCorps and how to look for opportunities to serve as a member. Lastly, I think about my days working as a counselor for a high school summer program, assisting with the community service class, and inspiring high schoolers to lead service-oriented lives. The kids that I worked with were so dedicated to every project we went to and they inspired me to keep getting involved.

My most important takeaway from the storytelling workshop was to always keep track of my service stories and share them with others. They help us stay connected, engaged, and inspired to do more.

 

Recognizing Greatness in Pigtown

On Saturday December 1, Pigtown Main Street of Baltimore, Maryland hosted its Second Annual Volunteer Recognition Event, where volunteers were recognized for their amazing service. Returning Volunteer Maryland Coordinator, Pam Evans, hosted this event for the second year in a row to honor 170 volunteers that volunteer throughout the year.

Several awards given to volunteers included the Governor’s Service Award, Pigtown Main Street Hero Award, Pigtown Innovation Award, Pigtown Main Street Partnership Award and more! Volunteers were celebrated as they ate together, danced and received awards. It was a night to remember.

 

This is what Pam had to say about the special volunteer event, “The Pigtown Main Street Volunteer Recognition and Award Celebration was designed to recognize the wide array of support for volunteers and volunteer based activities and to “catch volunteers” at their best. To this end, we have a wide array of categories through which to acknowledge volunteers showing commitment by volunteers for multiple events, demonstrating leadership by leading events, being innovative and creative, and going beyond the call of duty. One hundred seventy volunteers choose Pigtown Main Street to be the recipient of their donated volunteer time in 2018. The recognition and award celebration program was our acknowledgement of the significant impact these donated hours have had on the success of Pigtown Main Street activities.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at Pigtown Main Street please visit, Also, organizations looking to host an AmeriCorps member and partner with Volunteer Maryland may apply at volunteer.maryland.gov/ServiceSites

Devyn Pulls the Weeds at Anne Arundel Forestry Board

Devyn: “I have always had a passion for the outdoors and love for learning. I grew up exploring the Maryland’s rich natural resources from the mountains to the shores of the Chesapeake. I am an avid fan of hiking, flora and fauna identification, fishing, kayaking, exploring wetlands and cultivating plants. Through high school I got involved in a trade program at Center of Applied Technologies North where I studied environmental science. I love the program and followed it through to senior year where they place me in an internship with Arlington Echo. There I got involved more actively with environmental management and volunteering. The experiences I had so far along with my passion for the nature lead me to study environmental science at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.”

“I was lacking a clear direction after college but knew that I wanted to continue helping others and learned that AmeriCorps was a great way to do this.”

“As I expended my knowledge at college, I became more involved in volunteering with nature centers and park. I had always enjoyed giving back and sharing any knowledge that I could with those around me. These opportunities were my first chance to actively apply what I was learning, while also helping other understand and connect with the natural world. I was lacking a clear direction after college but knew that I wanted to continue helping others and learned that AmeriCorps was a great way to do this. I had connected with Volunteer Maryland through the AmeriCorps website and was excited to learn that they were partnering with several sites focusing on environmental stewardship. I knew that this would be a great opportunity for me to build knowledge about volunteer management and the non-for-profit world. This would also be a great chance to network with key players in environmental field. I recognized that I will be getting a lot out of this process and hope to give more back to strengthening environmental stewardship along with the local community. In the future I hope to look back on my time spent with Volunteer Maryland and see it as a pivotal moment in my personal and professional development. That this position helps me to continue my life long goal of improved understanding and respect for the natural world and its processes.”

Devyn Croghan
Anne Arundel Forestry Board Volunteer Coordinator

You can learn more about volunteer opportunities at Anne Arundel County Forestry Board: Anne Arundel Weed Resistance by visiting  www.anne-arundel-weed-resistance.org Also, if you’re a non-profit organization, government agency or school that is interested in having a Volunteer Maryland AmeriCorps member serve at your organization please visit volunteer.maryland.gov/ServiceSites or email outreach manager, Nathan Cabrera at Nathan.cabrera@maryland.gov 

Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry Gives Thanks – A Member’s Reflection

Darien Pasch may be new to AmeriCorps and Volunteer Maryland, but she is no stranger to her site, Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry. Throughout her senior year of high school, Darien regularly volunteered at the food pantry. Her passion for service and deep connections to Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry inspired her to take on the role of Volunteer Coordinator for the 2018-2019 service year. Below is her reflection from the pantry’s largest event of the year, the “Giving Thanks Meal Distribution Week.”


 

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      We are quickly entering the holiday season, and that means family, friends, food and so much joy which is exactly how we can describe Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry during this time of the year. Hundreds of families walk through our door and are welcomed with a smile, and then walk out the door better than they came in. Yes, they walk out with a much needed bag of groceries, but also a heart filled with the sense of belonging and value. The pantry emphasizes the importance of each individual client, his or her need and the idea that he or she is leaving with more than a bag of groceries. That is especially true during the holiday season.

     We served our clients and their families this with holiday meals during the Giving Thanks Meal Distribution Week, November 3rd-9th. This is just one way to demonstrate the pantry’s core values throughout our community. During Giving Thanks Week, the pantry served 4,384 individuals and distributed close to 700 holiday meals. This was a tremendous effort with much preparation and energy, but the impact for each client will last longer than anyone could know.

    Prior to the serving week, there was extensive volunteer preparation due to the nature of the openings. Hours of organizing volunteer shifts, creating name tags, contacting leaders, and volunteer meal preparation are just a few tasks that were completed  before the first turkey ‘flew’ out of our doors into the client’s house. The pantry was open for longer time periods in order to serve all the expected clients which doubled the volunteer need. 180 volunteers served during that week totaling over 500 hours of volunteer service. Volunteers served in many capacities including specific positions during openings and home meal deliveries to homebound and disabled clients.

    While the clients were the primary focus during openings, the volunteers consistently described the joy they were filled with from serving our clients especially during this season. Some volunteers had the privilege of interacting directly with some of the clients and hearing their stories of which one will remember for a lifetime.

   The season is not over yet. As we all prepare for the full houses and turkey platters on Thursday, the pantry is preparing and expecting another 700 meals to be distributed throughout the month of December for Christmas. This creates continued opportunity to support our community through volunteering and holiday meal sponsorships which provides a family with a meal for only $20 that has an invaluable effect during the holiday season.

– Darien Pasch, Volunteer Coordinator at Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry

Coast to Coast Sarah Comes Back to Maryland!

Sarah has worked coast to coast, from Assateague State Park in Maryland to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park in California and now Maryland is proud to have her back serving as an AmeriCorps member in the capacity of Volunteer Coordinator at Arlington Echo – Anne Arundel County Public Schools Office of Environmental Literacy and Outdoor Education . “I entered the environmental field at age 15 and haven’t strayed since, with special focus on wildlife and education. I recently got the chance to combine my love of research and outreach by interpreting bat research to the public while it was happening. Bats are a HUGE love of mine so I was stoked to convey that to others with the bats up-close.”

“during this time that I realized the huge impact volunteerism can have, on both…”

During my time at the University of Maryland, I became involved with the student chapter of The Wildlife Society (TWS) and held the role of Vice President my junior year and President my senior year. I created partnerships with local environmental organizations to make an impact in our community, while giving our members new skills and networking opportunities. It was during this time that I realized the huge impact volunteerism can have, on both the environment and the people. During this service year, I hope to foster stewardship by combining the efforts of community members and organizations towards a common goal: supporting our environment and empowering our youth.

When asked how does this fit into your long-term goals Sarah says, “I hope to take my volunteer coordination experience from a collegiate to professional setting so that my impact on this planet and its people will continue to grow, gaining management skills along the way. After this year, I hope to pursue urban sustainability, with a focus on wildlife habitat, through research and outreach. A large part of that plan is empowering those around me to make a difference and encouraging community involvement/understanding.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at Arlington Echo – Anne Arundel County Public Schools Office of Environmental Literacy and Outdoor Education you can visit arlingtonecho.org

If you know of an organization interested in partnering with Volunteer Maryland to become a ‘host’ site (Service Site) please visit volunteer.maryland.gov/ServiceSites or email Nathan Cabrera – Outreach Manager – Nathan.cabrera@maryland.gov

Melissa is on Board with the Arc of Southern Maryland

Our next VM 31 Story brings us to Melissa who is serving at The Arc of Southern Maryland, a private 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, affiliated with The Arc of the United States, the world’s largest grass roots organization of, and for, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

“I believe in equality for all ,no matter their life circumstances.”

When asked what are some things that are good to know about her, here’s what Melissa had to say. “I am very interested in the ethical treatment of all people and excited about diversity. I believe in equality for all ,no matter their life circumstances, and believe that most people just need a chance to tell their stories. I am most proud of my kids, through my guidance and the life experiences afforded to them, they are the most empathetic people I have the pleasure of knowing. I hold a MPH from National University, and I am looking forward to changing the world with it! I am happy to start with Volunteer Maryland, in the southern MD region where I currently live with my husband and 3 daughters.”

Thinking about motivation, what made you apply for this program and accept this challenge? “I chose to serve with VM because I am passionate about equality and the inclusion of people with all levels of ability. I am especially excited about bringing the community together and helping to make lasting connections. I am honored to serve the people that Arc Southern MD serves, and excited to see what kind of impact I can make for each person! Beyond that, I was inspired to apply by my kids. Once I finish this term, I will be able to really impress upon them the value of service through my own experiences.”

My main goal is to finish!

“My main goal is to finish! I do not like leaving things unfinished, and I would love to be able to help create a program that will be manageable and sustainable for The Arc Southern MD so they can continue to meet their goals and serve the community. I was not looking to gain any skills, but am happy that I will have the opportunity to learn how to be an effective volunteer manager and expand both personally and professionally. This service year and beyond will help me meet the goal I have of constant growth and personal (and professional) development.”

You can learn more about volunteer opportunities at The ARC of Southern Maryland by visiting their website at https://arcsomd.org/ or visit their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TheArcSomd/

If you know of a non-profit organization who would like to learn how they can leverage their volunteer program to help build capacity and increase sustainability consider becoming a Service Site; hosting an AmeriCorps member that could make that possible – visit volunteer.maryland.gov/ServiceSites

 

Ethan Goes SAFE

Ethan Thompson is an AmeriCorps member who is in his second year of service, coming to us from another Maryland program. He is currently spending his Service Year at the Safe Alternative Foundation for Education. SAFE believes that all students should have access to a quality education and the resources and opportunities that will assist them in achieving their goals. They provide afterschool, weekend, and summer learning educational opportunities through vocational programs that provide real world application as well as exposing students to the world outside of their community.

Ethan describes himself as indiscriminately compassionate. “I have persevered through great odds and I am motivated by helping others.” Ethan says he is most proud of his ability to maintain an open mind throughout the ever-changing environment around him.

Why are you doing a term of service?
“I’m doing a term of service because making an impact through my work is important to me. I want to get more involved in the community, and committing to a term of service is the best way for me to get real world experience and further my capabilities in that regard. This is my second consecutive year serving, and what I have learned in the past year has motivated me to keep going.”

What are your goals this Service Year?

“My long term goal is to combine my love for music with my love for my community. As far as specifics, I am not sure how I am going to implement this goal, but serving in AmeriCorps is helping me to gain a better understanding as to how I can accomplish this goal most efficiently. Specifically I am looking to gain and improve my skills in systems development, systems management, program development, and program management. These skills will help me to get closer to my long term goal.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at SAFE please visit http://www.safealternative.org/.

Haley – My VM Story

Haley is a recent graduate from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and is serving at Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services for the 2018-19 Service Year. “I’ve been living in Maryland since 2014, and loved Baltimore so much that when I graduated college I decided to stay. One of my favorite things about Baltimore is all of the passionate people who are working to make positive changes in their communities. Working with some of these organizations in school, and seeing all the great work they do in Baltimore was inspiring, and opened my eyes to the possibility of using art as a tool to build community.”

Why serve in AmeriCorps with Volunteer Maryland? 

“I chose to do a term of service with AmeriCorps and Volunteer Maryland, because I want to be doing something that makes a positive impact on the world. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the problems that I see around me everyday, but AmeriCorps and Volunteer Maryland offered the support and training to tackle those problems head on. I’m excited to use my skills to get other people motivated to serve their communities and make a positive impact.”

What are some of your goals and what are you hoping to gain in experience serving as part of the VM31 Service Year?

“I’m hoping that my time at Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services as an AmeriCorps member with Volunteer Maryland will allow me to develop skills in nonprofit management that will be useful going forward. In the future, I would love to be able to work with and develop programs that use the arts to assist underserved communities. My time at LARS is helping me to better understand the needs of those communities and individuals that are in need of assistance, and my training with VM and AmeriCorps will give me the confidence and skills to pursue a career in nonprofit work going forward.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services you may visit…
laureladvocacy.org
Facebook: Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services, Inc.
Instagram: @laureladvocacy

Sandra – Bureau of Aging + Disabilities – My VM Story

Sandra is a long time volunteer of the programs at Carroll County’s Bureau of Aging and Disabilities and has the opportunity to use her experience as Volunteer Coordinator to implement strategies and initiate projects to grow their volunteer program.

Sandra is an avid ‘maker.’ “I paint, make jewelry, greeting cards, alter books; however, I’m passionate about the 3-R’s (recycle, reuse, and re-purpose).” Sandra states she is most proud of her family. “As I’ve aged, I’ve discovered how helpful and understanding I have become in the process of thriving in life and getting along with others.”

“I was motivated to accept the challenge of joining Volunteer Maryland because of the extensive and interactive training and support that the program offers. This is just a great opportunity to build on the existing experience and knowledge that I already have. The term of service  is giving me an opportunity to make a significant difference in my community because of their ongoing support to which add value to my success.” 

Sandra has always volunteered. “I’ve been a volunteer since my early teens. I’ve found that giving to others helps my physical and mental health. It gives you the opportunity to be apart of something bigger than myself and use my civic responsibility for the greater good.”

“My goals are to improve the skills I already have, learn new ones, and expand my network. I’m a highly self-motivated and independent person, who like to run with a project goal. My long-term goal is provide the most impact in the Nutrition/Congregate Meal Program and Front Desk Programs, in the five Senior and Community Center in Carroll County. ”

We are excited to see Sandra’s journey unfold as she grows this Service Year and makes an impact in Carroll County. To learn more about volunteer opportunities at Carroll County Bureau of Aging and Disabilities please visit www.ccgovernment.carr.org/ccg/aging/