Members in Action! – Jessica

Jessica Plummer found her belonging in the community by volunteering at her site for the Live Out Loud obstacle run.
She says: “This was my first time attending this event and I volunteered as a spotter for runners. I stood at the top of the hill and cheered runners on to keep going and as runners came up I directed them to the next obstacle so they stayed on course. This was such an exciting time because I was able to see so many of the participants. Moms were running with their daughters, dads with their son’s, entire families and groups of friends all together. These people were running for a cause to raise money to feed the hungry in Calvert County and they were having fun doing it. Friends and families all came out to take pictures and cheer the runners on and capture that moment when the runners finished the race. It was an exciting time and it was a special time because this is a community that I am becoming familiar with and they weren’t just a bunch of strangers but people and faces I am getting to know. So when people came running up it was even more fun to cheer them on because I recognized them and knew their name.
After the races were over I was able to watch the awards ceremony which was really adorable. A young girl made a cape that said End hunger and she wore a tutu and she won the most spirited award. A little 5 year old boy covered in mud won the muddiest award.
The most amazing part was at the very end when the Bertolaccini family stepped up to the platform to acknowledge their son who passed in 2004. After the brief synopsis of Matt’s story they counted to 3 and then together all of the runners, friends and family chanted 3 times “Live Out Loud.” I was amazed at how special this event was. The tragic death of this young teen could have had a lasting crippling effect on the Bertolocinni family yet they chose to turn that pain around and use it for a good purpose.
The impact on the community is a beautiful and positive one. Hundreds of people running together, eating together, listening to music and laughing together all while serving a good cause was a very special moment for me as a volunteer who was new to this event. I felt happy to see the community thriving together and I was honored to serve them.”

It’s great to be a part of community that finds strength, courage and purpose in the face of a tragedy. #PickMeUpWednesday


Renita – VM Story – The Colleens Perkins Bailey Project

Renita describes herself as a people person and active learner. “I love helping people and I am not perfect even if I want to be. In my imperfection I can still help others see that even though life is hard it is still worth living to the best of your ability because the reward is in the struggle.”

On her spare time Renita is a baker! “I make my own organic products, I travel, hunt, farm, plant my own food, visit museums, I live life I don’t let life live me.”

She decided to do a service year with Volunteer Maryland to use her master degree skills in Public Administration to help those “who have less than I do.”

“We all have a story but some just can’t or don’t know how to get help to complete their story of life. That is why I want to help them get the things they need to enjoy their journey throughout their lives and reach their destination.”

“I am hoping to create a successful volunteer program and database that the CPB can use in their future CKD awareness fundraisers and volunteer work. I can use these skills in applying for other jobs in the non-profit directors sector and along with my master degree I can effectively help build other non-profit organizations volunteer programs and fundraising databases up as well.”

You can learn more about Renita and the volunteer opportunities at The Colleen Perkins-Bailey Project for Kidney Disease by visiting


Flor de Lis – My VM Story

My name is Flor de Lis, it is a French name but I was born in Nicaragua (the center of Central America!). I came to the United States when I was 12 years old. I am fluent in Spanish, English and I can understand French more than I can speak it. I recently graduated from Towson University with a double major in International Studies and Spanish Literature and a minor in Theatre. During my time in college I was able to travel to Spain, France, Italy and Cuba as part of two different study abroad programs. I love learning about different cultures, languages and backgrounds. I love learning about where people com from and how they got to where they are today.

I am mostly proud of having graduated within four years even when I had to take many different classes for  three different subjects of focus. I am also proud of my ability to adapt to any environment and situation which allowed me to familiarize myself with the lifestyle in the US and also to learn English quickly. This ability to adapt has also allowed me to travel and get to know a lot of people and understand their customs and cultures.

Things to know about me:

  • I love traveling, I hope to travel a lot more in the future. The number one place to visit in my bucket list is Norway, its sceneries are jawdropping!
  • I am an only child
  • I love all types of music but my favorite is the old country music from my collection of vinyls.
  • I come from a family that loves to cook and I hope to go to cooking school one day.

I learned of AmeriCorps and the great work its members do all over the country my sophomore year of college when I had the opportunity to volunteer with a group in Alabama. While I was looking for jobs after college my senior year, I met two members of Volunteer Maryland Class 29 during a job fair and they explained to me what VM was about. These two members gave me so much hope for what I could do after college and they encouraged me to apply.

As I learned more about Volunteer Maryland I saw the great work they do along with different non-profit organizations to improve and strengthen our communities. Not to mention that the fact that they involved volunteers drew me in even more. During my school years I had different opportunities to be a volunteer in my community and I can certainly say I learned so much more about myself and about how the world works than from the jobs I have had before. For this reason, I accepted the challenge of being part of Volunteer Maryland to continue the culture of volunteerism in Maryland and to hopefully inspire other young people to be involved and have a sense of unity, respect and acceptance in their communities so one day we can expand this change to the rest of the world.

As cheesy as it might sound I do want to change the world and given that being part of VM Class 30 is already changing my life by helping me improve my skills in my career and my personal life, I am confident that I can take this to a bigger spectrum in the future.

I hope to gain a lot from my experience in this program. I want to gain skills and experiences throughout the year. I know that I will be challenged and I will have many opportunities to succeed and fail. I like to be challenged so I can become improve everyday and I expect this to happen during this year.

I want to be able to network and become more confident about my knowledge and my skills and the way I present them to other people. I also expect to become a better public speaker, to present my ideas with ease and confidence so others can understand my points of view.

As for my long-term expectations, I hope to use all the skills I will be learning and putting to practice to help me find myself in the world and give me an idea of what I want to do in the future personally and professionally. I expect to learn from my challenges and to eventually become a more confident person who know what she will be doing with the rest of her life.

Flor de Lis is serving at Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area where she is recruiting volunteers for the Children’s Services, Youth Haven and Refugee & Immigration Services Programs.  A total of 60 volunteers will be recruited who will fill various roles in these programs and support the organizations central mission.

Bethany – My VM Story – Carroll County Forestry Board

Bethany has always loved spending time outdoors and doing volunteer activities. In high school, she served as a counselor at Camp Hashawha teaching kids about wildlife. “This experience made me realize that I wanted to make a career out of improving the environment.” To start making this dream a reality, Bethany graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from Juniata College in May 2017.

“I first heard about Americorps while volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. I am very motivated by learning through new experiences, and thought that serving for Americorps would be a good way to spend my time while I develop my environmental career. Once I discovered that Volunteer Maryland partnered with the Carroll County Forestry Board, I was convinced that this was the perfect position for me. I am excited to learn more about what it takes to maintain a forest.”

“I am hoping to gain leadership skills from Volunteer Maryland, which will benefit my daily life. I also expect that serving for the Carroll County Forestry Board will allow me to apply and expand upon my environmental training and experience. This will help push me toward my long term goal of obtaining a position with a government agency focused in the environmental science field, such as the EPA.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at Carroll County Forestry Board you may visit If you know of an organization interested in volunteer management opportunities by having an AmeriCorps Member serve at their organization please visit

Renee – My VM Story – So What Else

Renee says she likes working with people but values time to herself as well. “Quiet Te’Renee’ does not like being bothered when there is a lot of work to be done.” She’s focused and “proud of the fact that I have been through so much in my life and I am still pushing to become better every day. I am also proud that I choose to dedicate my time to helping others. I am very determined and I choose not to break under pressure. I love children and I love seeing them smile. Their smiles brighten my day, especially when I am able to play a part in the reason. Everyone needs something to look forward to and I like being able to give a child a place to be able to look forward to coming back to.”

Renee is no stranger to AmeriCorps and has completed a service term before and grew professionally because of it. “I decided after I graduated that I wanted to continue that growth. Volunteer Maryland had a great opportunity that I was interested in that involved children. She is currently serving at So What Else where she’ll be managing volunteers who will assist with the Summer and Spring Olympics program, After-School Classroom Assistance to include the Green Path Academy Program. The AmeriCorps member will also recruit volunteers for environmental clean up projects in local public lands.

“I am hoping to gain more experience working with children as well as gaining some experience working in the office as well as improving my computer skills. I also want to take steps to becoming a better leader through this experience. I want to become the best people-person I can possibly be and I want to gain at least one long-term relationship with the VM team and So What Else team.  The skills I am hoping to gain will fit into my long-term goals because I plan on continuing to work with children. Volunteer Maryland will help me as I take the necessary steps to achieving this goal.”

You can learn more about Renee and volunteer opportunities at So What Else by visiting 

If you know an organization that would like to partner with Volunteer Maryland and have an AmeriCorps Member serve as Volunteer Coordinator at your site we are currently recruiting for partner organizations. More info can be found here. 

Aliyah – My VM Story – Eden Mill Nature Committee

Aliyah was born in Germany to a military family. Not long after her family moved to Missouri before settling in Maryland. “I’m technically a Maryland transplant, but after being here for 17 years I am very much a Marylander!” Aliyah loves the outdoors, hiking, canoeing, and gardening. “I am a reformed vegetarian but would like to get back into a plant-based diet with a locavore twist!”

She decided to apply to Volunteer Maryland feeling as though it would help her prepare for a future career choice. “By completing a term of service with Volunteer Maryland, I will be able to expand my project management experience, as well as learn more about working at and with a non-profit.”

“As an Environmental Studies major, it is slightly difficult finding a job within the field. Helping the environment indirectly through managing volunteers is a great opportunity to show my professional skills!”

Aliyah is hoping to gain experience in professional areas, specifically skills related to public speaking, creating formal documents, as well as long term goal management. “The skills I am hoping to gain this service year fit into my long-term goals because they are skills that I am lacking if I choose to enter the nonprofit world.”

By serving at the Eden Mill Nature Committee Aliyah will be recruiting and managing volunteers for environmental canoe programs, educational field trips, public natural history interpreters, educational program leaders, and other areas of volunteer activities that will focus on the Deer and its relationship to the Chesapeake Bay, among other necessities.

To learn more about Aliyah and volunteer opportunities at Eden Mill Nature Committee in Harford County you can visit



Andrew – My VM Story – End Hunger Warehouse

Andrew says one of the things most people would describe him as a shy individual. He is here to disprove that theory! “I tend to be a little introverted in larger groups, and tend to be the awkward guy standing in the corner, but if you really take the time to get to know me, you will find out very quickly that I am very outgoing, and fun to hang around! If anything my personality definitely leaves me with interesting stories to tell.”

In fact one of Andrew’s best friends is currently writing a book about him called, ‘So here’s the deal.’ “Each chapter is a unique story that apparently only happens to anyone with the last name Zagwodzki. Many other chapters in the book are called: “Jesus took the wheel”, “Its not my fault”, “Trouble in Paradise”(WV camping Trip) and many other stories that have happened to me in my life. Even though, I have not really left the Eastern Seaboard, I have still managed to lead and a full and exciting life. (If you are interested to hear any of my other stories, please feel free to ask!”

One of the main reasons Andrew applied for Volunteer Maryland was for the experience. “I am 3 years out of college, and have been struggling with that I want to do with my life. I know that I am called to serve in one way or another, but have not been able to figure out where. Volunteer Maryland has really been able to come in and fit my goals, and give me the experience that I am looking for to gain for a long term career. That is one of the major reasons I applied, because I knew that I would receive unique training that can easily carry over into other parts of my life, and equip me for any job I would want in the future.”

Andrew’s long term goal is to find a job serving the public. “Volunteer Maryland is able to fill that role, by equipping me with the skill I need to secede. By giving me this opportunity, Volunteer Maryland is investing in someone who cares heavily about their community, and plans serving the needs of the people above and beyond what any normal job actually requires.”

You can learn more about volunteer opportunities at End Hunger Warehouse by visiting 

Abby – My VM Story – South Baltimore Learning Center

Abby Rosenstein is a 25 year old, originally from Chicago. She recently returned from a year with the US Peace Corps in Senegal, West Africa that was unfortunately cut short due to an illness she received while abroad on her 2-year term.

“During my time there, I served as a community health volunteer in a rural village, where I promoted good hygiene practices, malaria prevention & early treatment, and improved child & maternal nutrition. I graduated in 2015 from the University of Wisconsin in Madison with degrees in neurobiology and African studies.”

Abby is the new Volunteer Coordinator at South Baltimore Learning Center, which is an organization that helps adults achieve their high school diplomas.

“I decided to do a term of service with Volunteer Maryland and AmeriCorps because my early departure from Senegal left me feeling pretty brokenhearted and unfulfilled. I wanted to finish out my commitment to serve Stateside and fortunately landed in Volunteer Maryland’s amazing program and with a great organization. I accepted this position to give back to the Baltimore community that has recently welcomed me, and I’m hoping to meet some of my personal and professional goals during my year with AmeriCorps and Volunteer Maryland.”

In her service year Abby hopes to grow as an individual, leader, and team member. “I tend to be on the quiet side, so I would really like to become more confident in public speaking and leadership positions. I am really committed to a career in some kind of helping profession but I’m not entirely sure which one yet. I know that ultimately I would like to end up abroad, but for now I want to learn as much about myself and the social issues that affect my community. I’m hoping to contribute a lot of new ideas and strengthen current aspects of my organization’s volunteer program so that it is strong and sustainable for years to come!”

We are so happy that Abby has decided to continue serving in AmeriCorps especially with Volunteer Maryland! To learn more about Abby and volunteer opportunities at South Baltimore Learning Center at

My VM Story – Erica – Community Action Agency

Erica is a business student from upstate NY who has found passion in connecting people with resources. “Numerous experiences with volunteerism have inspired me to learn about enabling community solutions through volunteer management.”

Erica was recruited earlier this year to serve as part of Volunteer Maryland’s 30th class and upon learning about our partner sites “Community Action Agency of Montgomery County” and their mission really resonated with her.

“After a previous AmeriCorps term for a homeless services organization, I am eager to continue getting things done. A year of service with Volunteer Maryland will provide exposure to government structure and local organizations.”

By serving as a Volunteer Coordinator, Erica hopes to empower individuals serving within their community. “Knowledge about financial stability and connection to dedicated coworkers will contribute to future nonprofit positions!”

We are excited to see the amazing results Erica will bring to Community Action Agency! Learn more about Erica, and volunteer opportunities at Community Action Agency of Montgomery County here. 

Debra Byrd – VM Story -There is H.O.P.E.

Debra Kilpatrick Byrd brings over 20 years of event planning, community outreach, government relations, program development and marketing leadership as the principal and owner of DAK Occasions & Marketing, LLC. Mrs. Kilpatrick Byrd has held several executive level positions as Chief of Staff for the DC Fire Department, National Coordinator at the Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Director of the BET Foundation/BET Networks and Director of Programs for the American Diabetes Association that laid the foundation for her vast expertise in event management, program development and marketing. Mrs. Kilpatrick Byrd has been responsible for several nationally successful initiatives and specializes in non-profit program development, fund development, marketing, and overall operations. Mrs. Kilpatrick Byrd has served on local and national health projects and panels. She offers a proven amount of experience in health disparities, behavioral health, public awareness and safety through a multi-platform integrated approach to health education including public awareness campaigns and grassroots programming.

When Debra was asked as her reasons for joining Volunteer Maryland’s AmeriCorps program; “I saw a need with a client that deserved to have volunteers to further its agenda. I am a homeowner and I want to make sure others have the same benefits.” She is referring to the need of volunteers at the site she is serving for in the 2017-18 service year. Housing Options and Planning Enterprises or H.O.P.E. ensures equal access to housing and capital for all persons through counseling, programs and services. H.O.P.E. offers a wide range of services designed to foster self-sufficiency, wealth building, and housing that meets the needs of the communities they serve.

Her goal is to have “a lifetime network of people who think like I do, increase my outreach skills, and have wanted to become an AmeriCorp Member for a long time.”

You can learn more about Debra, and Housing Options and PLanning Enterprises at