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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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.

Members in Action! – Kelsey

Kelsey Eastman is an AmeriCorps Member serving at Deep Roots in Earleville. Deep Roots is a homeless shelter for children and families in the community that strives to break the generational cycle of homelessness. In her time there, her recruiting efforts have focused mainly on volunteers to serve as tutors for the children at Deep Roots.

As Kelsey has worked to get this program off the ground, she recently interviewed the first volunteer she recruited as a tutor about her experience so far. The volunteer said, “It was not long before Christmas so all the kids were excited. I held the tutoring session inside the dining hall so all of the kids were curious and running around us while we worked, wanting to get involved and participate in the session. I felt a bit overwhelmed and nervous because I wasn’t the most confident in being a tutor. One boy came up to me and asked me if I would like a cup of tea. So he came back with a cup of tea, sat down with me, and just started a conversation with me. I received such a warm welcome and sense of hospitality from this boy and it reminded me that while you come here to give back to your community, you end up receiving so much more.”

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It’s not only tutors that make a difference at Deep Roots though. Kelsey met with a pastor of a local church to discuss outreach among his congregation. She was delighted to find out that he not only wanted to help her with her recruiting, but he also wanted to volunteer himself! He has offered to help them design and print promotional materials as well as bring a “Carnival in a Box” (think moon bounce, cotton candy, popcorn, and other games!) to the residents of Deep Roots.

Another volunteer who helps with tech support stepped out from his normal volunteer routine to bring over $250 worth of donations of food and supplies. In response to this, Kelsey said, “It is amazing to see volunteers branch out and help the other areas of Deep Roots that they don’t usually volunteer with!”

Beyond recruiting for tutoring volunteers, Kelsey has established a partnership with a group at the University of Delaware known as Lazarus Rising. She says, “They will send out volunteers from the University of Delaware that will have weekly and monthly sessions with our residents that will include resume building, basic computer training, mock interviews, job searching, job applications, as well as follow up sessions.”

Kelsey is crushing it at Deep Roots! Her service as an AmeriCorps Member and the service of the volunteers of Deep Roots remind us that every little bit helps and one small act of kindness can make a difference!

 

Members in Action! – Nora

“Am I too old for this?”  A question Nora Skiver, an AmeriCorps member at Habitat for Humanity Choptank, asked herself. Nora shares her wins and efforts at her organization.

“At the beginning of this journey with Volunteer Maryland, I admit my thoughts were: “What am I getting myself into, Am I too old for this?” Guess what? I have since changed that perspective. When I make a presentation to recruit volunteers I am enthusiastic and excited. I am encouraged by the response of my volunteers and how much they are enjoying their experiences. I have increased the group presentations and am learning to network with local organizations to share volunteers when they request other volunteer experience”.

She ends with this thought, “ …life presents us the opportunity for us to give in order to get”.

Nora has also met other clients and volunteers like herself, who continuously prove her change in perspective.

According to her, Loretta Smith, a 71 years old had applied with Habitat Choptank’s Neighborhood Revitalization Program to assist with replacing a rotted porch floor. With the support of the organization she replaced all of her own door locks and did some of the painting. Nora learnt that every year Loretta, makes Christmas breakfast for Clients at a nursing home for low income clients, and is a volunteer at a Public Library. She does not want to be called a “senior”

 Nora is known to encourage and engage her volunteers such as recruiting active volunteers to bake cookies for 60 construction volunteers. And with the help of a board member had the cookies delivered. She continues to challenge herself to find innovative ways to inspire her volunteers. Some ways of achieving this are, viewing webinars such as “Engaging Volunteers of the future” and reading books like “The New Breed: Second Edition: Understanding and Equipping the 21st Century Volunteers.”

 20170920_122940There really is no excuse for not serving your community. We all have skills that can be of service to the community. All we need is the heart. We have many AmeriCorps members from different age brackets, background, race and creed with heart currently serving.

 

Members in Action! – Sophia

Sophia an AmeriCorps Member at Ulman Cancer Fund (UCF) whose passion for raising awareness for UCF has helped her developed skills that many seek. Being a volunteer coordinator requires various skills, public speaking is one of them. Sophia shares how her experience so far helped her to hone this skill.

She says, “In the month of December, I was able to travel back to my Alma mater, Geneseo and speak about 4K for Cancer and my involvement with UCF. I have been working on my goal of improving my public speaking quite a bit this month through presentations to the UCF staff and also through outreach opportunities that I have helped out with. Speaking for an hour as a part of the All-College-Hour Speaker Series at Geneseo was a huge test to the work that I had put into my public speaking and it was a really exciting and challenging experience for me. I was able to share my personal story as well as the stories that I have heard throughout my involvement with Ulman that inspire me to keep working with UCF. My goal of the speech was to inspire others in this community to get involved with UCF and hopefully other types of service in and outside of their community. I was really happy with how the speech went and I spoke to a few people afterwards who really wanted to get involved with UCF. It felt great to be able to see the improvement in my public speaking since the start of the service year and someone who attended the speech reached out to inquire about having me come and present at their university.

Another skill necessary to be a volunteer coordinator is being able to inspire volunteers to commit their time and effort, the challenging part being recruiting and retaining this volunteers.

For Martin Luther King day, UCF hosted a day of service well attended by 56 people of all ages. According to her,the UCF tradition of the Dedication Circle was an opportunity to hear the people that inspired the volunteers to give up their day off to serve with us. Some of the names said were familiar ones and some were names I had never heard before, but it was so inspiring to take a moment like that in which we were reminded the importance of what we were doing.”

Sophia goes further to share about one of the volunteers that served on MLK Day.

“A woman came to the MLK day of service after hearing about it through her company. She showed up with her kids and not knowing much about UCF, still took time out of her life to attend. I spoke with her about the UCF mission and my involvement and she told me about her life and where she had come from. Like me, she was new to Baltimore and looking for a community. She not only stayed the entire day, but was one of the most dedicated volunteers as her and her kids were knee deep in garbage cleaning out an area near the UCF House. She hopes to get more involved and told me how inspired she was by the UCF mission.”

However recruiting and learning what inspires volunteers is only a part of the job. Sophia faces the challenge of engaging volunteers, as volunteer opportunities are inconsistent.

She explains how they focused on creating an impactful opportunity.

“The greatest challenge this month was trying to figure out how to continue to engage volunteers after the initial interaction. I noticed that a lot of volunteer lose interest after the first event because our volunteer opportunities are less consistent. I don’t want to lose the interest of the volunteers, but still want to make sure that the work the volunteers are doing is meaningful and is making an impact. Lauriann and I have started doing Chemo Care Bag Builds every other week so that we will always have the bags ready to give to the Patient Navigators and also there will always be a volunteer opportunity for volunteers to get involved in.”

Volunteer Management is a cycle, the process is not stagnant and needs to be readdressed on all levels.  From the Big Picture to the Implementation of volunteer engagement, a Volunteer Coordinator or Manager is ultimatum responsible for relationship building and without constant care and attention eventually the relationships can end.  Sophia understands the importance of this constant need to nurture the relationship with new and excited volunteers and she’s up to the challenge to inspire them to stay engaged with the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. #PickmeupWednesday

 

Members in Action! -Andrew

During the month of November the spirit of giving was thriving throughout the state of Maryland.
Andrew Zagwodzki‘s site, End hunger in Calvert County Warehouse successfully prepared over 4000 Holiday meal boxes and turkeys to 43 partner feeding organizations. 600 of the Holiday Meal Boxes was packed by the Chesapeake Beach/North Beach Town council. These meals were scheduled to go down to Lusby which is at the other end of the county. According to Andrew,”When the group was done packing, and we told them where these meals were going, they were blown away. They could not believe that they packed over 600 boxes, but on top of that, where it was going. They did not realize the need through the county. It really opened their eyes, to be able to see the impact of serving at the warehouse, and who was positively affected by it.”
Andrew further explains, “For me personally, it was difficult to be able to think everything through. Such as counting out specific number of green beans that needed to be packed for a county Holiday Meal and then figuring out where to make up the difference if we did not have enough. I survived though, thanks to the help of my amazing site supervisors and our volunteers everyone was able to obtain their meals in time for thanksgiving.”
Volunteers efforts reaching far and wide throughout Calvert County, This is a good example of how to bring volunteers in to the organizations mission and help them see their impact on the community

 

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.

Members in Action! – Mallory

“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.

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According to Mallory, this is what true compassion looks like: Service and Action.
​In her role a​s​ 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.”