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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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!

 

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

Becky – My VM Story – Elms

She’s slow to anger, quick to laugh, and describes herself as a loyal friend. Becky joins our VM30 Class, serving at Elms Environmental Education Center in St. Mary’s. “I am proud of my decades of involvement with outdoor environmental work, whether building and maintaining the Appalachian trail and other trails in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, or in helping build trails centers and shelters and campgrounds so that others who share my love of the American outdoors can better enjoy the experience. One tidbit about me is that I hate to drive and I am especially fond of all animals, so when I do drive I will always brake my car for animals. Therefore, other drivers should not tailgate me.”

“I am doing this term because I could not believe a vacancy existed for such a noble and challenging opportunity.  When I learned during my Master Naturalist Certification Training that it was actually possible to spend time encouraging and helping my fellow Marylanders become involved as volunteers in and for their communities, I realized that a life-long dream of mine was on the cusp of fulfillment.  Doing something positive to help my world be a better place, and also helping my neighbors become more involved citizens allows me to “give back” to all those men and women who helped me in prior years to get to the place I enjoy in life and to become the person I am today.

As I progress through this program and become more and more acclimated in the role and responsibilities my position entails, I hope to gain an increased measure of self confidence in my ability to organize and inspire others to be more effective volunteers.

I believe serving in the capacity will help me become more organized in my own thoughts and actions, and help me help others gain that confidence and awareness that comes from the satisfaction of serving their towns and cities and state.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at Elms please visit http://elms.smcps.org/

If you know an organization that would be interesting in having an AmeriCorps Member serve as a Volunteer Coordinator for the 2018-2019 service year please visit volunteer.maryland.gov

Jessica – My VM Story – Calvert Cash

Our first VM Story feature of 2018 brings us to Jessica who is serving in Calvert County!

“When the opportunity presented itself for me to become an Americorps Member with Volunteer Maryland serving at Calvert Cash, I was excited to find a good outlet for helping others in my hometown community.  I have seen many people in our community impacted by hunger for many reasons, and those folks need a hand and an opportunity to change their circumstances. The reasons don’t matter, the people do. This is also a great way for me to ease back into the work force after taking an extended maternity leave and relocating from my previous professional position.

Volunteerism and service are not new concepts for me.  My family has participated in service in large and small ways.  Whether as an Air Force Pilot, a Police Officer, Secretary/Treasurer for a church fundraiser, a Sunday School Teacher, Christmas in April Volunteer or Special Olympics supporter. My family has shown me a myriad of ways to be of service to individuals as well as whole communities. I enjoy working with people, especially those who also have a heart for service, many hands, one goal. Together with some newly recruited volunteers, we can make an even larger impact on Calvert County. For me personally as someone who had such a positive experience as a customer of Calvert cash I hope I can make an impact on someone and pay it forward.

I’m looking at this coming year as an opportunity to really grow in the area of leadership and training. Specifically, I am wanting to grow and learn how to better manage and network. I am hoping that by creating this new position at this site, it will encourage others to join in.  I would like to move up the Americorps ladder after my service year because Volunteer Maryland is the best organized and professional company since my career at LU online and I’d enjoy being a part of this for the rest of my working career. One of my personal goals since 2016 has been committed to  enjoying Maryland and since the Volunteer Maryland training, I have found nearly 30 new and wonderful reasons which have been reflected in my peers site programs!

When Jessica’s not serving with Volunteer Maryland this is what she had to say. “I enjoy the outdoors, hiking, walking, biking. I also enjoy exercising and hope to one day soon get a chance to try yoga.  I enjoy worshiping and the fellowship my church provides.

I am thrilled to get started as a Volunteer Coordinator for AmeriCorps and Volunteer Maryland at Calvert Ca$h and End Hunger Calvert.  Got some time you can spare? Come see me, we can always find a spot PERFECT for you and your talents and gifts!”

You can learn more about volunteer opportunities at Calvert Cash by visiting https://endhungercalvert.org/programs/calvert-cash/

If you know of an organization that needs to strengthen their volunteer program and it’s a goal of theirs’ to make an impact in 2018 and beyond, then they could get an AmeriCorps Member of their own! Visit Volunteer.Maryland.gov to get started!

Rachel – My VM Story – St. Franis Neighborhood Center

Today’s VM Story takes us to Rachel, who is serving at St. Francis Neighborhood Center in Baltimore!

“There are several reasons that I am doing this. For one, I think that this year of service will help me reach my professional goals. Specifically, the education award will allow me to pay off some of my loans from undergrad and someday attend graduate school. The Volunteer Maryland networking opportunities and professional development are also enticing.

I’m hoping that my time at St. Francis will give me a more concrete sense of the needs of the communities in Baltimore that are struggling with overcoming generational poverty and hunger. I will have situated myself in a community, lived experience, and perspective that is invaluable to my professional goals, and can ultimately create a model for my urban education program that I will be returning to school to pursue with the insights from the community. I would like to give the St. Francis community the tools to be self-sufficient and managing their resources responsibly and in a manner that minimizes waste. In the same vein, ideally the volunteer program would be more robust and consistent year to year. Finally, I’d like to learn what I need to work on in order to help other communities do so in the future.

My Puerto Rican heritage is very important to me. I do not have preferred gender pronouns and identify as queer and non-binary. I am a fiery Leo! I am an aunt to a beautiful toddler, and a new cat mom! I am originally from Baltimore County, but I attended undergrad in Ohio and lived in South Florida prior to returning to Baltimore earlier this year.

I like to sing, play with animals, garden (or be in nature in general). My love of nature led me to study Geology at Oberlin College, where I obtained a 3.6 GPA while also playing field hockey and acting as the treasurer of two campus organizations, La Alianza Latinx (our Latinx student union) and Oberlin Food Justice, and volunteering at the local George Jones Farm and tutoring at Eastwood Elementary School. I also had the privilege of studying away with my advisor and conduct research on a coral reef in Cane Bay, St. Croix. Ideally, I would return to St. Croix or any island or coastal region and assist in conceptualizing creative solutions to food scarcity and public health crises created by climate change, overfishing, and resource mismanagement.

That said, I am very passionate about resource management, outdoor education, and critical pedagogy as creative solutions to generational poverty, holes in our education system, and food scarcity. My grandmother was a Spanish teacher and channeled her energy into empowering the community; in a similar vein, I want to use my skillset and vast experience with plant life and gardening to empower communities to grow their own food and take their nutrition into their own hands. I also want to empower communities to manage their resources in a responsible fashion, such that food waste is eliminated and unnecessary hunger is a thing of the past. I have 10 years of progressively responsible experience working in garden centers, water gardens, and farms and ranches, and intend to instill and encourage the community of St. Francis to cultivate their green thumbs, too. My parents encouraged me to always be critical and learn as much as possible, and I am excited to do the same with volunteer coordination and in tutoring children at St. Francis.

The summer VISTA associate position at St. Francis that I originally took was for a STEM educator position, which was, more or less, exactly how I saw myself using my Geology degree after undergrad. Along with these responsibilities, my time was spent managing food distribution. My time as a member of Oberlin Food Justice organization motivated me to focus my energies on resource distribution and waste reduction. This translated into me developing close relationships with a bunch of the campers during meal and snack times, and ultimately led to me falling in love with the kids and community of St. Francis. Since I’ve gotten to know them and gotten a sense of their needs and how to mentor them, I felt that taking a position as their Volunteer Coordinator would allow me to further take care of these wonderful children that I care about deeply.”

You can learn more about the volunteer opportunities at St. Francis Neighborhood Center by visiting stfranciscenter.org

If you know an organization that would benefit from having an AmeriCorps Member serve as Volunteer Coordinator at their organization for the 2018-1019 service year please email volunteer.maryland@maryland.gov, call 410-697-9285 or visit volunteer.maryland.gov today!

Members in Action! – Alisha

Alisha Parzanese is determined to meet every problem with a solution. She says, “My greatest challenge this month was developing the material for the Weed Resistance Program. I decided that I had to take several steps to overcome this challenge. I began looking over material on Montgomery’s Weed Warrior program which was given to me by my Site Supervisor. I decided that we could borrow some of the material from Montgomery counties Weed Warrior program such as documents on volunteer hours, frequently asked questions, prevention of poison ivy and Lyme disease, native alternatives, and a list for targeted invasive plant species. However, I had to rewrite some of this material to incorporate it into our program and to avoid copyright. In addition to looking over other neighboring counties Weed Warrior programs, I had to develop documents for the program such as policy and procedures. To do this, I looked over how to develop policy and procedures in our Volunteer Maryland Training Tool Book. I decided that I had to include policy and procedures on confidentiality, volunteer-client relations, volunteer – staff relations, health and safety, legal liability, volunteer records, dress code, and speaking on behalf of the organization. Throughout the year, I will be updating and developing several other documents such as descriptions for Weed Warrior Peer Squad Leader’s and the material in volunteer’s work packets.”
Alisha proves you can find solutions by looking into other similar programs. She researched and found resources around her and used it to the advantage of her organization.

Mallory Returns – My VM Story – The Samaritan Women

We’re happy to have Mallory join us again for her second service year with Volunteer Maryland! “As I start my second term of service with Volunteer Maryland, I have thought a lot about how much I’ve learned at my service site, The Samaritan Women.” The Samaritan Women is a long-term residential program for women who have survived domestic sex trafficking, and is located on a beautiful farm in southwest Baltimore City.

“In working with volunteers at The Samaritan Women, I get to share with the community about the enormous problem of human trafficking–also known as slavery–also known as the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. Recent statistics have been released that tell us that human trafficking is almost twice the problem we thought: I used to tell volunteer groups that 28 million people are still enslaved in labor and sex trafficking worldwide. Now I have to tell them 48 million are enslaved.” Mallory noted, “this isn’t to say that trafficking has doubled in the past year, but that we are still learning the full extent of this crime and about the proliferation of slavery worldwide.”

Before joining AmeriCorps, Mallory accomplished one of her biggest personal goals; completing her M.F.A. in Creative Writing through a fellowship at Hollins University. “Writing is a craft I hope to hone throughout my life!” In her spare time she enjoys writing and even arranging flowers.

“I love leading volunteer groups in projects on our amazing farm (the largest in Baltimore City), or beautifying the grounds of our 23-acre Maryland Historic Trust property. It was hard to imagine leaving after just one service term: there is so much work to be done, and it’s such a pleasure to work with our amazing volunteers at The Samaritan Women. Last year I had the privilege of recruiting and managing almost 900 volunteers during my service year at The Samaritan Women–this is why being a volunteer coordinator fills me with hope, despite the darkness of trafficking. I get to see the community’s eagerness to answer this need and work to end human trafficking and provide opportunities for restoration and hope for survivors of trafficking.

I can’t say enough about how seeing the impact volunteers make on our program and our residence has shifted my perspective towards lifelong service. During my last service year, I met people who have dedicated their lives to feeding the homeless, reaching out to those struggling with addiction, providing housing and therapeutic spaces for survivors of sex trafficking, and other urgent community needs. It’s hard to imagine going back to a cubicle after seeing these things. In my future after AmeriCorps, I hope to continue working to empower the community to make an impact on these needs, whether as a volunteer or in my career.

After AmeriCorps, I hope to stay involved in anti-trafficking awareness efforts. If someone had told me two years ago that I’d take on a role that required early morning public speaking in my gym clothes, I wouldn’t have believed it. But now almost every Saturday morning I am out on The Samaritan Women’s farm, sharing with our volunteers and leading them in service projects, and it’s an absolute pleasure. When this cause resonated with me so deeply it wasn’t hard to step out of my comfort zone. Serving at The Samaritan Women has empowered me to find my voice for survivors of trafficking and for youth in our communities who are vulnerable to being trafficked, and I hope to continue using my voice to fight for these populations in any way I can, during this service year and in the future.”

Learn more about volunteer opportunities at The Samaritan Women by visiting www.thesamaritanwomen.org

If you know an organization that would benefit from having an AmeriCorps Member serve as Volunteer Coordinator at their organization for the 2018-1019 service year please email volunteer.maryland@maryland.gov, call 410-697-9285 or visit volunteer.maryland.gov today!

Nanette – My VM Story – The Seed School of Maryland

Please welcome Nanette who is serving at The Seed School of Maryland in Baltimore.

“One thing that is good to know about me is that I value communication. I feel that it is essential to any experience, whether personal or professional. Another thing that is  good to know about me is that if I do not know the answer to a question I am willing to do the research to find out any answers. I am proud of the fact that I will be the first college graduate in my family. I have eight classes to complete my AA degree. Some tidbits to know about me are : I look much younger than my age, I have an identical twin sister, I have been at the same job for fifteen years, and that helping others makes me feel good about myself.”

Nanette was looking to change careers so that she could work with volunteers. “America and Volunteer Maryland can give me on the job training that will be invaluable in my career field. I enjoy making a difference in the lives of others. I am already an AmeriCorps alumni thanks to another AmeriCorps program. I am motivated by knowing that the training will make a difference while learning new skills! Applying for the position was the easy part. The difficult part is maintaining the commitment.” Nanette is here to stay!

During her service year, Nanette hopes to learn networking skills, grant writing, volunteer recruitment, training and retention. “For my long term goals I hope to establish programs exactly like Volunteer Maryland.”

To learn more about Nanette and volunteer opportunities at The Seed School of Maryland visit www.seedschoolmd.org