Last night, Volunteer Maryland celebrated its 20th anniversary. As a Volunteer Maryland Peer Leader, I have been involved in the planning, and had an intellectual understanding of the import of this event. But, wow. Seeing is believing. AmeriCorps programs are, by design, organizations with high turn over rates. Most members are in and out in less than a year. Each Volunteer Maryland class knows that there is a broader community of alums out there, but they exist mostly as part of a mythology — a foundation narrative that is recited but not experienced.
But last night, members of Volunteer Maryland classes from 15 years ago mingled with members of last year’s class. Peer Leaders met their predecessors. And the biggest lump-in-throat moment of all came when the Founder of Volunteer Maryland, Ellie Young, met our current Director, Maureen Eccleston, for the very first time.
As the evening proceeded, those of us who are new to Volunteer Maryland heard stories from the previous Directors — Ellie Young, Cathy Brill and Barbara Reynolds — about how Volunteer Maryland has changed (and stayed the same) throughout the years. Ellie and Cathy talked about the “wild west’ pre-AmeriCorps years when Volunteer Maryland was a one of a handful of demonstration programs that led to the advent of AmeriCorps. Barbara talked about how aware she was of the precious legacy she was receiving from Ellie and Cathy, and how mindful she was of maintaining its robustness. Barbara also talked about how, during Pre-Service Training, Volunteer Maryland Coordinators used to reflect on the experience through Haiku and Hula.
The program portion of the evening ended with remarks from Izzy Patoka, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives. He presented all four directors with the Governor’s Citation congratulating Volunteer Maryland on 20 years, but not before he offered, in honor of Volunteer Maryland’s tradition, two Haikus. And I leave you, dear reader, with one of them, by Kobayashi Issa:
Climb Mount Fuji,
But slowly, slowly!