The end of an Era, the continuation of a lifestyle

When I joined AmeriCorps two years ago, I chose a lifestyle of service and I will continue to embrace that AmeriCorps_logolifestyle long after I’ve moved on from my AmeriJourney. Next week, my term of service with Volunteer Maryland and AmeriCorps will conclude and since my last post dealt with reflection and looking back, this final post will tackle looking towards the future.

Volunteer Maryland taught me that service can come in all shapes and sizes and even though I’ll be transitioning out of my AmeriRole, I will still engage in direct service and strive to impact the communities in which I live. I will also continue to cultivate the relationships and networks that I built as an AmeriCorps Member. The VM Program prides itself on its diversity and it’s that diversity that allowed me to meet people from all walks of life and gave me the chance to have some incredible experiences and adventures with those people. As a VM Alum, I plan to engage my fellow alums and current VM members and will remain connected with the Program that gave me the chance to explore my passions and join others who shared my love of service. As an AmeriCorps Alum, I will continue to GET THINGS DONE and I will embrace the values of the AmeriCorps Alumni Pledge.


I am an AmeriCorps Alum and 

I make a difference in my community. 

I believe that AmeriCorps is one year 

in a lifetime of service. 

I pledge to continue to serve in 

all aspects of my life. 

I took action, and will continue to serve. 

I sought common ground, and 

will build community throughout my life. 

I persevered, and 

will live each day with conviction. 

I will lead by example. 

I will engage other people 

as we make our world a better place. 

I join the AmeriCorps alumni before me 

as we harness our energy 

to inspire those yet to come. 

Together, we will continue to GET THINGS DONE!


Serving as An AmeriCorps Alumni

Our Volunteer Maryland Coordinators have persevered this year as avid volunteer activist, while spear heading volunteer engagements, and coordinating service projects that drive academic achievement; improve economic opportunities, and restore and preserve our environmental resources. Now they will move forward joining the ranks of Alums of both Volunteer Maryland and AmeriCorps. Not leaving their service experience behind but taking what they have learned and gained as Volunteer Maryland Coordinators, and continuing to do service this year and beyond.

During the National Conference of Volunteerism and Service, Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) CEO, Wendy Spencer highlighted the topic of keeping AmeriCorps Alums of all programs connected to service after their AmeriCorps term. During the conference plenary, Wendy Spencer constantly circled back to her opening statement, which encouraged listeners to recognize that the dedication of AmeriCorps Alums adds value to AmeriCorps programs and inspires others. “AmeriCorps Alums are bound together by the commitment to service and it is your aspiration to serve as avid community members that is greatly treasured.”

She went on to further talk about how we can commit to making connections with our members after completion of service. The Baltimore City AmeriCorps Alum Chapter exists to connect, support, and mobilize alumni in Baltimore and Central Maryland in order to strengthen communities. This is exactly the engagement other AmeriCorps programs discussed during a networking session with Wendy Spencer. One stand out subject during this time was expanding service; looking to ways we can mobilize our alumni along with current members to increase meaningful impact in every community. She also discussed ways we can utilize milestones like the 20th Anniversary of AmeriCorps to elevate service and our individual experiences, which will undeniably keep citizens engaged in service, delivering on that promise created 20 years ago, that changed the way Americans thought about service and how the generations that were to follow would think about themselves as an AmeriCorps and Volunteer Maryland Alum I plan to fulfill my commitment as alum by continuing to take advantage of opportunities that inform people of AmeriCorps.

My experience has been incredible and I experienced more than I could ever hope for, and I want to expand on my Volunteer Maryland experience. I have grown as an individual, a leader, and as a professional. Being able to advocate and impact communities has significantly changed my outlook on service, which has impacted my role as a Volunteer Maryland, Peer Leader. Looking to the future, I look forward to connecting with the Baltimore Alum Chapter in order to stay fully engaged in service as I volunteer with in my community, looking for ways to expand my professional network. I believe in the power of service to impact change and promote well being for Americans in need. In an effort to serve my community, I am perusing my aspirations of becoming a counselor to help individuals who face economical, mental, and social challenges unlock their full potential. It is through service that I have become a pioneer for change.  Service is and will forever be a part of who I am and I envision that as leaders of the today, all service members will continue to advocate, pushing forward to ignite social change creating a force for unity for generations to come.


Service to a Job

One motivation for doing an AmeriCorps term of service is to gain skills for future employment or education.  For this reason, VM takes time with each applicant listening to what they are looking for, and hoping to experience in order to find just the right fit.  We know that the job market, though recovering is still a bit tight, and respect the fact that Volunteer Maryland Coordinators are hoping that service may lead in the direction of a job.

In about two weeks, the current group of coordinators will end their 11 month term of service.  This can be a time filled with a bit of anxiety as our folks look at what comes next.  For a few the futures involves a bit of the past.  Six of the 23 VMCs have accepted jobs with their service site.  That is great news on many levels.  First, it speaks to the professionalism of the individuals that were offered employment.  Their sites know that these folks can get things done, and are committed to the mission.  It is also a good sign for the nonprofit community as this is an improvement over last year’s number of VMCs that stayed on as employees.  Last year two of the amazing members of VM25 were hired on by their site.  This is not a reflection at all on the members of that class, but rather a continued sign of the times.  With a 200 percent increase over last year, my hope is that there will be more opportunities out there for truly talented VM alums.

I am so proud of the current group of Volunteer Maryland Coordinators.  AmeriCorps is not easy, but these folks preserved, and went from novice volunteer coordinators to seasoned professionals.  They developed management skills, facilitated trainings and put volunteer programs in a place where they could provide results.  That is what makes them so hirable.  They have the goods that equal a strong employee.

I wish I could keep them, but AmeriCorps is not meant to be a lifelong job, but rather a time of meaningful service that leads to new opportunities.  Congratulations to all of the members of VM Class 26.

Scoring Goals VM Style

Blog picFor the last few weeks the world has been enthralled in goals; World Cup Soccer Goals. During that time, I too have spent my time focusing on goals; personal goals. At the beginning of my term of service with Volunteer Maryland(VM)  I was tasked with creating personal and professional goals, and as my service term winds down I’ve done some assessing. Successes and shortcomings are part of any goal setting process and as look back on my time with Volunteer Maryland I am pleased by my successes and motivated by my shortcomings.

One of the biggest goals I set for myself this year was the goal of improving my networking skills in order to expand my network potential and the lasting impact of my encounters with other professionals. During my first term of service as an AmeriCorps Member, I engaged in networking in several professional settings and made connections with other, but this year I knew I needed to do more. With the help of the Volunteer Maryland Support Team, I jumped right into networking during my first weeks as a Peer Leader. Getting to know the staff here at VM and meeting people in our offices and elsewhere on an almost constant basis gave me the chance to start networking from day one and started me down the field towards a scoring goal . The training I received through Volunteer Maryland also helped to accelerate my goal reaching aspirations. Each year, VM trains Volunteer Maryland Coordinators in the art of networking starting with their pre-service training and continuing through the year, with additional training’s and opportunities to practice this necessary skill. As a benefit of being a Peer Leader, I have the privilege of also participating in those training’s and the knowledge I gained was expansive. I learned about topics like how to approach networking settings, how to prepare ahead of time, and how to follow-up after an event. I also learned that networking can occur in a variety of settings; everything from meet-and-greets to lunch and learns, to training’s can serve as networking opportunities and being able to recognize and take advantage of those is the key to successfully building and utilizing networking skills.

Through site visits, social activities, team meetings, and direct service I have simultaneously gained additional knowledge about networking and put it into practice. One of the concepts that truly stuck with me this year was the idea that networking should be about knowing what you have to offer others. Going into a networking event with the mindset of finding someone who has something to offer you can be detrimental and will overall limit your chance of successful network building. I also realized that having resources and expertise that I can offer if the situation warrants helped build my confidence in networking settings. With everything I have learned and practiced in regards to networking, I can safely say that this year I lined up my shot, gave the biggest kick I could, and scored a goal with an assist from the Volunteer Maryland team.


Above and Beyond a Thank You

FIRN volunteers are a vital part of achieving success in bridging cultures and building communities of Howard County foreign-born citizens. Throughout this service year VMC Roslyn Linder has pulled from her passion for service to engage community members of Howard County to supply support through translation services; English tutoring, and informal support services for foreign-born individuals in Howard County. FIRN volunteers consistently go above and beyond in supporting FIRN while meeting the need of serving a large volume of immigrant families. Over the last several months Roslyn has been busy planning a volunteer appreciation event to thank FIRN volunteers for their steadfast dedication on June 17, 2014.
I asked Roslyn her thoughts on thanking her volunteers. Roslyn spoke to FIRN volunteers being the life-line of the program. “The volunteers are the ones who come out week after week, providing support to our clients, tutor ESOL students, and make the life experiences of foreign-born community members more manageable,” stated Roslyn. We may never know the profound effect that a volunteer may have made on a person’s life. A kind word, a gentle touch or a listening ear can mean so much to someone who is of need. FIRN volunteers generously give the gift of time to make contact, provide support and encouragement and perhaps provide humor to make the clients day a bit more supportable. FIRN volunteers give of themselves and bring life experiences, compassion, and intellect and ask for nothing in return yet receive immeasurable satisfaction. They do not ask for accolades. Yet receive the reward of comradeship with those for whom they may never have met otherwise. This is why FIRN says thank you, not just with words but through their actions.
To further show appreciation, Roslyn plans to personalize this upcoming event. Everything from balloons and volunteer quotes, to posters recognizing each volunteer by name will surround the space and fill it with an atmosphere of admiration. Roslyn has also created a volunteer appreciation board that will showcase the volunteer impact of clients served, the dollar amount of volunteer efforts contributed to FIRN, and the collective number of hours served. “By doing this each volunteer will see how they have impacted change,” Roslyn stated. Roslyn is also handing out personalized candy filled mugs that symbolize the sweetness of a volunteer’s experience. Each mug will come customized and complete with candy donated by Roslyn’s mother who is also passionate of FIRN’s mission, with a personalized thank you tag attached.

Roz Volunteer Mug
Roslyn wanted to further thank her volunteers by securing an in kind donation for a light lunch and desserts for the event. Target has also generously donated a $30 dollar gift card that will be given away as a prize drawing to one lucky volunteer.
Roslyn wants her volunteers to know how outstanding they are. That the success of FIRN rests in its volunteers, who embody the spirit of greatness by serving others, inspiring dedication and who are tremendous examples to the community. FIRN volunteers now know how much their few hours they give each week means to Roslyn, FIRN and those they serve.
“Thank you so much to each and every one of our volunteers. We couldn’t do it without you.” Volunteer Maryland Coordinator Roslyn Linder

Canoes and Kayaks and Service Oh My!

When thinking of volunteering and the great outdoors I would like to draw your attention to one phrase, “Canoe and Scoop.”  You read that correctly.  I’m talking about direct service incorporated with canoes and kayaks.  For environmental direct service projects, people are used to tree planting and garden cultivation.  However, a few weeks ago the Volunteer Maryland Support Team along with members of the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives (GOCI), and the Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism (GOSV)  joined Baltimore City Recreation and Parks for an afternoon of clean-up at Middle Branch Park in south Baltimore and took an unconventional approach to environmental stewardship.

In order to pursue our afternoon of environmental service, we boarded kayaks and canoes and launched ourselves away from the bank and into the Patapsco River to remove garbage from the river with the help of trash picker tools.  The afternoon was an incredibly rewarding experience for everyone because it gave us all the chance to engage in environmental stewardship in a new way. Volunteer Maryland Outreach Manager, Kerry Ose says that our service was, “A great way to learn and enjoy a recreational activity while also benefiting the environment.”  And she’s absolutely right because it’s not often that environmental stewardship can be accomplished while enjoying the experience of being out in a small watercraft enjoying a beautiful, sunny Maryland day.

Another enjoyable aspect of the afternoon was how close to home it felt for many of us who live here in Baltimore City.  While talking to the GOCI Chief of Staff Elizabeth Hines, she shared with me that she’s always seen impacting the environment as venturing away from home and out into the Maryland wetlands into places like Accokeek.  However, after participating in the Canoe and Scoop, she has a new outlook on how she can engage in environmental stewardship and feels that, “It means a lot to do wetland conservation and restoration right here in the city I call home.”  Direct Service is a rewarding experience in itself, but there will always be an added bonus when that service can be done where someone calls home and it’s safe to say that everyone out on the water that day felt a sense of connection to the environment, to their home, and to the state of Maryland.

Taeketra Haynes Kerry Ose Dana Schwartz
Governor’s Office of Service and Volunteerism Program Officer Dana Schwartz says it was great to have a change of scenery from the office and enjoyed seeing Baltimore City in a new light alongside her fellow co-workers.


Volunteer Maryland Director, Patrice Beverly, and Volunteer Maryland Coordinator with Baltimore City Recreation and Parks Pamela Hargest, work to remove trash from the grassy water’s edge of the Patapsco River.



Connecting Directly to Service

Now that we are out of the gloomy wet weather phase, we can take time to reconnect to service. Volunteer Maryland Coordinators diligence and dedication drives the community and their passion for service influences and motivates everyone they meet. However, at times in this role they can feel removed from direct service in their day to day coordination duties, so this is when they turn to service to remind them of why they chose a term of service.

During many check in phone conversations, some of the VMCs mentioned the need for taking more time to reconnect to service, because it helps better understand the needs of the volunteers. I tend to describe the role of a VMC like hard worker bees, continually in motion working hard to keep their communities healthy. VMC Roslyn and Sharon mention at times we can lose sight of service and the role it plays within building a community. In my last blog I talked about giving back to students as a volunteer tutor helping with literacy. Volunteer Maryland Coordinator, Roslyn Linder really enjoys volunteering with FIRN clients, helping them improve their level of English through teaching ESL classes. Roslyn does this because she had been inspired by spending two years experiencing life as a foreigner in China, and she realized the many challenges foreign-born individuals have to face when immersed in a new environment. Volunteer Maryland Coordinator, Sharon Baldwin spends her direct service with Baltimore CASH families, helping them discover new skills in meeting their financial goals. Sharon commits her time to doing this because she is dedicated to helping people met their financial goals.

Engaging volunteers is the role of a VMC, so the numbers tell one story of service. However a deeper connection to community through VMCs providing volunteer service builds lifelong commitments to working in communities to make them safer, stronger and healthier. Not just one year, one person, but a continued lifetime of service to others.

Celebrating AmeriCorps20 through Environmental Stewardship

This year AmeriCorps is celebrating its 20th Anniversary by highlighting six focus areas identified in the Serve America Act and last month AmeriCorps membersBlog Post Image around the country focused on Environmental Stewardship. Volunteer Maryland currently partners with Natural Partners, MAEOE, and Chesapeake Natives, and at these sites, VMCs are engaged in activities that raise awareness and advocate for environmental issues.

At Natural Partners, Kelly Lawhorn recruits volunteers who promote environmental stewardship in many ways.  One way is through the Monarch Sister Schools Program by which hundreds of students, teachers, community members, and parents learn the importance of pollinator gardens and habitat restoration.  Through their Monarch Program Natural Partners has recruited 14 volunteers who have donated 96 hours of their time training Maryland students to be environmental stewards by helping them learn how to care for gardens and creatures that rely on those gardens for food and shelter.  Kelly believes that, “Students will gain knowledge from this program that will follow them throughout life and teach them to act responsibly when it comes to protecting and restoring our natural environment here in Maryland and beyond.”

Next we have VMC Gabrielle Cantor who serves at MAEOE and is recruiting volunteers to aid schools around the state of Maryland in increasing their levels of environmental stewardship.  The VMCs that Gabrielle recruits volunteer to assist with MAEOE’s Green School Program which establishes green school culture at Maryland schools.  By establishing this culture, the Green School Program is helping to motivate entire schools into seeing environmental stewardship as a school wide behavioral change that molds students into adults who will be more environmentally conscious.  As Gabrielle says, “The great thing about the program is that it often starts with one or a few people interested in making a change in their school,” and those like-minded people can really affect change.  In the past few months as the VMC at MAEOE Gabrielle has led 84 volunteers into serving 168 hours of service to the state of Maryland through their schools.

Over at Chesapeake Natives Inc., Selwyn Ramp is working to help promote the use of native plants throughout the state of Maryland.  Selwyn is working to engagdownloade Maryland volunteers all over the state in activities related to botany and gardening of native plants. He is also working to promote forest restoration through the removal of invasive species.  By getting the volunteers involved in these activities Selwyn is helping to educate Marylanders about invasive species management as well as teaching them how to share their knowledge and training with other Maryland citizens.  Selwyn has managed to engage a wide array of volunteers from all walks of life.  Selwyn says that the secret to his success is the fact that, “I’m able to find niches for all types of volunteers; I’ve never had to say no to a volunteer because I can also find a way for them to serve.”  Since his time there, Selwyn has served Chesapeake Natives Inc by recruiting 103 volunteers who have served a total of 1,155 hours and as a result 12,325 sq ft of environment has been preserved and impacted by grown plants.

As an AmeriCorps Program with a strong focus of Environmental Stewardship it is always rewarding for me to see the great work being done by our VMCs. As environmental stewards, our VMCs serve to aid in preserving the environment here in Maryland by not only engaging volunteers in environmental projects, but also by ensuring that knowledge is a part of the experience.  By doing this, the Volunteer Maryland Program is helping to shape a generation of environmentally conscious Maryland residents.












Volunteering to Reconnect

For the past several years I have spent a considerable amount of time volunteering for various organization and agencies.  Last week I was introduced to a revelation regarding the act of volunteering during a meeting with Volunteer Maryland’s Director, Patrice Beverly.  During out meeting, she mentioned that a great way to recharge after a hectic few days is to get out and do direct service.  Now, I have always seen my position as a Volunteer Maryland Peer Leader as a service role, but never really thought about how removed from direct service my day to day work can make me feel.  When Patrice made her comment I found myself realizing that I needed a little bit of recharging time and decided to head out on a Tuesday morning and do some service with Moveable Feast in Baltimore City.

For my volunteer service at Moveable Feast I worked in their kitchen helping to prepare meals for persons with HIV, AIDS, Cancer, and other blood borne illnesses.  When I arrived at Moveable Feast I went in with the mindset of seeing my time there as an opportunity to step back from my day-to- day routine and really get into some direct service.  In my role as a Peer Leader with Volunteer Maryland, I serve as a resource and support system for our Volunteer Maryland Coordinators who serve others and often this can feel like an indirect/third-party kind of service.  However, when I serve at places like Moveable Feast I serve in a way that directly links me to the people I’m serving and that form of service re-ignites my sense of connection to the community.

When I served at Moveable Feast I knew that the meals I prepared would go directly to clients in need and that was an amazing feeling.  Conversely, as a Peer Leader I serve VMCs who in turn serve clients, so knowing that I have a part in helping to create that avenue for volunteering feels great too.  Both types of services are rewarding in their own unique way, and doing both has helped to remind me that serving one’s community can take many different forms and that I should continue to explore and understand the ways by which I can serve others.

It’s National Volunteer Week!

Yay volunteers!  This is your week.  One week to celebrate the impact and value of volunteers in our communities.  For those of you out there giving back, paying forward, or digging in, we at Volunteer Maryland salute you with a Volunteer Maryland, Class 26 jump!  Our work would be nothing without you, and our communities are all the better for you.

Thank you volunteers!


Jumping Group 3 Best