Sandra – Bureau of Aging + Disabilities – My VM Story

Sandra is a long time volunteer of the programs at Carroll County’s Bureau of Aging and Disabilities and has the opportunity to use her experience as Volunteer Coordinator to implement strategies and initiate projects to grow their volunteer program.

Sandra is an avid ‘maker.’ “I paint, make jewelry, greeting cards, alter books; however, I’m passionate about the 3-R’s (recycle, reuse, and re-purpose).” Sandra states she is most proud of her family. “As I’ve aged, I’ve discovered how helpful and understanding I have become in the process of thriving in life and getting along with others.”

“I was motivated to accept the challenge of joining Volunteer Maryland because of the extensive and interactive training and support that the program offers. This is just a great opportunity to build on the existing experience and knowledge that I already have. The term of service  is giving me an opportunity to make a significant difference in my community because of their ongoing support to which add value to my success.” 

Sandra has always volunteered. “I’ve been a volunteer since my early teens. I’ve found that giving to others helps my physical and mental health. It gives you the opportunity to be apart of something bigger than myself and use my civic responsibility for the greater good.”

“My goals are to improve the skills I already have, learn new ones, and expand my network. I’m a highly self-motivated and independent person, who like to run with a project goal. My long-term goal is provide the most impact in the Nutrition/Congregate Meal Program and Front Desk Programs, in the five Senior and Community Center in Carroll County. ”

We are excited to see Sandra’s journey unfold as she grows this Service Year and makes an impact in Carroll County. To learn more about volunteer opportunities at Carroll County Bureau of Aging and Disabilities please visit  


Allie – Sows into Seeds – My VM Story

Our next VM31 Story takes us to Allie! “I just recently graduated with a B.A. in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD. The program at my college was challenging and demanded a lot of me as a student and I am proud of myself for completing it. One of the greatest things I learned during my time there is perseverance. There were a lot of rivers I had to cross, but I never lost my forward motion even when things seemed impossible. This is due to having a great support system made up of friends, family, and different mentors I met within those four years.”

…”the purpose of the program is that once everything is in disorder you will find pieces of your own”…

“Another thing that I learned there is to not accept without first questioning. My college adopted the “Great Books” program in 1937. Throughout the four years all students read works from what is referred to as the “Western canon.” This includes Western literature, European music, and philosophy. Through reading, I was exposed to a lot of different ideas, a lot of them opposing. This puts students in a place where they are not sure what to think. A lot of what they believed to be true has been broken down through this process of reading and questioning. But, the purpose of the program is that once everything is in disorder you will find pieces of your own firm view and a new order will begin to develop. These are our beliefs, the things that sit at the core of each individual. This reformation is a process that I believe takes a lifetime to complete.”

In Allie’s spare time she loves to read, ride her bike, and bake. “I especially like to make new and challenging recipes so that I will grow as a baker. When I am out and about I like to attend different community events, visit museums, and spend time with friends or family. Something different I recently started is Muay Thai! I have never practiced martial arts, so I am excited to see what I will learn in my classes!”

When we asked Allie why she is doing a term of service with Volunteer Maryland and AmeriCorps, here’s what she had to say: “I grew up and went to college in Maryland. I have spent a lot of time in this state, but during all that time I have not become the community member I would like to be. At my college I took a lot of initiative to get into a leadership role, especially my junior and senior year. I ended up working with Student Services as well as serving as a board member of a committee called “The Committee on Student Life.” I think I realized that if I was unhappy with something in my little community, such as the campus culture, instead of sitting around and wishing things were different I could seek out the opportunities to do something and be a part of the change I would like to see.”

“During my senior year, when I was getting ready to leave the community I had been a part of for the past four years, I wanted to apply that same logic to the greater Annapolis community through volunteer work. I asked a campus counselor to suggest some organizations I could volunteer with. One of the organizations she recommended was Seeds 4 Success. Since I wanted to volunteer consistently each week, I went ahead and applied to Seeds 4 Success. After some emailing back and forth I met with their Volunteer Manager and soon after started my volunteer term as an Academic Success Coach (tutor) on November 1, 2017.”

“It made the work feel worth-while!”

“I went into the work with some preconceived notions of how tutoring works and quickly found out that that is not what my time with my tutee will look like. The Academic Success Coach is there to create a relationship grounded in trust, to be a positive role model, to teach self-advocacy, to teach organization, to help discover passions, and to give agency to the student. It is much more than homework help or tutoring in any one subject. We were there to help our tutee address academic barriers, but we were also there to be a guide (in matters both academic and non-academic). Academic Coaching begins with asking the question “what would you like to do today?” instead of telling them what we think they should work on. These subtle differences between traditional “tutoring” and “Academic Coaching” made the volunteer role to me quite compelling. It made the work feel worth-while!”

“It was exactly what I was looking for.”

“The time I spent working with my tutee was fun and other days it was challenging. Those challenging days only made me want work harder, to find other strategies to help my tutee become engaged in the program. The fun days were rewards for the work we both were putting in. In April of 2018, when the program year was coming to an end, I was approached by their Volunteer Manager who asked me if I was interested in coming on board with them as their Volunteer Coordinator. She told me I would work part time over the summer and then in the fall I would transition to full time through an AmeriCorps program called “Volunteer Maryland.” Before I even knew what exactly Volunteer Maryland was I agreed to move forward with the opportunity. It was exactly what I was looking for. I was already thinking of doing an AmeriCorps service term after I had graduated. (I applied to the another program in November 2017 and was offered a position but ended up turning it down as I felt it was too early in my senior year to commit to.)”

“After my initial “yes,” the Volunteer Manager sent me a lot of resources in an email in so that I could read about VM and understand what they are about. Nothing I read came as a surprise to me, nor did anything make me want to change my initial answer. I believed in the mission of Seeds 4 Success and was ecstatic that I was now getting the chance to work with an organization that I felt so strongly about. I have always felt that in my work I would like to make a difference, even if it is not changing the entire world. Working within my local community to help address a need is exactly the work I wanted to do upon graduation.”

“I think that by juggling everything that will come my way this year I will leave with a greater sense of my own capability, which can only lead to being more confident in myself.”

Thinking about her goals Allie says, “I am young and have a lot of learning and growing left to do. I know that Volunteer Maryland will help me with both of those things. I will grow both professionally and personally, as well as learn a lot about what it takes to be an effective Volunteer Coordinator. I am hoping that I will leave my service year with the knowledge of how to be the best resource and provide the best support I can for my volunteer core, as well as a thorough understanding of all the moving parts necessary to run both volunteer programs and the overall organization. I would also like to build my confidence, both as a professional and an individual. I think that by juggling everything that will come my way this year I will leave with a greater sense of my own capability, which can only lead to being more confident in myself.”

“Lastly, I am most excited to see where this service year will take me. A lot can change in one year and I know that the person I am today will not be the same person I am on July 23 of 2019. I hope to be better, stronger, and more knowledgeable. How could I not be? I am being provided with a great opportunity to spread myself out and take in as much information and experience as I can. For now, I am ready to learn, to grow, to serve my community, and to see to what paths this service year will lead me.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities as Seeds 4 Success you can reach out to Allie at or find Seeds 4 Success on various social media: Facebook  Twitter   LinkedIn

Jonathan’s Back – My VM Story

Born in Israel and raised in Philadelphia, PA, Jonathan moved to Maryland after leaving high school and graduating from Brandeis University in 2017 with a Bachelors in History and minors in Creative Writing and Religious Studies.

Jonathan is also a second-year Volunteer Maryland AmeriCorps member who served with Stepping Stones Shelter in Rockville last year. “I had an incredible experience organizing volunteers and serving to make a difference, and my ambition is to make at least as large of a difference in my local community this year as well.” This year Jonathan will be serving at Partners in Care in Frederick, helping residents with transportation assistance to and from vital appointments. 

When not serving his community, Jonathan can usually be found reading a good book, baking, or practicing martial arts.

“I have always believed that service to others is of the highest priority, and that challenges provide an excellent way for us to learn and grow. Volunteer Maryland gives me an opportunity to challenge myself to help others by working to grow volunteer programs and serve those who cannot help themselves. While it takes a village to raise a child, it is that child’s responsibility to give back to their village.”

“Last year, at my former service site Stepping Stones Shelter, I was awed and humbled by the sheer amount of time, resources, dedication, and energy that volunteers put into helping those less fortunate than themselves, often driving great distances, jumping to help at the last minute, and going above and beyond in every way out of a love of their neighbor. These incredible people inspire me to wake up in the morning and do everything I can to serve. I have been blessed with great privileges, and with those privileges come the responsibility to use what I have wisely and well.”

“This year, I hope to gain confidence in my public speaking and outreach skills. As an introvert, it can be difficult for me to engage with people, especially groups of people, I do not know, and I hope to increase my skill level in communicating with others.”

“Because service is very important to me, I am also eager to gain experience and connections in the nonprofit community, which I hope to be able to use to find a full-time job in that sector after I am done with my term at AmeriCorps.”

“Most of all, this year I hope to develop and grow both personally and professionally, to gain a better understanding of how to organize and lead others, and to become stronger as a person and as a team member, so as to most effectively bring my skills towards serving others in the future.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at Partners in Care please visit and

Shawdae – Inspired to Serve – My VM Story

Shawdae never thought she would be in this position, but her experiences growing up ignited a desire to serve individuals whom she felt needed it the most; children. “Since, I was about 8 years old, I grew up with one goal in mind; be a doctor. As a child, I was plagued with childhood asthma and I’d get so ill that I would end up in the emergency room.” Shawdae recalls a spark of inspiration, looking up to the doctors and nurses, and feeling the need to take care of those around her. “I used to dress my teddy bears’ wounds and apply bandages when he had a ‘boo-boo’.”

“I didn’t have to be a doctor to help people who it.”

“My altruistic nature continued all my life, but as I got older I started to realize that I didn’t have to be a doctor to help the people who needed it. By the time I was in high school, I knew that my true calling was to give back to the communities I grew up in and help open doors for young girls. I went on to college and remember reading that several communities near my University suffered from below average test scores and low student recidivism. I knew needed to help so I joined a mentoring program on campus that would allow me to directly impact the communities.”

“They were like me.”

“The BLAST (Bringing Ladies and Science Together) program was a truly transformative mentoring experience where we taught girls the importance of excelling in math and science. We showed them to envision their futures as scientists and programmers and how that could improve chances of getting into college and achieving their dreams.” Shawdae could see herself when she met the girls in the program. “They were like me; they needed someone to engage and encourage them to take the next steps to reach their goals!”

“Although the odds are stacked against you, you deserve opportunity.”

“I still get Facebook updates for some of the girls from the program who are now going off to high school. I see their progress and how 5 hours of mentorship and support every week helped to change their trajectory. Those girls are the reason I applied for Volunteer Maryland. They inspired me to take on this challenge, serving as an AmeriCorps Member; further inspiring my passion to keep having these experiences! I want to teach children in Baltimore that although you may have been born into an environment with the odds stacked against you, you deserve the opportunity to thrive, to grow, and to dream! And more importantly give back to your community by instilling this belief in others.”

Shawdae hopes her service year is filled with new opportunities to educate and inspire. “I want to give other volunteers the tools they need to engage and galvanize Baltimore youth to reach their full potential.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at UMB CURE Scholars Program please reach out to Shawdae and visit and/or like them on Facebook at 


Shawdae Harrison
UMB Cure Scholars Program


Get to Know Cassie – My VM Story

Cassie’s our first Volunteer Coordinator to be featured in our #VM31 Service Year introductions!  Cassie Motok, is currently the Volunteer Coordinator for Caring Matters, formerly known as Hospice Caring. “This is the first time I am actively serving a nonprofit organization and am excited to start this new journey!”

Cassie’s passion for helping others started at a young age. “I always did volunteer work growing up, whether it was volunteering at retirement homes or serving food at the local the soup kitchen. This created a drive for me to want to be in the position of helping and serving others.”

It was not until my sophomore year of college when she joined the fraternity, Zeta Tau Alpha, where her passion for serving others really took off! “Our philanthropy is Breast Cancer Awareness and is something that hits close to home. However, it was not until I actively started to fundraise for our philanthropy and attend educational events that I saw the true impact volunteer work had on others.”

“I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go in.” 

After graduating from West Virginia Wesleyan College, Cassie was not sure the direction she wanted to go in. “I was actively searching for jobs, but doing a service year was always something I thought about the most. However, it was not until a year after where I decided I needed to be in a position where I got more out of what I was doing and took a deeper look into Americorps. That is when I came across the opportunity to serve in Volunteer Maryland’s AmeriCorps program.”

“I decided I needed to be in a position where I got more out of what I was doing and took a deeper look into AmeriCorps.”

“One of my main goals this year is to gain a new perspective on how nonprofits work. I would like to have a strong understanding of how to create sustainable practices to benefit smaller organizations when they may not have as many resources or as much funding as others.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities and the great work at Caring Matters in Montgomery County be sure to visit

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!

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


What’s Good with Yinka?

Yinka is a VM Alum who most recently served in Volunteer Maryland’s Class of VM 30 as a Peer Leader who helped the support team and cohort of AmeriCorps Members. She supported them in their role on the field, designed a multitude of digital/print materials with her graphic design experience, and has now moved on!

On the day of VM’s Class Finale, Yinka received the news that she would be working as the Outreach Specialist for Catholic Charities’ Share Food Network (for their Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery branch) a sustainable, social enterprise of Catholic Charities that helps anyone save money on nutritious, healthy food.  They are committed to supporting local community groups where all may participate, serve, and lead with dignity.  How’s that for timing?

We’re so excited to have seen Yinka grow through her two years of service to AmeriCorps with Volunteer Maryland. Not only did she serve as Peer Leader in the 2017-18 Service Year, she had also been the Volunteer Coordinator in 2016-17 at Montgomery County Community Action Agency. We are so proud and look forward to see Yinka achieve great things during her new journey.

Stay tuned to our blog for more What’s Good Wednesday news and other hot VM topics! If you’re interested in learning more about our AmeriCorps program and available positions please visit us at


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 for more details and application.