The A-merriest Week of Them All

Happy AmeriCorps Week! Along with AmeriCorps programs and members across the Nation, Volunteer Maryland Coordinators, alumni, and staff have been rockin’ the A. Thanks to a fabulous photo contest sponsored by the Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism, Volunteer Maryland Coordinator with STEMaction, Jenny Beatty, represented on Twitter, as did former Volunteer Maryland Coordinator and current Site Supervisor at Partners in Care, Barb Cooke (aka Flat Barb):


Flat Barb for AmeriCorps WeekJenny Beatty serving at FIRST LEGO League State Championship






Flat Barb for AmeriCorps Week 2










In addition to the great photo contest entries, Volunteer Maryland alum Casey Lowe wrote this fantastic blog post about how Volunteer Maryland and other AmeriCorps programs have served with the Accokeek Foundation.

So much Ameri-Goodness! How did you rock the A this week?





Celebrating with Service

You’ll find me today enjoying some fine weather out with a number of our Volunteer Maryland Coordinators.  How are we enjoying our Friday?  With some service!

In honor of AmeriCorps Week, Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake is hosting a service day for all of the AmeriCorps members and alumni in the area.  Almost one hundred AmeriCorps volunteers will be out here today, serving together.  We are returning to the neighborhood that I volunteered in this fall, at McCabe Avenue, and I am excited about the progress that has been made in that time.  But I’m willing to bet that an amazing amount of change will happen just in the time between when we start this morning to when we pack up in the afternoon, with so many volunteers who are used to “getting things done.”

And while we serve, we will also have the chance to connect.  Experiences from across the many AmeriCorps programs available in Maryland will be shared.  We will come away from this day tired and dirty, but also inspired to continue sharing the story of AmeriCorps.

habitat americorps_photo_2

More AmeriLove

Yesterday, Maureen shared several testimonials from Volunteer Maryland Coordinators about what they have gained while serving.  Two of those testimonials are from Kaitlyn Fernald, who is VMC at the Greenwell Foundation, and Casey Lowe, who is VMC at the Accokeek Foundation.  Today, Kaitlyn and Casey have expanded on those statements by sharing what excites them most about what they have been able to give this year.

Kaitlyn writes:

“Without experience in any related professional field, I can say that Volunteer Maryland gave me the tools to be able to confidently walk into my service site and make sustainable changes with the wonderful staff at Greenwell Foundation. Not only does Volunteer Maryland provide expert trainings, they have provided me with ongoing support that fits my personal situation. As my service year continues to unfold, I am seeing changes within my service site, and this is the most rewarding and fulfilling reality I have come to find within my life so far. As I am giving my time within this service year, I am gaining profound amounts of knowledge, experience, fulfillment of giving and finally learning that it is possible to work within a field that you love. Volunteer Maryland makes changes now that resonate in the future. I have been changed by Volunteer Maryland, I am changing my service site, and I will forever be a part of service in some way within my life.  Thank you Volunteer Maryland!”

Casey writes at length about her experience as a VMC here.  She sums up her experience with these thoughts, “Each month when I enter all of the volunteers and their hours into the database and run my volunteer report, I’m so inspired that our volunteers are willing to give so much of their time to this organization. Just this year, in only two months’ time, our volunteers have served over 569 hours in six different program areas.  (Almost) Everyday I come to work, I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to work with volunteers, and though it can be easy to get lost in the mundane of my day-to-day tasks, I’m lucky to be constantly surrounded by people who remind me of the reason I decided to serve through AmeriCorps in the first place.  That is how AmeriCorps works for me.”

AmeriCorps Week: Gaining while Giving

We’re about halfway through AmeriCorps Week!  As Kelly said, AmeriCorps Week is a time for “sharing our stories and explaining what a year of service means to us.”

If you haven’t seen it, check out what some of our Volunteer Maryland Coordinators had to say about how AmeriCorps works for them and their communities; we’ve been posting photos all week on our Facebook page.

At VM, we regularly hear from our alumni about how their AmeriCorps service helped make them who they are today – by igniting a passion for service, providing professional skill development, building a network, and more.  That’s one of the wonderful things about AmeriCorps (and about our AmeriCorps program at Volunteer Maryland); the AmeriCorps members gain so much while they serve.  (And, as AmeriCorps Alums, they continue to have access to great learning opportunities, among other perks!)  Here are some thoughts from our current members about what they are gaining while they give.

I Love AmeriCorps“Through this term of service I have learned a lot about volunteer management best practices and consulting skills.  I have also improved my time management skills by simultaneously coordinating volunteers for multiple different programs and my public speaking skills by developing and running a volunteer orientation.”  Krisia Jones, Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington

“[This experience] has gotten me volunteering at places I wouldn’t have considered before, like the hospital, and I love it!”  Kara Grosse, Maryland Coastal Bays Program

“I’ve seen first-hand what makes a nonprofit successful.”  Rebecca Larew, Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless

“[I’ve gained skills in] professionalism, group projects, networking, communication, time management, and flexibility – and I got to meet some great people!”  Allyson Bloom, MAEOE

“[I’ve gained skills in] volunteer management, recruitment and outreach, general organizational skills, time management, project development and implementation.”  Kristen Wharton, CHEARS

“I enjoy going to work every day and I love the group of people I am lucky enough to work with.  I have learned so much about so many different things – history, agriculture, networking, the community, livestock, and myself.”  Casey Lowe, Accokeek Foundation

“Being a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator has given me the opportunity to practice patience, creativity, awareness, and professionalism within a safe a supportive structure.”  Kat Patterson, Ardmore Enterprises

“[I’ve gained skills in] management, interviewing, time management, recruitment, and networking.”  Trayana Thomas, Mosaic Community Services

“[I’ve gained skills in] public speaking, persuading, collaborating, initiating change, multi-tasking, time management, presenting proposals and ideas with supporting materials.”  Kaitlyn Fernald, Greenwell Foundation

“As a Peer Leader, I’ve learned how to plan and facilitate events.  I’ve learned how to use WordPress, Constant Contact, and Mail Chimp.  I’ve become more confident with the Microsoft Office suite and Chrome.  I’ve built on my workshop training and leadership skills.  I’ve developed as a writer and professional blogger.  I’ve developed skills as a recruiter and I have developed supervisory skills.  I’ve also developed time management skills and learned how to successfully ask for donations.”  Kerry Ose, Peer Leader

Telling the AmeriCorps Story

Lately, I’ve been working at a number of career fairs.  These career fairs are a time for Volunteer Maryland to recruit not only for the coming Class 26, but potentially for classes years from now.  What a career fair means for me as a representative is a chance to reach out to the community, to educate people on a world that AmeriCorps is working towards, and to try and help them figure out a part they can play in that.  And whether their part is to start a charity, volunteer a couple hours a week at the pound, to tell a niece or nephew about our organization, or just go home thinking about how they can improve their little slice of the world, that’s fine by me.

The career fairs aren’t just about asking for jobs or offering jobs – a career fair is a chance to give people whole new ideas of where they might end up, or what they might want to explore.  Any number of the attendees of these fairs have never heard of AmeriCorps and Volunteer Maryland before, making the fairs the perfect place to start educating.  We talk about what Volunteer Maryland exists to do, its history, and their possible place in it.  We explain what AmeriCorps is, all the places it ranges and community needs it addresses.  It might take me several minutes to tell a student everything they need to know.  Hopefully at the very least, I’ve exposed them to the idea of working for a non-profit, or at least inspired them to look into how they can volunteer for something they care about.

All of this talking is for a bigger purpose than just recruiting.  Whether that person I just talked the ear off of decides to apply this year or not, they now have an invitation to learn more about the AmeriCorps world with them.  As that idea incubates, it might just grow into a relationship with us and with the AmeriCorps world.

For me, this fits in neatly with the mission of AmeriCorps Week.  This approaching week is a time for those who have or are taking part in AmeriCorps to educate.  We will be sharing our stories and explaining what a year of service means to us.  My elevator speech will become a multi-layered story- talking about service broadly across the nation as well as my own experience this year with Volunteer Maryland.

All of us here at Volunteer Maryland will be sharing our stories this coming week in the hope of informing and inspiring.  Check in on us every day to hear about our adventures and achievements in AmeriCorps!

Focus on leave-behinds, not take-aways

During AmeriCorps Week, I wrote about the skills I have developed since joining AmeriCorps and, in essence, how those skills are helping me make my dent in the universe (love this statement from Steve Jobs).  This week, I thought I would briefly expand on another skill that was not covered in my previous post.  I neglected to mention another skill AmeriCorps has put at the forefront of my mind – focus on what I can leave behind when my service year concludes, instead of what I can get out of every experience.

In this day and age, everyone is trying to get a piece of the pie, rather than doing the labor to create a pie for someone else.  Over these last two years, AmeriCorps has taught me the value of focusing on what is left once a meeting is over, an event comes and goes, materials are created, one-on-one conversations end, and partnerships are created.  In each of these scenarios, I ask the question, “How can I make the most of this interaction for the other person?”  I don’t mean to be philosophical or complex.  This question applies to all situations; from formal to informal.  For example, on Monday I met with a Destination AmeriCorps Ambassador to discuss her role in promoting the third annual Destination AmeriCorps event, but by the middle of our conversation we were brainstorming ideas for her to better support her AmeriCorps members and career opportunities after her service year ends.  We could have went our separate ways after fifteen minutes of reviewing her Ambassador position, but continuing our meeting, I was able to help her formulate new plans for her and her members.  How do you think this concept is used in the nonprofit sector?  Other fields of community service?

Being with AmeriCorps has kept my mojo for service going because I am encouraged to pay attention to the needs of others on a daily basis.  Wish I could stay with AmeriCorps forever, but I will not forget the service foundation it has forged.  Otherwise, this professional world will become dull soon after July 31 (when the VM24 year ends).

With that being said, I leave you with this recent quote from Bruce Springsteen: “If there’s not a sense of continuity, a sense of some sort of communal obligation and responsibility, a sense of future involved in what you’re doing…you end up being one shallow, greedy [explicit removed], just trying to get all you can get.”

From AmeriCorps to Peace Corps to a Life of Service: How AmeriCorps Worked for Zach Taylor

As part of our celebration of AmeriCorps Week, we’re highlighting how AmeriCorps worked for VM alumni.  This is just one of many success stories!

As the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator with West/Rhode Riverkeeper in Class 20, Zach Thomas strengthened volunteer participation in a variety of projects including Creek Watchers

, water quality monitoring, environmental education, and shoreline clean-up and restoration.  Zach engaged over 230 volunteers in environmental activities that affected 29 tidal sites and 12 non-tidal stream sites, planted 200 native trees, and improved the overall ecology of the watershed.  After his AmeriCorps term of service, Zach spent nearly three years in El Salvador with the Peace Corps building eco-efficient wood-burning stoves, fundraising for computers, teaching English, and starting a Leadership Training Course.  Upon returning to the United States, Zach knew he wanted to continue working in the service field.  With his service background and the skills he developed as an AmeriCorps member and Peace Corps Volunteer, Zach found a great fit as the Manager of Mediation Services for the Center for Conflict Resolution.

A World of Opportunities: How AmeriCorps Worked for Rose Carey

As part of our celebration of AmeriCorps Week, we’re highlighting how AmeriCorps worked for VM alumni.  This is just one of many success stories!

“It’s worthwhile.  Even at my age, I’ve learned so much.”

A lifetime worth of enrichment

Rose Carey, retired from the working for the State after 32 years, was looking for part-time work.  She contacted the Holly Center, a resident facility for the developmentally disabled, for that purpose: finding work.  Their response?  We need help recruiting volunteers.

Thus, Rose began working with the Holly Center and helping with volunteer recruitment.  It wasn’t until three months working with the Center that an opportunity presented itself in the form of an AmeriCorps position as a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator.  Rose spent two years with the Holly Center as a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator.  She was charged with recruiting volunteers for the organization as well as for special events, including the Special Olympics where she recruited over 200 volunteers!   The Center has hosted this event for eight years since its inception during Rose’s service year.

Rose stands next to the banner that displays her photo everywhere we go!

Unexpected Connections

Originally from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Rose spent most of her professional career working as a secretary within State government.  Serving as an AmeriCorps member through Volunteer Maryland provided her with many different and unexpected opportunities.  Rose was now in a position where she was surrounded by people from different backgrounds and age groups.  She was pleasantly surprised to find that as an older adult, she thrived off of the energy and enthusiasm of her younger colleagues.  She was also surprised at the fact that she was able to develop and maintain friendships with those younger colleagues.

Further, living on the Eastern Shore means living with an understanding that the area is somewhat geographically isolated from the rest of Maryland.  Being able to attend Volunteer Maryland trainings and regional meetings provided her with an opportunity to travel within the state and made her more aware of the state of Maryland and its diversity.

A Trained Professional

“I’m glad to have been a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator.  It enriched my life.”  

When the opportunity originally presented itself, Rose did not think that being a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator meant enrolling in an actual program where she would learn the foundation pieces for becoming an effective manager of volunteers.  She attended the Volunteer Maryland trainings, learned about volunteer management, and put what she learned into practice.  While Rose had had some previous work experience dealing with people, she had never actively recruited individuals.  As a secretary, Rose was used to doing things a certain way and following a step by step process.  After working with the Holly Center and Volunteer Maryland, she’s come to realize that everything is not so “by the book.”

“It taught me how to deal with people in the day to day experience.  Every volunteer is different; every volunteer does so for different reasons.”

Addicted to Travel

“I wish, in some ways, that I could have done this when I was younger. It has changed my life.  I feel so fortunate. Without my AmeriCorops experience, I wouldn’t have done so much.”

After retirement, Rose made the decision that she wanted to take some time and travel.  Aside from family vacations to Mexico, she had never been outside of the country.  Thanks to her Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, Rose was able to do just that.  She arranged her first trip through Delaware Technical Community College; it was a trip to Mexico.  She stayed with a Mexican family, learned Spanish, and took tours of the surrounding area.  It was the beginning of a wonderful addiction.  Next, Rose used some of her award to travel to Turkey.  She had the opportunity to visit a mosque during prayer and experienced the culture firsthand.  Still having funds left, she traveled to Scotland to take a course on Administration.  She visited the Post Office and the Embassy.  She also went to Ireland.  The following year she traveled to Vietnam on her own (not using her Award) and took time to tour the country.  She visited three orphanages and participated in several service projects.  Rose recalls that while traveling, she met so many people younger than herself who had no problems finding these opportunities, picking up their lives and just going and adapting as needed.  Rose would have never thought of traveling so extensively had she not been an AmeriCorps member with Volunteer Maryland.  She recognizes that she wouldn’t have had these opportunities or made so many meaningful connections in so many unexpected places without her experience as a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator.

“My study abroad experience opened opportunities for me to meet people and to understand myself and what I want for my future. “

(Thanks to VM23 Regional Coordinator Corrine Handy for interviewing Rose and writing this story!)

Carving Out My Niche: How AmeriCorps Works for Me

It is hard to believe I am more than half way through my second year of service with Volunteer Maryland.  I had no idea what I was getting into when I signed up to be an AmeriCorps member, but without a doubt it has been one of the best decisions I ever made.  While in college, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Egypt.  That experience planted the “law-as-a-career seed” and AmeriCorps has watered it.  I did not know that serving as a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator at the Banneker-Douglass Museum and now as a Volunteer Maryland (VM) Peer Leader would prepare me for a career in the law field, but I believe that it has.  Since joining the VM family, I have improved and discovered skills that will only help me in the long run as an attorney.  It was difficult, but I narrowed down my list to my top three skills:

1.  Clear and effective communication really is key.  I never had a fear of public speaking, but I was not the most comfortable with it either.  AmeriCorps has allowed me to practice speaking to various groups and learn how I need to readjust how I give out and receive verbal information.  There really is no point in me talking if people are not understanding what I am saying.  That also applies to written communication.  In today’s social media and electronic advancing age, it is easy for emails, messages, documents, etc. to be misinterpreted, so I have learned how to be clear and concise; even in my writing, so that my main points are not lost in translation.  Pretty important for when I’ll be preparing briefs and appearing in court.

2.  Time management is a skill, not a natural talent.  Like communication, managing my time has been another area where I have grown.  Since being a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator,  I have learned more about my work ethic, how to balance short and long term projects, and (most importantly) my limits.  I now have a system on how I prioritize to make sure I follow through with any task I am given.  Being a lawyer will require a lot of juggling, so I am glad I have a time management system in place.

3.  The beauty of relationships may not always be easy, but it is necessary.  Establishing a rapport with the VM Support Team, Volunteer Maryland Coordinators, volunteers, clients, and all persons really, is essential for work to get done.  I have learned to work with a variety of communities ranging in age, race, gender, interests, needs, and professions.  I never understood the importance and value of building relationships in the work place until I joined Volunteer Maryland.

I thought I had AmeriCorps all figured out, but I have gained more than I thought I would!  I have gained so many great experiences, and I am eager to expand upon them in law school this fall.  I do not know many jobs that would have enhanced the skills of their employees in this way, which is why I will be forever grateful for Volunteer Maryland and AmeriCorps!

As Promised, I’ve Gone Flat. . .

for #AmeriCorps  Week                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Here is a photo documentary of one day. 

Before I went flat this morning, I drew the stars Joy and I will assemble tomorrow.   Shhhh. ..It’s a surprise!  

  On my way to the office I stopped by the Partners in Care boutique to drop off donations my father-in-law gave me last weekend.  The manager wasn’t there yet so I had to take my own flat picture at the door.                                     


I read my email and then it was time to head toward Charm City.  I had a regional meeting scheduled with the Baltimore Barbarians.  On the way I stopped at Michaels to pick up another roll of gold paper.   Isn’t it sparkly?    Wait until you see the final product!  Before I went in to get the paper, I stayed in the car to listen to one of my favorite new songs Alex @WRNR was playing, Little Talks, by Of Monsters and Men.

I picked Ayana up at Baltimore SquashWise and we met the rest of our gang at our usual meeting place, Charmingtons.      She was recently accepted into the Masters of Social Work program at Howard University.  And, she’s invited a friend to apply to next year’s Volunteer Maryland Coordinator class.  We are a dynamic group and our conversations are exhilarating.  Marie arrived with colorful postcard announcements she made for the upcoming Destination AmeriCorps event.  Michelle has just secured a partnership with Johns Hopkins University to ensure the sustainability of the Story Pals program at the Barclay School.   Abby reported The Read Across America event at St. Francis Neighborhood Center was great fun.  I know the “Book Nook” fort sure looked awesome!  Each of us was busily scribbling notes about resources we weren’t aware of and promising to email information i.e. neighborhood engagement, paired reading strategies, volunteer appreciation, and Boot Up Baltimore, just to name a few.  We also talked about the documentation for the mid year report that is due at the end of the month.  All of us are looking forward to the mid year retreat next week. We bid one another good bye and set off into the beautiful sunshine.  After I dropped Ayana off, I headed back to Pasadena, resisting the urge to take a picture of Flat Barb on the back of the motorcycle riding city police officer next to me on Presidents Street. 

           Remember, when you see me out and about this week, take our picture and post it on the Volunteer Maryland Facebook page.