Reflections, food, and fun!

Back in December I wrote a post in which I mentioned Ok Go’s perpetual motion machine video that complements their song, “This Too Shall Pass.” As I reflect back on my service year, that video comes to mind (just ignore the lyrics) again. I felt like I was in constant motion, some times things got really messy, and I had a blast!

I was directly involved in more than 20 nonprofits serving citizens across the state of Maryland. Some organizations, like St. Francis Neighborhood Center, I had become familiar with last year as a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator. This year I developed a deeper understanding of SFNC’s mission and the amazing impact they have on the Reservoir Hill Community. I will never forget the delight on the children’s faces when they arrived on Read Across America Day. Others, like Baltimore SquashWise, I was introduced to for the first time. Words fail me in describing the warm welcome I received from the SquashWise volunteer family at the Meadow Mill Athletic Center squash rally this spring. I wish I lived close enough to be regularly involved in this wonderful organization.

I also had the opportunity to develop relationships with AmeriCorps members serving in programs other than Volunteer Maryland. I met Dara from Public Allies, Cory from PALS, Shane from Campus Compact, and Cora from Experience Corps, just to name a few. It made my day when I attended Maryland Association of Nonprofits Organization events and walked into a room full of friends!

Did I mention how much fun I have had? Just yesterday I looked like a Blue Man Group wannabe after putting grout on a mural with Project PLASE. It was an incredible cooperative effort that engaged clients, community members, staff, and volunteers. Last fall during a tree planting day at Anacostia Watershed Society I met an amazing group of corporate volunteers from a local engineering firm. They even offered to feed me!

Speaking of eating, food was a memorable part of my service year. Both exchanging recipes and discovering great places to eat. I made the Stinking Rose recipe Sumiko gave me for staff meeting this week. I’m still trying to get up enough nerve to attempt Liz’s chocolate cake. Joy introduced me to Lemongrass, a great place to warm up on a cold February day. And, thanks to Patrice, I discovered Nando’s Peri Peri. The Butternut Squash and Couscous salad is delish. If you are in the Bolton Hill neighborhood, be sure to stop in On The Hill. The sandwiches and salads are excellent. I am looking for an excuse to go back and get a burger. . .hope Laura can join me!

Last, but not least, Volunteer Maryland. I loved working with Maureen, Laura, Patrice, Kim, and Joy. If you are considering serving with AmeriCorps, become a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator. It’s fun, you’ll learn a lot, and you might even get lunch!

Where in the World (Maryland) is Volunteer Maryland Class 24?

Well, let’s start with where they came from. Some members of Volunteer Maryland Class 24 celebrated their college graduation last spring. Others are seasoned professionals. And, a few packed up and moved from other parts of the country to spend the next year strengthening communities and enhancing volunteer programs here in the Maryland. Lunchtime conversations during pre-service training were pretty humorous to someone who has lived here forever. “Fall is the best time of year in Maryland.” Ha! I think I was starting to get moldy by the time October finally arrived, not to mention how great my hair looked with all the humidity. “You won’t need a winter coat, it doesn’t get that cold.” Not cold enough for a coat? I didn’t confide my favorite winter pastime is cross country skiing through the woods in central Anne Arundel County. Besides, the Volunteer Maryland Coordinators are going to be too busy to notice whether it is 80 or 20 degrees, both of which are entirely possible. By the time you read this, they will have been at their service sites just two weeks. So, let’s take a look at some of the places in our communities they are serving.
Joy and I each have a section of the class for which we are the Peer Leader. I fondly refer to the group I am assigned as “my peeps.” “My Peeps” stretch across the state, from Baltimore to St. Mary’s County. While the missions of their Service Sites vary, each one is placed at a school, community nonprofit, or government agency, with the purpose of providing effective volunteer programming.
Several Volunteer Maryland Coordinators are at educational sites in Baltimore City: Digital Harbor High School, Barclay School, St. Francis Neighborhood Center,

and Baltimore SquashWise. Marie, Michelle, Abby and Ayana are recruiting and managing volunteers for programs focused on tutoring, youth and community development, and enrichment. In Southern Maryland, Volunteer Maryland partnered with the Greenwell Foundation

to provide accessible and inclusive experiences for residents with and without disabilities in the southern counties; think Therapeutic Horsemanship and kayaking, I am sure Jackson needs you!
 In the DC metropolitan area, Heather is working on river restoration with the Anacostia Watershed Society. Captain John Smith wrote in his journal that the area was a paradise of pleasant springs in the early 1600s. I wonder what he would say today. Brandon is starting an urban agriculture program through Suitland Family and Life Development Corporation at the Drew Freeman Middle School. What a great way for the students there to learn where food comes from. At Volunteers of America Chesapeake, Lynelle is enlisting volunteers to serve as life skills tutors, teach resume writing, interviewing, and other tasks to inspire self-reliance and hope. Our Volunteer Maryland Coordinator at Asian American LEAD, Sumiko, is coordinating area college student volunteers to provide youth development and educational enrichment for low-income Asian American children. At Community Support Services, Katie is implementing a new peer mentoring program. They have a Fine Arts Program coming up on October 30, 2011 if you’d like to learn more about how they create community for developmentally disabled and autistic individuals.
Karen, with the Department of Parks Cultural Resources Stewardship Section, is making history come alive! She is working to get interpretive guides at Oakley Cabin, the Underground Railroad Experience Trail       and the Josiah Henson Special Park in Montgomery County. Celebrate Maryland Emancipation Day with her. At the Housing Initiative Partnership, Carlos is working with the Foreclosure Prevention program. They need volunteers to serve as homebuyer educators and pre-purchase counselors. If you are a detail oriented person, this might be for you. Zarqa is looking for instructors for computer classes, GED preparation and ESL tutoring at the Tony Davis Family Resource Center at Seneca Ridge. Their program assists low-income residents pursuing self-sufficiency. Over at Stepping Stones Shelter, Liz manages a program to transition homeless families from crisis to stability in an atmosphere of dignity and respect. She is recruiting volunteers to help with childcare, meal preparation and program facilitation.
Click on the link to a site near you to get engaged in your community. When the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator asks how you learned about the program, tell them I sent you!