Kaity Breidenbach, Habitat for Humanity of Wicomico County

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Kaity remembers the exact moment when she new the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator position was her for, explaining, “When Molly Hilligoss, the Executive Director with Habitat For Humanity of Wicomico County, told me there was an AmeriCorps position that involved recruiting volunteers, I knew I should apply.”

She further explains that when she interviewed, “Molly gave me a brief overview of Wicomico Habitat. She was very passionate about the organization and so knowledgeable.  I could immediately tell this would be a great opportunity.”

Habitat for Humanity of Wicomico County, Inc. is an ecumenical Christian housing ministry that builds and then sells homes to low-income families who would never otherwise be able to achieve the dream of home ownership. Kaity will recruit volunteers who will help with construction of Habitat houses.  

In terms of professional development, Kaity is clear about her goals for the year, saying, “While doing this service year with Habitat For Humanity of Wicomico County, I hope to improve my time management skills. I also look forward to revamping my computer/Microsoft/web skills.”

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Adeyinka Taiwo, Montgomery County Community Action Agency

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When asked about her motivation for serving, Yinka immediately mentions a cause very close to her heart — Sickle Cell Disease. Yinka’s personal experience with this illness has motivated her to serve others who experience a range of challenges. As Volunteer Maryland Coordinator with Montgomery County Community Action Agency, she will have that opportunity.

The Montgomery County Community Action Agency, a recent recipient of the prestigious Governor’s Service Award, coordinates local, State, federal and private resources to help low-income individuals and families. Yinka will work with CAA programs and partners, including the VITA program and Maryland Hunger Solutions.

As a UMBC grad and UMUC student, Yinka is passionate about continuing to learn. During her year with Volunteer Maryland, she explains, “I want to develop skills recruiting volunteers and running successful programs. I need volunteers who understand the issue and believe in the program.”

 

Maggie Straub, Crossroads Community, Inc.

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Maggie, a recent Virginia Military Institute grad, remembers when she fell in love with service, saying, “My interest in service started when I volunteered as a 4-H camp counselor throughout my high school years. I loved working with the kids. Serving as a counselor sparked my interest in the 4-H association as a whole, and I joined a club called Teens In Action, which revolved around volunteer service. Through my participation as a volunteer counselor and in this club, I gave over 1,000 hours of service throughout my high school years.”

With this background, Maggie was immediately drawn to Volunteer Maryland. “The second I heard about Volunteer Maryland,” she explains, “I knew this was something I wanted to do. Coming out of college I wasn’t sure of my path or how to get my foot in the world of service and nonprofits, but I saw that Volunteer Maryland would give me the chance to learn while applying my new knowledge in real time throughout the year.”

“The biggest thing I want to gain from this year of service is how to manage volunteers who have different personalities and backgrounds while believing in the mission of Crossroads Community,” a nonprofit that empower individuals with behavioral health needs to live satisfying and productive lives. “I really want to take this learning experience and apply it to my next step in life, hopefully in the nonprofit sector.”

Kady Fulwood, Cornerstone Montgomery

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Kady, who has a bachelor’s degree from George Washington University and a master’s degree in Management specializing in Human Resources Management from UMUC, is a native Washingtonian from military family. About herself she shares, “I have had a longstanding love for scientific innovations. This was nurtured in me by my mother and grandfather, both of which were huge Star Trek fans. To this day, I have watched all of the episodes of the original run of Star Trek and most, if not all, of the episodes of the 4 spin-offs from the original show.”

Kady will be serving as Volunteer Maryland Coordinator with Cornerstone Montgomery, a nonprofit that empowers people living with mental health and co-occurring substance use disorders to live, work, and integrate successfully within the community. About her service, Kady explains, “I want to be a factor in more people understanding that mental illness has nothing to do with the worth or value of a person. My goal for this service year is to help destigmatize mental illness by showing the greater community that mental illness, like any other illness, is something that can be managed and should not lead to isolation of those who deal with it.”

Along the way, Kady says, “I would like to strengthen my social media marketing skills, my technical writing skills and my ability to strengthen a program throughout every point in the program life cycle.”

Annette Ritchie, Neighborhood Design Center

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A recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University with a degree in Materials Science and Biomedical Engineering, Annette aspires to become an urban planner. Along with this aspiration comes the belief that, as Annette puts it, “the purpose of my life is simply to improve the lives of others.”

She goes on to say, “I am confident that the structure and mission of Volunteer Maryland will allow me to make meaningful change through my service year.” Annette will be able to pair her interest in urban planning with her love of service as Volunteer Maryland Coordinator with Neighborhood Design Center (NDC) in Baltimore. NDC’s mission is to mobilize pro-bono design services in support of community-sponsored initiatives to improve local neighborhood livability and viability.

“Working with the Neighborhood Design Center is a dream come true,” Annette shares, “As an aspiring urban planner, this opportunity represents a chance to gain specialized experience, develop a network of contacts, and learn about the nonprofit side of urban development. Beyond these personal benefits and other technical skills that I will gain, I cannot imagine a more satisfying way to effect change during my AmeriCorps year.”

Samelia Pyuzza, Seeds 4 Success

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Sam holds a PhD in Physiology and Biophysics from Howard University, and she has always loved science. She observes, “My doctoral training was very long and arduous and I always felt that, while I have skills that serve me well in a laboratory environment, I also have a great number of skills that were not supported or developed. I began to realize that I wanted to have a greater feeling of satisfaction and meaning in my career.”

Sam learned about Volunteer Maryland when she met VM28 Peer Leaders Chelsea and Amelia at a career fair. “They really sold me on the experience. I submitted my application and haven’t looked back since.” 

“Given my background, my long term goals are to participate in research and programming that support equity in both health and education,” Sam explains. Because of this, she chose to serve as Volunteer Maryland Coordinator with Seeds 4 Success, a nonprofit that guides children living in Annapolis public and subsidized housing so they become healthy, successful adults.

About her goals for the year, Sam shares, “I’m looking forward to gaining more experience in management and coordination. I hope to improve my indirect and direct communication skills, and I hope to meet all of my organization’s goals for me, assisting them in building a sustainable program that is successful for many years to come.”

Julie Lasheski, Hospice Caring

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After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Electronic Media and Film and Mass Communications at Towson University, Julie looked for an opportunity, as she says, “to use my skills and knowledge to directly benefit the community around me in a way that I can actually see, not just through a computer screen or by a number on a piece of paper.”

This desire drew Julie to the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator position at Hospice Caring, a nonprofit that provides caring, compassionate, practical and high-quality, non-medical support services, without charge, to Montgomery County adults and children facing a life-threatening illness or grieving the death of a loved one.  About her service with Hospice Caring, Julie says, “I am a VMC in order to recruit passionate volunteers who will directly impact and change another person’s life for the better.”

Julie shares that as she serves, “I aim to gain successful recruitment, leadership and interpersonal skills, which are imperative for a job in any field that I wish to eventually progress into.” Most importantly, Julie explains, “I know that I will come out of this experience as a stronger individual. These skills and experiences I will gain from being an AmeriCorps member are extremely valuable to me as a person outside of a work environment, as well. I want to inspire my friends and family to pursue a similar field or even volunteer themselves. I want to grow and become a more compassionate and caring individual toward the people I interact with and the greater community around me.”

Ousmane Moussa Oumarou, Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County

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A former Peace Corps language trainer and cultural awareness adviser, Ousmane is excited about a second year of service as Volunteer Maryland Coordinator with Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County. His personal motto is “To help others while expecting nothing in return is to help yourself,” and this year he hopes to live this out throughout continued recruitment of and support for volunteer mediators.

When he embarked on his first year of service last year, Ousmane observed,  “The goal of my professional life so far has been building bridges between people. Through my AmeriCorps service, I hope to use my skills in training, volunteer recruitment and management, and community mobilization to support projects that bring help and hope to people in need.”

This year, Ousmane cites his ability to maintain a good sense of humor and fluency in four languages as skills he brings to his service. At the same time, Ousmane hopes to develop additional skills and a professional network that will allow him to continue working in the nonprofit or government sector.

Heather Veale, Howard County Conservancy

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Howard County Conservancy Volunteer Maryland Coordinator Heather Veale recently graduated from Towson University with a double major in Deaf Studies and English. Heather describes herself as “passionate about social justice, civic engagement, and leadership development, processes that I feel are always developing and shaping my generation.”

Heather’s commitment to these ideals, along with her passion for environmental stewardship, drew her to Howard County Conservancy. She explains, “I am so excited for this opportunity to connect with others, experience the beauty of the natural world, and feel like I am making a positive difference in the lives of those around me. The natural world is so quickly disappearing around us, and I think dedicating time to educating society, preserving the legacy of land, and modeling environmental stewardship is incredibly needed.”

After her year of service, Heather plans to attend graduate school, focusing on higher education student affairs. In the meantime, Heather says, “I am hoping to gain skills in recruitment, management, and retention, as well as learning about program health. These are transferable skills, I believe, that can apply to any long-term goal for my future.”

Milena Benitez, Maryland CASH Campaign

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Milena, a recent graduate of Loyola University Maryland, lists her parents among her greatest role models. “They came to this country in 1990 with absolutely nothing and have been able to make a life for themselves and their family. They really are my heroes.”

About her decision to serve with Volunteer Maryland and Maryland CASH Campaign, Milena shares, “Loyola and my parents are two of the biggest reasons why I am doing a term of service. As a Jesuit university, Loyola instilled in its students the importance of giving back. Also, my parents always remind me of the importance of service and giving back to those who are less fortunate. They were able to come out ahead because of the selflessness of other people who were there to help them. I knew that I wanted to do some type of service, so I began looking at different service programs. The Peace Corps and AmeriCorps were the two main programs I looked at during my last year at Loyola. Once I found the Maryland CASH Campaign listing I knew it would be an unmatched chance to serve as well as gain unique skills and connections.”

When Milena talks about gaining skills and connections, she has a lot in mind. “There are so many things I hope to gain from this year of service,” Milena explains. “Recruitment of volunteers is one of the biggest skills I look to gain from this experience. Another skill is building partnerships and networking. A long-term goal of mine is to someday be doing some legislative work, and I think this experience will help me in creating connections that may help me make this dream a reality in the future.”