Volunteer Maryland’s new class of AmeriCorps members recently completed two weeks of Pre-Service Training. These sessions orient the current class of Volunteer Maryland Coordinators to service, program development, communication, and leadership skills. Volunteer Maryland Coordinators examine and experience best practices of volunteer management. Experiential practice prepares members to apply the principles at their respective Service Sites. Incorporated into the training session is a service project. Participation in this project provides the Volunteer Maryland Coordinators with an opportunity to learn about a specific community need, experience volunteer orientation and training themselves, and demonstrate what was learned. This year we volunteered at Moveable Feast. Here, each day, 1,100 nutritious meals are prepared and delivered to homebound members of our community suffering from HIV/AIDS and breast cancer. Last year, over 11,000 volunteers served more than 50,000 hours. Here is how Moveable Feast makes it happen:
~a solid understanding of the community need and agency mission
~a handful of humility
~knowledge of staff/volunteer investment, policies and documentation
~heaping helping of flexibility
~effective recruitment, orientation/training, and recognition
~healthy sprinkling humor
1) Have Volunteer Coordinator, Tom Patrick, share his passion and that of Moveable Feast with you. He began “helping out” over 20 years ago and continues to carry the mission of volunteer work at Moveable Feast forward.
2) Choose from several areas in which to commit your time. Our volunteers were divided between the kitchen, garden and office. However, it rained. . .and then it poured. No worries, Tom was quite masterful at finding alternative tasks crucial to the program. Because Moveable Feast’s volunteer procedures and position descriptions are clear and well-defined, the garden group easily took on other responsibilities including, follow-up phone calls and writing Thank You letters to volunteers.
3) Tom was adept at weaving our service that day into the rich tapestry of Moveable Feast history. We also received training in required procedures, were invited (recruited) to return for upcoming events and, walked out feeling like we had made a real difference.
4) If you’re interested in “tasting” Moveable Feast’s recipe for volunteering first hand, contact Tom and add yourself; groups are welcome!
At the conclusion of our Service Day, the Volunteer Maryland Peer Leaders, Joy and I, facilitated small group discussions with the Volunteer Maryland Coordinators reflecting on what we had learned at Moveable Feast. The reflections acknowledged the importance of including flexibility, humor and structure in a successful volunteer program. Each group prepared a demonstration that symbolized their experience. The demonstrations included group spoken word, ingredients to build a volunteer cupcake (Did you wonder where I got the idea for this post?) and a family convincing reluctant teenagers to get involved in service. This opportunity gave the Volunteer Maryland Coordinators personal practice in a successful volunteer experience. Now, they are putting this process into practice as they recruit and manage volunteer programs at their Service Sites.