Instagram #Inspiration: Benefits and Tips for Service-Oriented Organizations

Social media has been a driving factor for the marketing departments of many businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies. People are on social media more than ever before. In 2015, 76% of Internet users in the US had at least one social media profile. So naturally, marketers go where the people are. For both non-profit and for-profit businesses, social media is a way to gain more resources. Whether it’s through advertising the next big thing in subscription-based deliverable goods or boosting support for a local fundraiser, social media is crucial for development.

Parks and Rec gif of Tom Haverford saying, "Every day I start by hitting up Facebook, Twitter, tumblr, and Instagram."

So, how can AmeriCorps and other service-oriented programs utilize social media in a savvy way to promote volunteerism and the awesome work they do?

Well, I could speak about the benefits of every social media platform out there, but I won’t. Instead, I’m going to focus on a little Peer Leader Pet Project that Chelsea and I have been working on since way back in September 2015, when we first started at VM: INSTAGRAM! First, I’m going to introduce why VM has an Instagram, and then I’ll follow that with some general tips for success!

Instagram by the numbers: InstaWHOA

Now, I am personally drawn to Instagram, because I’m a creative person and I really like visual interpretations of people’s worlds, but let’s look at some of the numbers: Instagram is the third most-used social media platform, capturing the attention of 28% of Internet users (following Facebook and Pinterest). On June 21st, 2016, Instagram announced that they had hit 500 million users, more than 300 million of which use Instagram daily. In addition to this, Instagram reports that 80% of their users are from outside of the US.

Nina Garcia saying, "This is such an Instagram moment."

Instagram has a huge, global pool of users to connect with, which means organizations have the potential to reach a whole bunch of people–whether they’re potential AmeriCorps members or just want to find a place to volunteer in their hometown–that they would not have reached otherwise.

“Don’t tell me–SHOW me.”

As I mentioned before, Instagram is unique from other social media platforms, because it’s focused on images and videos. This allows for a compelling, creative method of telling your organization’s story. And to VM, storytelling is important. For Chelsea and I, the VM Instagram is a way to show off the cool stuff our Volunteer Maryland Coordinators are doing. We like to focus on the interesting, not-your-everyday-job type of activities (like hanging out with horses that are older than you, see below). This material not only gives our followers a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on during a Volunteer Maryland service year, but it also shows how much fun we have during our service year! Our current AmeriCorps members get to feel proud of what they do, potential AmeriCorps members can see a glimpse into a future with Volunteer Maryland, our partners get more air time, and other organizations can see what we’re up to.

View this post on Instagram

Happy #AmeriFriday from Freedom Hills! VMC Valerie, her volunteer Katherine, horse DeeDee, Program Manager Nicki, and Peer Leader Chelsea enjoyed some time in the #sun today after a successful final #partnership meeting. Thank your for your #service to #veterans and the #disabled Valerie and Katherine! (And DeeDee!!) Fun Fact: Katherine and DeeDee will soon compete together in a Dressage show for their Century Club Award, available to a horse and rider team whose combined age is 100+ #AmeriCorps #ServeWithMe #NationalService #AmeriCorpsPride #AmeriCorpsAlums #VolunteerMaryland #VM #horses #farm #equinetherapy #volunteer #volunteers #Friday #easternshore #PortDeposit #Maryland #MD #vets #rehabilitation #dressage #seniorhorse #DeeDeeis30

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“Follow4Follow?”: Connecting with other programs

Many AmeriCorps programs are currently on Instagram! The Corporation for National and Community Service, Points of Light, AmeriCorps Alums, City Year, the Choice Program at UMBC, and Arizona Conservation Corps are all awesome accounts to follow, because they always have interesting posts and they demonstrate effective Instagram usage. We can also connect with any organization that has a public account, and we can even repost each other’s content. For example, AmeriCorps Alums liked one of our group photos and reposted it on their account to show off some AmeriPride, which also granted VM a bigger platform (see below).


Tips for InstaSuccess:

Follow others, especially organizations that are doing awesome stuff like you!

When we first made the VM Instagram account, we immediately set out to follow all of the organizations that were like us, and then we branched out a bit. So follow all of the accounts linked above, but also check out the  Maryland State Archives and Maryland’s Office of Tourism (incredible use of Instagram by some of our own state agencies), as well as Baltimore City Rec and Parks, Maryland Food Bank, and ALL of the National Parks Instagrams (and there are so many), but especially the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Hashtags. Use them. All of them.

Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake yelling, "Hashtag!" in unison, while creating a hashtag symbol with their fingers.For every picture we post, we use the AmeriCorps hashtags (#AmeriCorps #AmeriCorpsAlums #gettingthingsdone #servewithme, etc.) and we also try to make use of other popular hashtags like #tbt/#throwbackthursday or #wellnesswednesday. Get creative and make your own hashtag for a weekly activity, but don’t forget to…

Post consistently.

Pretty self-explanatory, but but don’t abandon your Instagram for long periods of time and get disappointed that you had no new likes or follows. We generally try to post 1-3 times a week. Nonprofit Tech For Good recommends to post at least weekly and has lots of other good recommendations in this. 

Infographic describing the best and worst times to post on social media.

Mix it up

Instagram allows you to post photos, videos, and (if you have good apps) collages of anything you want, so mix it up in terms of content and layout! Post selfies, landscapes, action shots, some Boomerang videos!


Farming for Hunger

Our guest blogger is Rubab Azeem! Rubab is the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator for the Maryland Food Bank of the Eastern Shore. She works with the Farm to Food Bank Program to recruit and manage volunteers who participate in a process called gleaning, which involves collecting produce that is left in the field after a farm’s harvest.

Normally, rain on the Eastern Shore of Maryland is unpredictable and is something one just has to adapt to. But this spring, it has frustrated many for multiple reasons, mainly farmers who tend to plant around this time of the year. In the past few weeks, continuous rain has prevented farmers from properly planting crops that

Variety of produced gleaned during harvest season.
Variety of produced gleaned during harvest season.

will most likely delay harvest season. The consequences of this delay are unclear, as of now. However, for the Maryland Food Bank’s Farm to Food Bank Program, it’s a major concern as it works closely with farmers to feed the hungry.

The Farm to Food Bank Program

The Farm to Food Bank Program partners with a network of farms across the state to provide hungry Marylanders with fresh, local produce. Through a combination of field gleanings, donations and contract growing, these farms help the Maryland Food Bank supply good, nutritious food to food-insecure communities across the state. Since the program’s inception, in 2010, it has procured close to 5 million pounds of produce to feed the hungry. It is one of the fastest growing programs of the food bank.

Hunger in Maryland

A long line of food insecure individuals patiently waiting on a hot day to get food at a MD Food Bank’s partner agency in Denton
A long line of food insecure individuals patiently waiting on a hot day to get food at a MD Food Bank’s partner agency in Denton

Despite continued efforts, hunger continues to persist in the state. According to the Feeding America’s 2016 Map the Meal Gap Report, more than 750,000 Marylanders do not have enough to eat. It’s estimated that 1 in 8 Marylander is food insecure. These Marylanders needing food assistance are the homeless, seniors, children, and working families. Given today’s stagnate wages and rising cost of living, some individuals working full-time are struggling to put food on the table. Some don’t qualify for federal or state assistance as they earn too much leaving them to rely solely on the food bank and other hunger-relief agencies as they struggle to meet their basic needs.
The Farm to Food Bank Impact

The Farm to Food Bank Program provides locally grown fresh and nutritious produce for the food insecure. It gives the hungry access to fresh produce that otherwise would be too expensive for them to purchase. Last year, the program procured 1 million pounds of various produce to help feed the hungry. This would not have been possible without partner farmers and volunteers who helped glean various produce. However, this year’s delayed crop planting makes feeding the hungry a little more difficult. Usually, the food bank has fresh strawberries for partner agencies to distribute at the end of May. That has not been the case, this season. Apparently, strawberries are very delicate and require constant care. They don’t like too much sun and rain.

In unpredictable times like these, the food bank relies on donated non-perishable food items to feed the hungry. Though these items get the food-insecure through tough times. They don’t necessarily provide the most balanced meal. It is frightening to think what these individuals would resort to if the food bank and other hunger-relief agencies did not exist. What’s more frightening is how unaware the public is about the extent of hunger in this country. Many have a misconception of hunger only existing in Third World countries. While hunger does persist in those countries, it also exists in the developed world. The only difference is that in the developed world, individuals going hungry are very difficult to spot unless they live in extreme poverty. In the United States, there was a significant increase in hunger as a result of the financial and economic crisis of 2008. Since then, many individuals have struggled to provide for their basic needs.

Amazing young volunteers of the Farm to Food Bank Program
Amazing young volunteers of the Farm to Food Bank Program

Food insecurity is a multifaceted problem that requires multifaceted solutions. One of the multifaceted solutions to this problem is the Maryland Food bank with programs like the Farm to Food Bank Program that works toward providing nutritious food for individuals struggling to meet their basic needs.

Three Days of Conferences, Four Highlights to Share, High Fives All Around

gif of clown spinning and changing into wonder woman
Actual before and after of me this past week.

Do you ever come back into the office after a few days at a conference and feel like people won’t recognize you because you’ve learned so much and you feel yourself changing all the time and you’re actually a new person now? That was me last week and again this Monday.

Last week, I managed to attend three days worth of conferences. Two were with Chelsea at the Light City U Social Innovation Conference and one solo day at the Maryland-DC Campus Compact’s Service Learning and Civic Engagement Conference. You may have seen our live-tweet feed on the Volunteer Maryland Twitter! If you didn’t (and even if you did, really), I’m going to be using this blog to highlight and unpack some of the best things I heard. 



The Purpose Economy and Volunteer Programs

Aaron Hurst, CEO of Taproot

Our morning speaker for Light City U’s first day was Aaron Hurst who spoke about the ways in which our economy will shift its focus from information onto finding purpose, what he has dubbed the “Purpose Economy,” and how this shift will influence Baltimore’s economic landscape. To Hurst, purpose is about enhancing relationships, doing something greater than yourself, and personal growth and experience, and people will be looking for that more and more in their lives.

It’s a pretty interesting and exciting idea (and I encourage you to watch the video below and learn more), but how does that translate to our work at Volunteer Maryland? It means that we have to strive to make purpose a focus of volunteering programs. This means that volunteers and potential volunteers want to be able to build relationships with others, they want to hear about the impact that they are making, and they want to know more about how they fit into the mission of the organization they are working for. So start planning those socials, sharing those statistics, and getting your directors involved in the volunteer program, because that’s what people–particularly millennials–want more of.


Thinking Better, Doing Better

Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, III, President of UMBC

As a UMBC alumna, President Hrabowski will always have a special place in my heart as the college president who walked the campus while waving at students, most of whom he knew by name. His presentation at Light City U certainly did not disappoint (especially since I got a picture with him beforehand). President Hrabowski told the story of his own journey to social justice and creating change in his communities, and he inspired us to embrace the struggle and never never never give up.

By the end of his talk, President Hrabowski had the whole of the Columbia Center standing up and chanting, “Thoughts become words, words become actions, actions become habits, habits become character, character becomes destiny.” This mantra is so important, because it means that change comes through the simplest means: thought. All we have to do is be open up our minds and we can change the world.



Skill Sharing, Just Do It!

D. Watkins, author of The Beast Side and professor with the University of Baltimore, in conversation with Lance Lucas, Founder of Digit All Systems

D. Watkins and Lance Lucas had a sort of fishbowl conversation at Light City U, where they discussed skill sharing. Both men have made their way by doing so. D. Watkins as an acclaimed columnist and author is the founder of the BMORE Writers Project, which aims to teach writing to the Baltimore community and thereby empower Baltimore to write its own story. A profile on Lucas and Digit All Systems by Baltimore describes, “a nonprofit group on East Lexington Street that offers computer certification courses, Microsoft certification, programming courses—even a class in Lego Mindstorm robotics.. Digit All Systems is providing a pathway out of poverty for unemployed Baltimoreans, one A+ computer programming certification course at a time.”

Though both of these men have spent much of their time building up industries and programs around skill sharing, they also agreed that skill sharing is simple. All you have to do is have a skill and teach it to someone who wants to learn. For volunteer programs, this might mean creating opportunities for volunteers to do some skill sharing with other volunteers, clients, or staff. When we are able to share our skills, we not only learn more and thereby increase the scope of work we can do, but we also create relationships with people further enabling that purpose-driven economy.


Asset Mapping and Building Foundations Among One Another

Alice Murray, business administration student at George Washington University

At the Maryland-DC Campus Compact’s Service Learning and Civic Engagement conference, I was able to participate in a workshop by Alice Murray, a business administration student at George Washington University, who was also volunteering with Lift, a national organization that is working to break the cycle of poverty. Inspired by her time as a volunteer coordinator with DC Engage, Alice presented a set of best practices for asset-based volunteering, community organizing, and service learning. Although asset-based approaches are nothing new, Alice’s discussion was incredibly enlightening and offered insight into how the theory can be put into practice.

Alice explained that the difference between asset-based and need-based approaches are that need-based approaches focus on filling in gaps, and asset-based approaches are founded in looking at what we already have and building from there.yarn tangle To demonstrate this, she led all of us workshop participants through a session of asset mapping, where we stood in a big circle and would throw a ball of string to people we had connections with. For example, someone might say, “I served as an AmeriCorps VISTA; who else has served as a VISTA?” This person would then hold onto one part of string and throw it to one of the VISTA alums in our circle. Then the VISTA alum would think of another fact about themselves, maybe, “I live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland,” and then throw the string to another person in the circle. The object of the activity is to connect everyone in the room with the string and and thereby create a web among us. Alice also noted that instead of getting overwhelmed by the literal gaps between each of us (needs-based approach), we create a foundation through the things we share (asset-based approach).

For a volunteer program, this means leveraging the assets that we have. For example, a small non-profit might not have a lot of money to do a big volunteer recognition event, but it might have a lot of connections among people with resources that could be used in other creative ways. A community theater might give some free tickets to a dress rehearsal, a local caterer could sponsor and donate some food. The coworker with incredible crafting abilities could create some recognition gifts.

When we employ an asset-based approach to our volunteer programs, we do what  Aaron Hurst, President Hrabowski, D. Watkins, and Lance Lucas, all champion in some way. We are creating an opportunity to share our skills among others, which further entails becoming open with others and possibly changing our thinking. Further, we are creating purpose-driven opportunities for people to grow in their communities.


Diversity 101: Four Steps for Encouraging Diversity in Your Organization

Diversity graphic with lots of different colored human figures

A popular topic these days is diversity. It is one of increasing importance in politics, education, entertainment, science, etc. It’s also a word that is especially relevant to nonprofits as they seek to create opportunities for those in need. Subsequently, it is also a goal that many of our Volunteer Maryland Coordinators strive towards as they build great volunteer programs. Many of our VMCs are working in organizations where diversity is a key value and a guiding principle, and they want to build up a volunteer program that reflects this.

A key thing to recognize about diversity in volunteer programs is that it is a process and not necessarily an end result. In other words, it’s not about reaching a quota, but about ensuring that our volunteer programs encourage people of different racial backgrounds, sexual and gender identities, national origins, abilities, religions, ages, etc. to join your group and make positive impacts. That said, I wanted to share some first steps for encouraging diversity in your volunteer program:

Do your own research and be ready to listen

The first step to creating a space that encourages diversity is to do your research. Know what sort of diversity you want to see in your organization, and see what already works in organizations that are like yours. If you or a colleague knows of a stellar program that has had some great successes in recruiting people of different abilities, for example, look into what they did to create that. This might be as simple as looking at a blogpost another volunteer coordinator wrote, or it might be about reaching out via email or phone and inviting them to a lunch meeting. Sometimes it can also just be about your own journey to become more sensitive to people different from you–this can involve readinglistening to Podcasts, etc. 

Keep in mind with this work that you don’t want to turn into what blogger, Vu Le, calls an, “askhole.” This is someone who always asks others to solve problems rather than taking the next steps to create their own solutions. In striving for diversity, be conscientious about what you’re asking others to do for you. Vu Le references his own experiences as a person of color that is repeatedly asked by his peers to speak in a committee and counsel them on how make their organizations more racially diverse. Although these askers are ready and willing to listen, they’re also not paying attention to the work that has already been done by other organizations, the books and articles that have been written, the models that have been created, etc. So before you start making your asks, know what’s already out there by doing the research.

Build partnerships and create a network

A great way to build up diversity is to create a web of mutual support among communities, groups, businesses, and other organizations. If you want more women to volunteer, consider reaching out to some women-owned businesses in your community. If you want more kids and their families volunteering, consider reaching out to a school nearby (and really playing on the need for students to complete service learning hours for their school AND for clubs they might belong to). Maybe you need more college age kids–well, most colleges have a service learning office. By building partnerships, your are (hopefully) creating a mutually beneficial system.

Keep up your relationship

Honor the relationships you forge as you to create your diverse volunteer program. Whether you’ve partnered with another organization, a colleague, a community, or maybe you’ve recruited a new volunteer, keep up that relationship by crediting their contributions and remaining receptive. For example, if you are specifically interested in recruiting more young women of color as mentors, consider creating leadership trainings (or sending them to some that already exist). In doing so, these mentors will expand their leadership experiences and also feel valued by your organization.  As with any relationship, the ones you make while you try to encourage diversity take some upkeep.

Do it

Coming back around to Vu Le’s article, we often get stuck thinking that we have to start from scratch to find solutions to our diversity problems. We can get so caught up in the problem that we don’t necessarily do the research, build up our partnerships, and keep up with our new (or old) relationships. Once we’re able to create clear and accessible deliverables and design a focused plan for achieving these deliverables, we need to start implementing them. The journey to diversity can’t stop at good intentions! We have to do it!

Some final thoughts: Encouraging diversity is about being proactive, rather than reactive. In other words, go into your diversity strategic planning with lots of your own knowledge, a willingness to adapt, and a diligent attitude. Also, sometimes the work we begin in encouraging diversity does not see tangible growth for a while, but as long as you continue to learn and make your organization a more accepting place for all people, you will be creating positive changes–and that’s really the ultimate goal, right?

More than giving thanks

I’m thankful for the chance to help others.  That’s what I shared this past Thanksgiving holiday when anyone asked me, “What are you thankful for this year?”  Yes, I am thankful for my health and the health of my loved ones, but more importantly I am thankful for the fact that my health affords me the chance and the ability to do well in this world.  So instead of focusing on food and gatherings and football  this Thanksgiving  I chose to spend the first several hours of my morning giving back.  As an ThanksgivingAmeriCorps member I am all too aware of the situations of those less fortunate than myself and I wanted part of my Thanksgiving to be in service to those people.

My roommate and I woke up at 7 am on Thanksgiving morning and went out to join over 120 fellow volunteers, including several other AmeriCorps members, at Moveable Feast. Moveable Feast helps to put healthy food on the tables of people in Maryland with AIDS, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses and when we arrived we found out that our time would be spent helping sort a week’s worth of meals for 200+ clients.  Once the sorting was complete we then worked with volunteers loading meals into cars for delivery and as an added bonus to the morning, my roommate and I were able to make a few deliveries ourselves.  Delivering those meals may have been the most sobering and rewarding part of my service.  There is a bittersweet dichotomy that occurs when you find yourself trying to balance the joy you feel helping someone and the stark realization that there are so many who are in need of that help.hgl

Holidays are a great opportunity to give of your time in service to others, but it’s also important to keep in mind that there are hundreds of other days when people need help just as much.  We here at Volunteer Maryland are all about volunteering.  Not only do our Volunteer Maryland Coordinators recruit volunteers for their respective sites  but they also participate in their own direct-service each week, as do myself and all of our staff.  In fact, by the end of this service term we will collectively log over 4000 hours in service to others. I don’t know about you, but I know that I speak for all of us here at Volunteer Maryland when I say that we hope all of you who read this will consider giving a little of your time to volunteering before, after, and during the holidays.

A Flourishing Garden

I feel that nice summer days are great for a little gardening.  This Thursday, we had the perfect gardening day at the Greenwell Foundation.  Our fabulous Volunteer Maryland Coordinator, Kaitlyn, planned a service project for us to add a little distinction and pizzazz to the park entryway.  Every day during the summer, scores of children come through this entryway to take part in Camp Greenwell, as well as families coming to enjoy swimming and fishing on the river.

With eleven volunteers, we were able to make quick work of laying out a design for the flower beds, planting, watering, and mulching in the morning.  After lunch, we took time to explore the park, walk along the riverfront, and say hi to some of the horses.  As the end of our service year advances (where does the time go?!), this is a chance to step back and see how we have grown in experience.

It’s inspiring to see how much changes in a year – to see all the accomplishments and experiences of the Volunteer Maryland Coordinators.  They’ve really taken ownership of their jobs, and take great pride in the service they’re doing.  And they’re excited to share their passion too – this group is now so chatty and gregarious that we almost had trouble staying on task.

But I have to remember, amidst all this celebration and finality, that our work isn’t done.  This year was exciting, and is coming to a close, but it’s not the end of our  time helping people.  On Thursday, all we needed to do is the simple, joyful task of gardening.  It is quiet, meditative even.  It won’t change the world.  But it is a small change for the future, and a project we will always be able to work on.  Big changes can come from small things, and our Volunteer Maryland Coordinators are doing their part.

National Donut Day

National Donut Day is today and along with dreams of deep-fried dough, it has me thinking of creative service to others.  What got me from donuts to service?  The story behind National Donut Day is that the Salvation Army started this day as a fundraiser during the Great Depression.  They had become known for donuts during World War I when volunteers would provide comfort and care to soldiers at donut and coffee stations.  The National Donut Day tradition has continued ever since, honoring both military veterans and the volunteers who cared for them.

This creative holiday is so popular because it gives people a way to do some good within the everyday routine of their day (or reward themselves with a special treat, as their taste in sweets may be).  One of the best ways to gain support and get people involved is to be creative.  Like at the Dundalk Renaissance Corporation, one of our partners sites, where Jacqueline, the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator, had volunteers pick up trash on a walk from the town center to a nearby restaurant.  Through their efforts, those volunteers picked up enough litter to fill two full pick-up truck, AND they got the reward of fun and food at the end of it!

What these have in common is the organizations being able to identify an important need, and address it in a creative way. It can be a lot of fun coming up with new and creative ways to involve and encourage volunteers. You may even find that your event is so popular in the community that it becomes an annual fundraiser event for your organization! So now as you celebrate the 76th anniversary of this happy holiday with a donut, celebrate service too.

Appreciating Volunteers

Most of my work is behind the scenes, with a focus on the overall structure of a volunteer program.  But National Volunteer Week is the time to focus on not the programs or the clients, but the volunteers.  What amazing work are they doing?  What makes the experience worthwhile to them?

Volunteer Maryland encourages us to build time into our weekly schedule to do community service, and I love the insights that this allows me.  This week I got to experienced all the perks of being a volunteer with the Maryland SPCA during National Volunteer Week.  As one of the wonderful tokens of appreciation, each volunteer received a letter of thanks from Senator Barbara Mikulski.  There was a line in there that just stuck with me:

When Alexis De Tocqueville wrote about America, he said “America is great because she is good.”  He noticed the spirit of of volunteerism, neighbor-helping-neighbor, habits of the heart that bred habits of humanity

When we celebrate volunteers, we should not only be celebrating the wonderful work that they accomplish, but also celebrating how volunteers contribute to building “habits of humanity”.

As we come to conclusion of National Volunteer Week, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the importance of volunteers, and to thank everyone for their hard work. Without volunteers, all our ideas would remain just that – ideas. It’s their passion, enthusiasm, and devotion to sharing their good fortune with others that allows us to make our ideas into reality and bring goodness to the world around us.

America is great, because she is good. Her people are caring, giving individuals. And we should make sure they know just how much we appreciate that.

My National Volunteer Week

Some weeks epitomize the word “eventful” in the best possible way, and National Volunteer Week 2013 has been that kind of week for me.  Here are a few highlights:

On Monday morning, the Volunteer Maryland Support Team celebrated Earth Day by spending the morning doing trail maintenance at Quiet Waters Park.  (Thanks goes to VM24 alum Nicki Fiocco for hooking us up!).  We worked on ridding the wooded area near the trail of rose and grapevines that threatened to kill the trees.  It was a wonderful change of pace and a great team-building experience.  A highlight was learning that grapevine sap turns into an awesomely icky, gelatinous goo if it is exposed to the elements.

On Tuesday morning, it was my great privilege to accompany our director, Maureen Eccleston, on a visit to a potential Volunteer Maryland partner site, Charm City Clinic.  Executive Director Andrew Gladdis is doing extraordinary work in East Baltimore by working in close partnership with other community organizations to improve the health of local residents.  Charm City Clinic relies on a corps of dedicated, passionate and skilled volunteers who manage cases and provide healthcare.  It was exciting to imagine how a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator might be able to help this agency achieve its mission.

Charm City Clinic
Charm City Clinic

That evening, I celebrated World Book Day by attending HoCoPoLitSo’s Blackbird Poetry Festival, which is planned and staffed each year by an impressive group of volunteers.  This year, Rachel Eliza Griffiths and Rives shared their amazing poetry with a greatly appreciative audience at Howard Community College.

Baltimore CASH Campaign VMC Sharon Baldwin attends Volunteer Howard's National Volunteer Week celebration.
Baltimore CASH Campaign VMC Sharon Baldwin attends Volunteer Howard’s National Volunteer Week celebration.

And Wednesday night, the Volunteer Center Serving Howard County celebrated National Volunteer Week by welcoming eight local organizations to join us for “Words into Action: Spotlight on Poverty,” where they shared volunteer opportunities with Howard County residents.   The focus of the event was serving low-income clients, and several individuals signed up to volunteer at organizations such as the Howard County Food Bank and the Salvation Army.

That was my National Volunteer Week.  What were some of the highlights of yours?

Before and After

One of the great joys of completing a service project is looking at before and after pictures.  On Wednesday, four of us from Volunteer Maryland served at Armdore Enterprises by cleaning out the garages of some of the individuals who receive services from Ardmore.  Established in 1963, Ardmore Enterprises supports over 200 adults with developmental disabilities in the metropolitan Washington area.  One of the many services Ardmore provides is residential services.  Kat Patterson, who is the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator at Ardmore, has been working with Krista Gronlund, who is the Director of the Facilities and Maintenance Department, to design various maintenance projects for volunteers to complete in homes that are managed by Ardmore.

The first of many such projects,  our garage clean out on Wednesday was a big success.  Krista, Kat, Kelly, Rebecca and I, along with an amazing young man who just stopped by to see if we needed help, cleared out the first garage in under 15 minutes!  While the second garage took a bit longer, we were still able to get the seemingly unpleasant job of carrying all manner of household items to the curb for bulk trash pick up done quickly and with pleasure.  And really, the pics tell the whole story.