Always Learning!

How time flies!  It’s December and we’re as busy as ever.  Tomorrow we rejoin all the members of VM24 for our second In-Service Training.  I’m so excited that we’ll be joined by Mickey Gomez, Executive Director of the Volunteer Center Serving Howard County.  Mickey is going to talk with us about technology trends in the nonprofit sector, an area where she excels and we can all learn more.

One of my favorite parts of the service year is working with guest trainers like Mickey.  See, no matter how long one works in this field, there’s always something new to learn.  Working with guest trainers is one way we can keep improving our knowledge.  So much about being an AmeriCorps member – and staffing an AmeriCorps program – is about learning.  We have to continually learn in order to provide the best possible services to our communities.

Over the last couple of years we’ve had guest trainers from Business Volunteers Unlimited’s Volunteer Central, Community Mediation Maryland, Purple Cat PR, the Baltimore Sun, and so much more.  Every time is an opportunity to better support our Volunteer Maryland Coordinators and their sites which, in turn, helps create stronger volunteer programs and meet community needs.

This year, we’ve added a new component to our training program – more training for Service Site staff.  We already have three days throughout the service year where the supervisors join the VMCs for training days.  Now we’re implementing a series of webinars for site staff, in an effort to further institutionalize the best practices of volunteer management.

VM24 Joint Training Day in September 2011

We’re working toward sustainable programs and we believe that quality training is one key to meeting that goal.  So, we’ll head into tomorrow looking to learn as much as we can.  Next week, we’ll have our second training webinar.  And we’ll keep on going and keep on learning and keep on improving.

We know we have a strong program, great partners in our Service Sites, and an incredible amount of knowledge, energy, and passion in our Volunteer Maryland Coordinators.  Training helps pull all of that together.  So thanks, in advance, to Mickey for spending time with us tomorrow.  I’m looking forward to learning from you!

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Camp Make a Difference

I have been hearing about Camp Make a Difference all year so when I had the opportunity to go and volunteer with the campers, I went.

Camp Make a Difference is offered through the Columbia Association in partnership with The Volunteer Center Serving Howard County. This summer season the camp is running  for three one week sessions. However, in the past it has run for four weeks.

The campers enjoy all the comforts of a typical summer camp by doing fun recreational activities and cooling off from the summer sun in the swimming pool. However, what’s humbling is that the youth of Camp Make a Difference have chosen to also dedicate a considerable portion of their time volunteering with local agencies and learning about the importance of community and giving back.

Last Thursday I met the campers at the Ellicott City Senior Center. It was bingo day at the center and the room was packed. The campers spread out throughout the room and sat next to the seniors. Some of the seniors had hearing problems, sight problems, or mild dementia so the campers helped their senior if they needed any assistance.

I had a good laugh sitting next to my senior. She must have heard John Denver’s “Country Road” on the bus ride over to the center because she kept singing “mountain mama take me home”. She sang for a good 15 minutes before the bingo game began and that’s no exaggeration! I surprised her and pulled out my iPod shuffle and turned it to “Country Roads” and she got a kick out of hearing the song and singing along.

It was really interesting to watch the campers interact with the seniors. Some of the campers, you could tell, were just incredibly comfortable interacting with seniors while others were a little more nervous. Either way they all brought a lot of joy and a change of pace to the seniors who are most likely accustomed to routine.

I asked one of the campers seated at my table why she chose to enroll in Camp Make a Difference and she replied saying that she wanted to make her contribution and get more involved in volunteerism.

Hats off to all of the campers of Camp Make a Difference because they are undoubtedly doing just that.