How to Deal With a Hard Headed Three Year Old

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Have you ever tried to rationalize with a three-year-old?  Apparently, this is something my mother had to do on a regular basis.  According to her, the stubbornness started when I was born, 10 days after my due date! I was born in May, so the Taurus bull in me reared its head often. When I was three years old and trying to learn a backward somersault for gymnastics, my mom tells me I would practice over and over again.  She said I had bruises on the back of my head because the floor in our house was so hard.  She remembers continually asking me to stop and that my answer to her was always, “Just one more”.  After two hours of banging my head on the floor, I had the backward somersault!  You might be thinking: this does not sound like a difficult child.  However,  I also insisted on having my mom watch me.  I wanted to make sure that once I mastered the backward somersault, she would see it.

I slowly learned to use my bull-like powers for good and not evil! We rarely ate fast food, but once in awhile my Pop would cave and take me to McDonald’s.  We were taking a ride through town on our way to get a burger when I saw a woman with two young children sitting on the side of the road holding a sign that said, “Please help, homeless & hungry”.   I remember feeling confused.  I am sure I saw homeless and hungry people before, but for some reason, she stuck out in my head.  She had two girls with her and it made me think – what if those two girls were my sister and I – what if that woman was my mom.  I internalized their situation and I had to do something about it.  I asked Pop if he would buy three extra hamburgers.  He asked me why I needed three more hamburgers if I had just finished eating!  I described what I had seen and pleaded for him to buy the hamburgers for the lady.  Pop did not like to waste money, but he hated disappointing me more – and I knew that!  I got my way, we gave the hamburgers to the family, and every weekend for about five months, we drove around our town handing out anything I could squander from the cupboards in our house.  I think my mom was actually planting extra canned goods and boxed food in order to boost my enthusiasm.

Whether you call it being hard headed, stubborn, or persistent, this Nicki With Oystersattitude has helped me in so many aspects.  As a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator in the Class of VM 24, this resolve helped me to accomplish many difficult or challenging volunteer projects. As a VMC at Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis, I called on my bullish nature to do anything from get trees planted to train Girl Scouts about oyster restoration.  Through the many projects and programs we were able to accomplish many meaningful volunteer experiences.  I am looking forward to being part of so many more!

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Annie Bennett, Friends of Cedar Lane

IMG_1670Anne, or Annie, Bennett grew up in a family that emphasized service to the community. She is proud of the fact that her mother is a social worker, and considers herself lucky to have been raised with a unique perspective on human need and life struggles. This perspective stayed with her as she attended St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She just graduated from this institution in May with her B.A. in psychology and minors in women, gender, and sexuality studies, and dance.

Upon graduating, Annie was eager to become a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator with Friends of Cedar Lane. She was motivated to serve because she wanted, “to be a part of something bigger than herself and aid an organization doing miraculous work.” Annie was specifically inspired to work with Friends of Cedar Lane, because she was able, “to witness from a sick relative how amazing, caring, and generous the elderly care workers were with their clients and their clients’ families.” She expanded upon her reasoning by explaining that, “Cedar Lane is serving a population that does not always get the attention they deserve from the surrounding community and I am so thrilled to be a part of building the volunteer program that will change that.”

Annie is excited about all of the learning she will be doing at her site, and this year, she hopes to gain leadership skills and insight on working closely with elderly populations. With the experience she gains with Volunteer Maryland and Friends of Cedar Lane, Annie also hopes to go back to school for a graduate degree in social work or counseling that will enable her to aid vulnerable populations on a grander scale.

Lorna Scribner, Howard County Conservancy

Originally from Ohio, Lorna Scribner comes to Volunteer Maryland by way of Central America and the Bahamas. After graduating cum laude from Coastal Carolina University, Lorna’s work brought her to the Bimini Biological Field Station Foundation Shark Lab. There, she worked as a volunteer and then as an Assistant Lab Manager, “leading research crews, managing data, selecting and supervising volunteers, honing specialized skills in elasmobranch research and being apart of a tight knit team that ran a world-renowned shark research facility.” Upon leaving the research station, Lorna embarked on her “first backpacking trip through Central America.” In 6 weeks she “traveled through 5 countries, making memories and seeing some of the most amazing sites in the world”.

Lorna returned to the United States determined to find a job that would grow her professional skills and also make a meaningful difference in the community. As the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator at the Howard County Conservancy, Lorna will continue to develop her leadership and management skills while contributing to the environmental and educational mission of her organization. Although this journey was unexpected, Lorna is excited for her year of service!

A Morning at the Maryland Food Bank

Our group at the Maryland Food Bank!

Volunteer Maryland Coordinators are champions of service.  They not only lead community volunteers at their matched organizations, but participate in service themselves!

As a part of their service year, Volunteer Maryland Coordinators dedicate a portion of their time to participating in volunteer projects. This means that they temporarily step away from the coordination role and jump into a volunteer’s shoes for a few hours. This is an excellent opportunity to learn more about the nuances of a volunteer experience while giving back to communities across Maryland.

Last week, I had the pleasure of joining our Peer Leader, Elena, and a group of Volunteer Maryland Coordinators to serve at the Maryland Food Bank, one of our partners this year.  Elena is a third-year AmeriCorps member who supports the work of Volunteer Maryland Coordinators through peer guidance and mentorship.  In addition, Elena plans monthly service projects for the Volunteer Maryland Coordinators, including this particular day of service at the Food Bank.

The Maryland Food Bank was a great choice for our day of service for many reasons.  The mission of this organization is “to lead the movement and nurture the belief that together we can improve the lives of Marylanders by ending hunger.”  A great deal of this mission is accomplished by the service of volunteers.  This year, the Maryland Food Bank is hosting two of our Volunteer Maryland Coordinators.  At the Baltimore branch, Chloe is working hard to recruit volunteers and refine systems of the volunteer program.  In addition, she is helping to establish a new volunteer role called the Community Outreach Volunteer position, in which volunteers assist clients at the Pantry on the Go sites.  Our other Volunteer Maryland Coordinator, Rubab, is working with the Eastern Shore branch, specifically with the Farm to Food Bank program, helping to expand the volunteer pool and streamline volunteer processes.

Our day at the Food Bank’s Baltimore branch started off with an excellent orientation by Chloe. She helped us get acquainted with the history and impact of the volunteer program, as well as what to expect from our experience.  A solid volunteer orientation is an example of one of the meaningful contributions a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator can provide to their matched organization.

Following our excellent orientation, our group headed to the warehouse, where the Salvage Coordinator, Cassie, trained us on how to properly organize and sort donated food and goods.  Fun side note: Cassie is an alumna of the Volunteer Maryland program, and a great example of how engaged AmeriCorps alumni continue to serve in the nonprofit community.  Our group had a fun time sorting and assessing the quality of various food items and household products– items that will go to agencies that are serving thousands of children and families across Maryland.

The spirit of volunteerism is incredibly strong at the Maryland Food Bank, and that was apparent during our experience.  Last year, volunteers contributed more than 33,000 hours of service!  This generous donation of time and service is a testament to the great volunteer program at the Maryland Food Bank.  We look forward to volunteering again in the future and continuing our partnership!

Tales from the Road

As the Program Manager of Volunteer Maryland, I feel so lucky to get to work with an incredible group of individuals.  Our AmeriCorps members, better known as Volunteer Maryland Coordinators (VMCs), work tirelessly to support and refine volunteer programs at nonprofit organizations across Maryland.  With the amazing guidance from their designated supervisor (a.k.a. their Site Supervisor), wonderful things happen in less than a year of partnership.

I get to learn more about these efforts when I visit each of our Volunteer Maryland Coordinators and Site Supervisors each fall/winter.  For the past two and a half months, I have engaged in what we like to call our “site visit season.”  This is a very educational experience in which I travel with a member of our Support Team to meet with each of our 30 partnership sites.  This is one of my favorite parts of my role, as I get a first-hand glimpse of where our AmeriCorps members are serving, as well as gain the opportunity to reflect and learn more about their service.

The knowledge and stories from the site visits have been so insightful and inspiring. Listening to such positive progress is an important reminder of the great things Volunteer Maryland Coordinators are able to accomplish in such a short period of time. I’d like to share with you a few reflections from the site visits that exhibit the impact of our AmeriCorps members.

Volunteer Maryland Coordinators research and implement smart tools that refine the process of volunteer management.

For example, Brinley, VMC at Court Appointed Special Advocates of Washington County, recently instituted a new tracking tool called OurVolts.  OurVolts can be used as an app on a mobile phone, making the process of reporting hours convenient and accessible for volunteers. This process will not only be easy for the volunteers, but help the organization gain an accurate understanding of how many hours their volunteers will serve.  As a result, this data will also be useful for reporting and recognition purposes.

Volunteer Maryland Coordinators understand the importance of recognizing volunteers.

The effort to celebrate the hard work of volunteers has a lasting impact on the quality of the volunteer experience.  An example of such recognition occurs in Baltimore where Montressa develops a regular “Volunteer of the Month” spotlight to recognize outstanding volunteers who serve at the St. Francis Neighborhood Center.  Also, Jessica, the VMC for the Frederick County Department of Aging’s Meals on Wheels program, is developing ongoing recognition events, and will soon be hosting a celebration titled “We Love Our Volunteers” (cleverly tying into Valentine’s Day!).

Volunteer Maryland Coordinators build meaningful connections.

This occurs on a such a significant and multi-faceted level.  Bintou, who serves at Moveable Feast, facilitates orientations for volunteers before they assist with preparation and packaging of nutritious food that will go to individuals who are fighting severe illnesses.  Through her orientation, Bintou connects volunteers with the mission and history of the volunteer program, making the experience so much more effective and rich for all involved.  Over at Education Based Latino Outreach, Johana builds connections with staff through weekly meetings, during which they discuss the progress of volunteers and additional resources to support volunteers.  Through relationship building, the staff can work together more cohesively to best support and supervise volunteers.

While the next piece of information did not necessarily derive from the site visits, it would be a shame to not include it!

Volunteer Maryland Coordinators recruit and manage qualified volunteers as a result of their strategic outreach methods.  I’m proud to share that since October 2014, this group has recruited nearly 900 volunteers and helped manage over 4000 volunteers.  Collectively these 4000+ volunteers have served over 9,000 Marylanders.  Wow!

This is just a snapshot of some of the great work that’s being done by the Volunteer Maryland Coordinators in Class 27, and so much more is yet to come this year!

Reyna and Johana (EBLO)
Reyna (Site Supervisor) and Johana (Volunteer Maryland Coordinator) are a great team at Education Based Latino Outreach.
A group pose during a site visit with Partners In Care. Each person in the photo is or has been an AmeriCorps member with Volunteer Maryland!

Brinley Holmes, CASA of Washington County

A graduate of Gettysburg College, Brinley Holmes has taught English in Vietnam, volunteered while studying abroad in Italy, and served as a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters. Brinley has two older sisters who are AmeriCorps alums, so she has decided that it’s her turn!  To that end, she is serving this year as Volunteer Maryland Coordinator with Court Appointed Special Advocates of Washington County.

Brinley has grown up doing service and volunteering, and it has become a part of her life. Brinley shares, “I have always learned a lot from volunteering. I hope that by taking this time to focus on others, I will always learn more about myself and the professional direction I want my life to take. I am looking to gain confidence in myself with regard to becoming a professional. Brinley believes this service year will prepare her for life as a volunteer and for a future career.

William Drew, Chesapeake Natives

William Drew, a graduate of Belmont Abbey College and proud Eagle Scout, recently completed a year of service as Volunteer Maryland Coordinator at the St. Francis Neighborhood Center, where he led 79 volunteers who assisted with the Power Project, a free afterschool program for 31 students.  During that time, William also became an avid volunteer at Chesapeake Natives, where he will serve as VMC this year.

Of his upcoming service year, William says, “I want to help and learn more about the environment. I also want to put my developed leadership skills to good use. I was motivated by my desire to help people. I also share many similar interests to the people I’ll be working with.”

During the service year, William  says, “I am hoping to further develop my leadership skills. I would also like to gain construction skills” One of William’s long-term goals is to build a tiny house and start a homestead.

Montressa Hammond, St. Francis Neighborhood Center

Montressa Hammond is a graduate student at University of Maryland University College, where she is studying Nonprofit Management.  Montressa previously served as an AmeriCorps member with the House of Ruth, and most recently she has interned with the St. Francis Neighborhood Center.  She and St. Francis Neighborhood Center staff are very happy that Montressa will be able to continue her service there as Volunteer Maryland Coordinator.

While serving SFNC’s 2014 Summer of Service learning project, Montressa became entranced by the youth’s desire to soak up knowledge, and she noticed there was a need for more long-term volunteers. This inspired Montressa to help the organization continue their great work for the community.

This year, Montressa hopes to build professional skills such as public speaking and networking.

Erin Josephitis, City of Greenbelt in partnership with CHEARS

Erin grew up in Lake Bluff, IL, where she says, “I spent as much time as possible playing outdoors in the protected prairies and forests preserves. From a young age, I was curious about nature and fascinated by caterpillars and butterflies. My family always encouraged me to be involved in giving back, so I chose to work outside gardening and restoring the natural state of prairies and forests whenever the chance arose.”

Erin visited Costa Rica, Spain, Greece, and Morocco while she was in high school, and these experiences nurtured her passion for plants and animals, which led her to pursue a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Sustainable Development from Rollins College. While at Rollins, Erin participated in and led volunteer events including shoreline cleanups, gardening projects, and energy efficiency workshops.

Erin sees service as Volunteer Maryland Coordinator with the City of Greenbelt in partnership with CHEARS as “a calling to use my knowledge and skills in environmental studies, background in volunteering, and passion for helping others to make a positive impact on my community.”

During her service year, Erin is looking forward to developing her skills in Spanish, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), plant identification, and leadership. She explains, “It is very important that I inspire others to become environmental stewards so that the service projects and workshops I coordinate will replicate throughout the community even after my term is over. I want to teach others how to care for nature, grow fresh food, and minimize our ecological footprint. Serving as a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator provides the unique chance to be a leader in solving today’s most pressing human and environmental needs.”

Emily Morrow, Seeds 4 Success

Emily recently spent five months abroad in Cape Town, South Africa and of that experience she writes, “The biggest lesson I learned was if you’re nervous or feel uneasy taking on a challenge, you should bite the bullet and do it. While there, I climbed mountains, bungee jumped, spent time living with a family from a local township, traveled to other southern African countries, and took classes in challenging subjects like genocide through colonization in Africa. I went into each of those experiences feeling nervous and unprepared, and I came out the other side feeling wiser and more confident.” Emily says she is approaching her service year the same way, and is ready to take on any challenges. Emily expects gain a wealth of new knowledge and confidence as she serves as Volunteer Maryland Coordinator with Seeds 4 Success.

After graduating from the University of Maryland and spending the summer interning, Emily says,  “I was unsure where to take my next steps into the career world. I was familiar with AmeriCorps and decided to look into it. I stumbled upon Volunteer Maryland, and it seemed like a great transition that would allow me to learn a lot and serve my state. I have aspirations to make a career in nonprofits, and Volunteer Maryland seems like a wonderful place to start.”

While serving with Seeds 4 Success, Emily wants to learn more about nonprofits and hone her planning and organizational skills so she can effectively recruit, train, manage, and support volunteers. Emily’s passion lies in environmental concerns, and she sees a clear connection between environmental causes and the work Seeds 4 Success does to support the education of Annapolis children. In the future, Emily hopes to pursue a graduate a degree and career focused on improving the lives of others.