Skip to content

Camp Make a Difference 2013

August 12, 2013

Camp Make a Difference 2013, a set on Flickr.

With thanks to the campers who made the eighth annual Camp Make a Difference an enormous success, and to the agencies that welcomed them as volunteers: Days End Farm Horse Rescue, Community Action Council of Howard County, Howard County Office on Aging and the Howard County Conservancy.

Unite, Connect, Measure

June 27, 2013

Last week, I had the distinct privilege of attending the Points of Light Foundation’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service, which was held in Washington, DC this year.  The theme of this year’s convention was “Service Unites,” and to bring that theme home, the conferednce united some strange bedfellows.  Donna Brazile and Bill O’Reilly?  Karl Rove and David Plouffe?  Surely those are the hooves of the four horsemen I hear in the distance!

Maureen Eccleston, Becca Larew and I proudly represent AmeriCorps and Volunteer Maryland at NCVS.

Maureen Eccleston, Becca Larew and I proudly represent AmeriCorps and Volunteer Maryland at NCVS.

Aside from bringing partisan celebrities together in the name of service, the conference offered three full days of sessions and workshops all designed to help those of us in the nonprofit sector do what we do better.  And out of these sessions, a few themes emerged:

1.  It’s all about connection.  No one wants to reinvent the wheel.  If a service already exists, there is no use in duplicating it.  But if a service exists, and people who need it are still doing without, then someone needs to ask why. And after asking why, someone needs to connect these valuable resources with the people who need them.  I attended one session in particular hosted by Share our Strength, at which we learned about how Share our strength works with a wide array of community stakeholders to guarantee that children who experience food insecurity have a real opportunity to eat breakfast and lunch at school.

Along with local leaders, Share our Strength has developed a school breakfast program that allows all students to eat breakfast in the classroom during first period.  This means that there is no stigma attached to showing up early to eat at school.  Every student of every socioeconomic stripe dines at the same breakfast buffet.  I can attest to the fact that my daughter loves this arrangement.  Share our Strength did not provide this breakfast, but facilitated a better opportunity for more children to enjoy it. And, as many of us know, kids who have enough to eat are more likely to attend school, do well in school and graduate.

2.  No good deed goes unmeasured. As you may have heard by now, the days of doing public service without being able to prove that we accomplished anything are long gone.  This was evident at NCVS this year, both in the way organizations talk about what they do and in the advice we received during sessions.  As I learned in a session given by Target, the Heart of America Foundation and the Dallas Independent School District, even if Target volunteers come in and give a school library makeover, and leave each child with seven new books, we can’t consider that a success.  In some instances, when Target has gone back to measure impact, they have learned that no one is using the beautiful new library. Or that this new literacy resource is not translating into more students being proficient readers before they enter fourth grade. This means that the school itself, perhaps in partnership with Target and Heart of America, must find the root cause for the disconnect, and address it.

You’re in Luck!

May 6, 2013

Let’s say, hypothetically, that you were not able to attend the Volunteer Center’s Words into Action event during National Volunteer Week.  And let’s say you are really bummed about this because you wanted to learn more about opportunities to volunteer for local organizations, especially those who serve low-income clients.

If you were, again hypothetically, in that particular boat, GOOD NEWS!  The Volunteer Center has a special page on our website where you can one-stop shop for volunteer opportunities with the organizations that participated in Words into Action.

Potential volunteers met representatives from local agencies at Words into Action

Potential volunteers met representatives from local agencies at Words into Action

Even better news?  We are already planning our next Words into Action event.  Watch this space to stay informed!

The Rubber Hits the Road

April 25, 2013

Last night, the Volunteer Center hosted its first Words into Action event, and it was a great success.   The goal of the evening was to help those who have been wanting to volunteer actually take steps toward doing it — and we are already getting feedback that this has happened.

We kicked off the evening with talks given by Bita Dayhoff, President of Community Action Council (CAC), and Joe Willmott, who is a long-time Howard County volunteer who focuses on serving our homeless residents.

Joe Wilmott speaks to participants at Words into Action.

Joe Willmott speaks to participants at Words into Action.

Bita and Joe spoke about the great need we have in Howard County for services for the poor and homeless, and, in particular, how volunteers meet those needs.  Bita noted that the hours volunteers put in at CAC each year are valued at $140,000!

After Bita and Joe spoke, Eight local organizations that serve low-income clients shared information with participants using a speed-dating format.  Attendees met representatives from Making Change, Baltimore CASH Campaign, Salvation Army, Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center, CAC, the Multiservice Center of the Howard County Department of Citizen Services and Neighbor Ride.

It was a privilege and delight to for the Volunteer Center to host this event, and we hope to make these events a regular thing.  Stay tuned!

Volunteer Maryland Coordinator Sharon Baldwin of Baltimore CASH talks to Jeffrey Clark of Making Change.

Volunteer Maryland Coordinator Sharon Baldwin of Baltimore CASH talks to Jeffrey Clark of Making Change.

Deliciousness for a Good Cause

April 17, 2013

Meet Jackie.  She is just your typical, everyday Charity Fundraiser Baker who also happens to be a recipe creator and food photographer.  You know, just a ho-hum kind of person.

I found out about Jackie’s business, La Casa De Sweets, through local blogger HowChow.  Jackie is one of the many bakers throughout the nation who is participating in  Share Our Strength’s  2013 Bake Sale for No Kid Hungry.  If you order one of Jackie’s featured items by April 22, every dollar from your purchase will go toward ending child hunger in America.

On her blog, Jackie explains her passion for baking and fundraising this way:   “I bake and blog to raise money and awareness for special causes like childhood hunger and childhood cancer.  I work with companies and bakers across the country to raise money for child-related causes. Raising money for groups like Share Our Strength and Cookies for Kids Cancer is what keeps me a happy baker and blogger!”

A Valuable Resource

April 9, 2013

I have a pretty sweet gig.  I work for Volunteer Maryland but spend up to 80% of my time at Volunteer Howard.  One of the big payoffs of this arrangement is that I get to share Volunteer Maryland resources with Volunteer Howard, and vise versa.

For example, when Volunteer Maryland Coordinators are looking for reliable, affordable volunteer tracking software, I always encourage them to sign up with Volunteer Howard, which provides an amazing array of free volunteer management online  resources with its partners.

And when Howard County nonprofits, schools and government agencies express a need for professional volunteer coordination, I can direct them learn more about partnering with Volunteer Maryland.


Each year, Volunteer Maryland places AmeriCorps members in nonprofit organizations, schools, and government agencies throughout Maryland to serve as Volunteer Maryland Coordinators, bridging the gap between communities facing critical problems and citizens who want to volunteer to solve those problems. Since 1992, Volunteer Maryland has mobilized nearly 102,000 community volunteers.

The next Volunteer Maryland service year begins in September 2013, and Volunteer Maryland staff are interviewing potential sites now.  Each year, Volunteer Maryland partners with 30 organizations throughout Maryland.


Could your organization benefit from having a full-time trained AmeriCorps member focus on your volunteer program?  If the answer is yes or maybe, here is more information.

Words into Action

April 1, 2013

As the US and local economy slowly recover from the Great Recession, those of us in Howard County can feel pretty far removed from the worst of it.   Recently listed by Forbes Magazine as the fifth richest county in America,  Howard County is widely regarded as the epicenter of the American Dream.  We seem to have it all:  nationally recognized schools, historic towns, beautiful rural areas, and a famous planned community.

As many of us know, however, not everyone in Howard County shares this wealth.  Bits and pieces of data tell the story:  More than 5,000 are on a waiting list for housing vouchers.  On any given day, more than 200 people in Howard County are homeless.  And the number of students receiving free and reduced price meals at school is steadily increasing.

The good news is that there are several agencies in Howard County committed to meeting the needs of those who struggle financially.  And the even better news is that in honor of National Volunteer Week, the Volunteer Center is inviting the public to meet representatives from these agencies and learn about opportunities to volunteer.

Please join us on Wednesday April 24 at 7:00 pm for Words into Action: Spotlight on Poverty to learn about what such organizations as Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center, the Community Action   Council (CAC), the Salvation Army, and Making Change are doing to meet pressing community needs and how you can be part of their work by volunteering.

Bita Dayhoff, President of CAC will kick off the event with a talk about what we can do together to address poverty issues in Howard County.  And after participants have had a chance to hear from each agency, there will be coffee and dessert and a chance to mingle.

Register now!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.