Monday, April 20, 2009

Happy National Volunteer Week!

National Volunteer Week is our time to say thank you to all of the incredible people in our community who volunteer

Maybe you are motivated by an issue: animal welfare, education, health, children, the environment, aging, arts and culture, or others.

Perhaps you have a specific skill or talent that you like to share: building, public relations, web 2.0, accounting, playing games, drawing or painting, writing, making videos, listening, reading, research, or fundraising (just to name a few).

Thank you for taking the time to find or to create a volunteer opportunity, based on addressing a specific social issue or based upon your skills or interests.

Thank you for becoming a volunteer and supporting local nonprofit and governmental agencies.

Thank you for stepping up to play an active role in our community.

Thank you for being a force for positive social change.

Thank you for all that you do to make a difference in Howard County, throughout our region and around the world.

And if you aren't volunteering yet, there are plenty of ways for you to get involved. You can check the key word search or calendar on the volunteer center's website ( or register with the Volunteer Center Serving Howard County today to find volunteer opportunities related to your skills and interests! You'll be glad that you did.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Supporting Local Agencies During Challenging Times

A kind community member sent me a link to the following New York Times article earlier today:

From Ranks of Jobless, a Flood of Volunteers

It's an interesting article, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

Basically, it's telling us something that we already know: recently we're seeing a significant increase in the number of people seeking volunteer opportunities.

Some were inspired by President Obama, some can no longer afford to donate money and have chosen to donate time, others have lost their jobs and want to gain new skills (or hone existing skills) while they give something back to the community.

So that's great news, right? On the surface, yes, it is (hey, I'm always in favor of more people volunteering).

But at the same time, many nonprofits have lost at least some of their funding while being asked to address the increased community issues that go hand-in-hand with an economic downturn. This means that they have less funding available to pay Volunteer Managers, or that some Volunteer Managers are being asked to take on other positions within nonprofits. Some part-time Volunteer Managers are being given fewer hours, and some were volunteers to start with.

At a time when more people than ever are interested in volunteering, the nonprofits that need them the most aren't in a position to manage them effectively. More and more volunteers are being turned away by overwhelmed nonprofits focused exclusively on meeting their core mission, and who can blame them? It's a common response to stress - shut down all superfluous actions in order to focus on that which is most important.

Believe me when I say that managing volunteers can be hard (yet rewarding) work - the best Volunteer Managers are able to offer experiences that benefit both the volunteer and the agency. It takes planning, and understanding what the volunteer wants to gain from the experience. It takes trust that, in putting the time and effort into making an opportunity happen, the volunteer will show up. It takes time to manage and supervise volunteers, and to be available when they have a question or need a hand.

Don't get me wrong - local agencies greatly value the insights, enthusiasm, and dedication of their volunteers. I am just trying to explain that quality volunteer opportunities typically don't happen by themselves.

Some questions for you to consider:
  • How can we help our local nonprofit and governmental agencies during these challenging times?
  • How can we keep them from feeling overwhelmed?
  • How can we offer them volunteer support without inadvertently creating even more work for them?
I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas - please leave a comment below or feel free to e-mail me. I don't know the answer to all of these questions, but I do know that we have a wonderfully smart and creative community.

Thanks, as always, for all that you do to make a difference in Howard County!

Register with the Volunteer Center Serving Howard County today to find volunteer opportunities related to your skills and interests!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Finding and Thanking Local Volunteers

Think about the people you know. It could be someone you work with, someone in your school or faith-community, or someone in your neighborhood. It could be a friend or a person in your family. It could be someone from a community or social group.

Maybe you've always thought of them as the person who is always helping other people. You know the one - always volunteering or doing a fundraiser or talking about a particular community issue. Sometimes they do all three at the same time. Maybe they've tried to get YOU to volunteer before, or asked you to sign a petition or attend a rally or car wash or walk for a cause.

Well, now is the time to recognize that person's efforts. Take a moment to nominate them for the Governor's 26th Annual Volunteer Service Awards. Categories include:
  • Youth
  • Individual
  • Senior
  • Faith-Based
  • Lifetime Achievement
  • National Service
  • State Government
  • Public Safety and Emergency Response
  • Youth Group
  • Group
  • Senior Group
  • Business Group
Help us find and thank outstanding local volunteers. Help us learn and share their stories to inspire others.

Please nominate outstanding volunteers for the
Governor's Annual Volunteer Service Award. Nominations are due no later than March 6, 2009.

Need help with the nomination? Check out this short presentation:

Register with the Volunteer Center Serving Howard County today to find volunteer opportunities related to your skills and interests!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Young People Making a Difference

The Volunteer Opportunities for Teens guide was just updated and is available in the side bar as well as on the website at

The guide includes a variety of local non-profit and governmental agencies that welcome younger volunteers, and the entries include contact information, minimum age requirements and website links to help you learn as much as possible about the agency and the opportunity. There is also an index in the back to help young people find opportunities based on their interests.

April 24 - 26, 2009 are Global Youth Service Days. The goals of this event are pretty straightforward:
  • To MOBILIZE youth to identify and address the needs of their communities through service.
  • To SUPPORT youth on a life-long path of service and civic engagement.
  • To EDUCATE the public, the media, and policymakers about the year-round contributions of young people as community leaders
If you are interested in helping the Volunteer Center plan projects for Global Youth Service Days, contact Mickey via email or call 410.715.3176. We'd also love to hear from you if you know of a non-profit or governmental agency that would like to host a project, or if you are part of a group that would like to participate.

We'll be sure to keep you updated, so check here or the website to learn the latest about this exciting event. Please save the date and we hope to see you there!

Register with the Volunteer Center Serving Howard County today to find volunteer opportunities related to your skills and interests!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Call to Service

President-Elect Obama is calling for a national day of service on Monday, January 19th. It's no coincidence that it happens to be on the holiday designated to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a day already linked to community action.

If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But, recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That's a new definition of greatness.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia, on 4 February 1968.

In 1994, Congress designated the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday a national day of community service further commemorating a man who lived his life in service to others. As a tribute to that legacy and to the very real needs of our nation, the President-elect and Vice President-elect are calling on citizens and volunteers across the country to plan, organize and stage non-partisan, volunteer community service events in their neighborhoods from Saturday, January 17th through Monday, January 19th, 2009 to celebrate the life and lessons of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

While this call begins with service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President-elect Obama is asking for more than just a single day of service. He is calling on all Americans to make a continued commitment to service. This is an excellent way for volunteers to engage their community and collaborate with local organizations to create service opportunities.
And here is a video appeal from the website

To find an opportunity near you, visit or simply click here. The Volunteer Center staff will continue to encourage local agencies to register their events through this newly created site. We'll be sure to update our listings, as well.

Even if there is not a lot to do locally, please remember that this call to service is not a one-time request. Rather, it's a challenge to make an ongoing commitment to volunteerism. Each and every one of us has something to give back to the community, whether it's a special skill or talent or simply offering to help with an existing opporunity to serve.

Please feel free to give us a call, send an e-mail or visit the website if you would like to learn more about volunteering in Howard County, MD. We'd also like to hear your ideas for projects you'd like to see, and would be happy to work with you in planning and implementing service initiatives throughout the year. Thanks!

Register with the Volunteer Center Serving Howard County today to find volunteer opportunities related to your skills and interests!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Resolve to Get Involved!

Why not ring in the New Year by resolving to volunteer?

If you already volunteer, please consider sharing your experiences and encouraging others to volunteer!

There are so many opportunities out there just waiting for the right person to come along and help. There are boards and committees seeking new members, non-profits looking for people to assist with outreach and education, carpentry, mentoring, and fostering animals (just to name a few).

If you have specific skills or knowledge, you can also contact an agency that interests you directly to see if they might have a need for your talents.

Volunteering can help you meet new people, have fun, learn about our community, discover pressing issues and needs, share what you know, learn something new, and discover ways in which you can be a force for positive change.

So much is happening here in Howard County. Start the New Year right by resolving to be more active in our community through volunteering!

Wishing you all the Happiest of New Years and Best Wishes for a wonderful 2009!

Register with the Volunteer Center Serving Howard County today to find volunteer opportunities related to your skills and interests! You can also visit our website at to search for current opportunities, view the calendar, fan us on Facebook, or find agencies addressing a social issue that interests you.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Longest Night of the Year

Taken from the National Coalition for the Homeless website:

Each year since 1990, on or near the first day of winter and the longest night of the year, National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) has sponsored National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day to bring attention to the tragedy of homelessness and to remember our homeless friends who have paid the ultimate price for our nation's failure to end homelessness. This year, the National Health Care for the Homeless Council (NHCHC) has joined us in co-sponsoring this event.

In an effort to maximize the impact of the day, NCH and the NHCHC have encouraged local and statewide organizations to hold memorials of their own. Last year, over 100 cities across the nation, from Detroit to Seattle to Washington, DC, sponsored events to honor those who had died and to recommit to the task of ending homelessness.

This Year, once again, NCH is encouraging groups to plan a special event on or around December 21, 2008. Some groups may decide to hold their event a day or so before the date.

Locally, a public memorial service will take place on Sunday, December 21 at 5:00pm at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor Amphitheatre, to remember those men and women who died in 2008 without a regular place to stay. Memorial Day events are organized locally by SHARP, a coalition of individuals and organizations working to “Stop Homelessness And Reduce Poverty.” For more information, please contact Adam Schneider at (410)837-5533 x1398 or

There is more that you can do. Check this list of agencies addressing poverty issues, visit their websites, learn about their volunteer and donation needs. The number of those living in poverty is rising daily, and local agencies need your support now more than ever. Thanks in advance for doing what you can to make a difference in the lives of those affected by poverty this winter and all year-long.

Wishing you all the best this holiday season,
The Staff of the Volunteer Center Serving Howard County

Register with the Volunteer Center Serving Howard County today to find volunteer opportunities related to your skills and interests!