‘Tis the season to love your community by Voluteering

In this month of Valentine’s Day and Random Act of Kindness Week, you can spread love and kindness by volunteering. It’s a great way to show you care about the community – and it’s healthier than candy. You will find some good options listed below or visit our website for more ideas. We hope you will find a match with one of our non-profit partners.

 Are you a good driver?
The Anne Arundel County Food and Resource Bank is looking for a few drivers to haul food, furniture, and other items between their facility in Crownsville and various locations within Anne Arundel County.  There is no heavy lifting and resources will be at each end to load and unload the vehicle.  The Food Bank is looking for volunteers who can drive the Food Bank’s 16′ box truck.  You do not need a Commercial Driving License, just a good driving record.  Support is needed mostly in the mornings, flexible schedule. Founded in 1986, the Food Bank is the only free, multi-purpose agency in Maryland that provides food, medical equipment, furniture, appliances, and more to those in need, free of charge.  They support individuals and other non-profits. If you are interested, please contact Susan Thomas at 410-923-4255 or susan@aafoodbank.org. www.aafoodbank.org

Love the Arts
The Arts Council of Anne Arundel County is a non-profit foundation which encourages and invests in the visual arts, performing arts, and historic preservation for the people of Anne Arundel County. Volunteers, 18 and older, are needed to help in the office with answering phones and computer input for membership database. Contact April Nyman at april.nyman@acaac.org or 410-222-7949.

Also, attend their Evening of Jazz Gala, Sat. March 11, 6:30 -10 p.m. For more info on the volunteering or the gala: www.acaac.org

Mr. Paca’s Backyard
Adult volunteers are needed as we start a new outreach program, “Mr. Paca’s Backyard Outreach Program”, to area schools on Feb. 15 & 16, Apr. 5, 6,7 & 26, May 9,10, & 12. Times vary at the area schools; contact Janet Hall at 410-990-4514 or janet.hall@annapolis.org to choose times and school locations. The program is rooted in the principal that young kids learn through play. It is designed to engage and enrich lives of our area’s young children. This play-based experience is specifically aimed at the educational needs and abilities of preschoolers. It includes story time, music with dance, an art project, a snack time that promotes healthy eating by making foods fun and interactive. All our volunteers receive training for the programs. If you enjoy our history, our culture and sharing time with visitors or children, please consider joining our team of volunteers!  www.annapolis.org/support/volunteer

Are you bi-lingual?
Arundel Lodge is a nonprofit organization that works toward a world where behavioral health disorders are not a limit to achieving a meaningful life in the community. We envision being an essential member of a community network that helps prevent behavioral health disorders and provides the care and support people need to lead healthy, productive lives. Currently we are seeking a bilingual volunteer to represent Arundel Lodge at outreach events, such as health fairs, in Hispanic communities. For more information, please contact Tanya St. John at tstjohn@arundellodge.orgwww.arundellodge.org

Special Delivery
Annapolis Film Festival has a “special” request for help with distribution of AFF 2017 POSTERS AND POSTCARDS to businesses in these areas: Annapolis, Severna Park, Bowie, Crofton, Millersville, Glen Burnie, Pasadena, Edgewater, Kent Island. (We would recommend busy restaurants, coffee shops, popular bars, any community centered businesses, churches, schools, dry cleaners, community boards, etc) Volunteers would distribute and note the locations for follow up prior to festival. We need them to go out ASAP! The POSTERS AND POSTCARDS are at our Festival Headquarters in Annapolis. To learn more, contact volunteer@annapolisfilmfestival.net

Spruce Up Annapolis
GreenScape is a volunteer effort that encourages and supports individuals and organizations to plant and maintain native gardens in public areas throughout the city of Annapolis. Volunteers clean up and plant flower and vegetable gardens in public spaces throughout the City. The City provides plant materials, mulch, trash bags and gloves; the community provides volunteers who want to make a difference in Annapolis. The next organizational meeting will be held at 6:00 pm, Wed., Mar. 1, 2017 at the “Pip” Moyer Recreation Center located at 273 Hilltop Lane in Annapolis. E-mail Marisa Wittlinger at mdwittlinger@annapolis.gov for more information

Be the Interviewer
North County High School in Glen Burnie needs adult volunteers to conduct mock job interviews with 11th grade students on March 7th and 8th and May 15th and 16th, 2017. Students have been discussing topics such as: appropriate dress, eye contact, oral communication, courtesy, assertiveness, and resume writing in their English classes. The program is designed to give students a chance to practice their newly learned skills with an adult from outside the school; we are simply looking for people who are willing to give some time to help, no experience is necessary. Instructions and sample questions are available as well as an evaluation sheet. If you would like to volunteer, please go to: www.SignUpGenius.com/go/30E0E4DAFAB2DA4FF2-mock1  or contact Barbara Dziedzic via email at bdziedzic@aacps.org.

Bookfair for STAIR
Come one! Come all! On Saturday, March 4th, STAIR (Start The Adventure In Reading) will hold a Bookfair at Barnes & Noble from 9 am to 10 pm. Come buy books, toys and games or more! Or enjoy a snack and drink at the Cafe. Everything you buy qualifies as long as you mention STAIR at the checkout. A percentage of the proceeds will be donated to STAIR. Can’t make it! You can still help STAIR by ordering online and entering Bookfair ID Number 12001707 at checkout. For more info contact Ted Mussenden at assistant_director@stairannapolis.org. Click here to print the flyer.

Also, volunteers are needed to help “Meet & Greet” customers as they enter and roam the store. Several shifts available. If you can volunteer for this event please click here.

Rock ‘n’ Roll
A large number of volunteer opportunities are available to support the United Airlines Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Marathon on March 11, as well as the Health and Fitness Expo being held on Wed.-Fri., March 8-10, 2017 in Washington, DC. Volunteering for the Race Crew means you will not only be supporting nearly 25,000 aspiring runners and walkers, but also the community. Help is needed to make this event spectacular, and with about 1,100 Race Crew volunteer positions available there is a spot for everyone, including sports teams,  school and corporate groups, or just friends and family. For more information and to sign up online go to http://www.runrocknroll.com/dc/the-weekend/volunteer/  or contact Volunteer Coordinator Karen Willard at dc@rnrracecrew.com or 858-768-6956. For information about the events see web site at: http://www.runrocknroll.com/dc/

P.S. – When you do find out about a great volunteer opportunity from us, please tell our non-profit partner that we sent you.  Better yet, drop a quick note to info@aacvc.org and tell us how it went.
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New Volunteer Opps – Jan 2017

Volunteering is for everyone, including on-the-go, busy professionals and students, as well as those with some time to spare. Below is a list of opportunities complied from our recent newsletters to make it easier for YOU to find flexible and interesting ways to get involved and help the community thrive. Our mission is to connect volunteers to meaningful opportunities with our non-profit partners and we hope you will be a part of that.

Advocate for Bicycles
Bicycle Advocates for Annapolis & Anne Arundel County (BikeAAA) has a number of volunteer opportunities: 1. Website Designer – If you have technical and design skills with a passion for safe cycling, we’d love your help as we look to upgrade the look and content of our website 2. Graphic Designer – Help with new BikeAAA handouts and signage 3. Annapolis Bike Rack Initiative – Work with businesses and government to get more bike racks in Annapolis 4. Bike to Work Day Coordinator – Many have helped at meet-up points and in Annapolis. We need someone to work with county and others to plan and coordinate Anne Arundel County Bike to Work Day activities on May 19. Please email president@bikeaaa.org if you would like to help with one of the opportunities. BikeAAA is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) nonprofit focused on creating a healthier, more livable Annapolis and Anne Arundel County by promoting safe bicycling for transportation, recreation and fitness.  bikeaaa.org

Show Up for One Child
AACPS -For One Child Mentoring Program.
Can you commit to “Showing Up” for one child one hour each week for one year? Be the adult that an unsure child can depend on to instill a sense of value and purpose through his or her journey to adulthood. The program is currently serving 2nd and 3rd graders of Annapolis area schools who are identified as needing support and encouragement. Male mentors are assigned to male students; female mentors to female students. Initial mentoring sessions are during the school day. Contact: Kathy Mogelinski at KBM@arinc.com or 410-991-6265

Tutor and Change a Life
Change a life through literacy by becoming a Literacy Tutor! Math tutoring opportunities are also available. Tutor Training sessions are being offered from 9 AM-4 PM, Sat., Feb. 25 & Sat., Mar. 4, 2017 at Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church in Severna Park and will include both Basic Literacy and English Language Learner instruction. We have a class size limit of 35. Enrollees MUST preregister and attend both sessions. If you, or someone you know, would be interested in attending this training, please email Lisa Vernon at director@aaclc.org, or call 410-269-4419 asap to reserve a seat.  www.icanread.org

Ombudsman Program
The Ombudsman Program (Resident Advocate) is a free, confidential service that advocates for residents’ rights and good-quality long-term care and receives and resolves complaints made by or for residents of nursing homes and assisted living homes. They also work to educate the public on long-term care facilities and services.  The Ombudsman Program needs compassionate individuals to visit nursing homes and assisted living homes and advocate for residents. Each interested individual will be interviewed to discuss the position and the individual’s background. If the program is a good match for the volunteer, then they will be provided with training and supervision. For more information and to volunteer contact Wendy Harris at agharr44@aacounty.org or 410 222-4464. For information about the program, see website: www.aacounty.org/services-and-programs/ombudsman.

Film Festival Fun
The Annapolis Film Festival will be March 30-April 7 this year. They are seeking sponsors and volunteers for this spring’s festival. They can help you choose the sponsorship level that best suits your company or organization’s marketing objectives. Visit www.annapolisfilmfestival.com, click on “Support” and then “Sponsor” to learn more, then call or email Susan Baum, our Development Coordinator, at  Susan.Baum@annapolisfilmfestival.net or (410) 212-0662 to help you secure your place among the stars. They are also seeking volunteers, age 18 and up, for a variety of tasks associated with the Festival. If you have volunteered in the past, or are considering doing so for the first time, visit http://annapolisfilmfestival.com/support/volunteer/volunteer-application to fill out and submit an application. It’s fun!

Play, Educate and Mentor with T.E.A.M.
The Tennis, Education and Mentoring (T.E.A.M.) Program’s mission is to encourage local youth for future achievements using tennis, education and character development regardless of economic circumstance, race or gender. We need volunteers who have some tennis experience, would like to help the children with basic academic skills and would like to be a mentor to children. For more information and to volunteer, contact Scott Thompson at 410-982-7543, scott@teamjuniortennis.com.
www.teamjuniortennis.com

Jane NOT Plain – Volunteer Support for Students
Help local public school students build strong self-esteem with your volunteer assistance.  The mission of Character Education is strong in Anne Arundel County Public Schools.  BATES MIDDLE and OAKWOOD ELEMENTARY schools are partnering with JNP (Jane NOT Plain) to welcome students into their after-school C.I.A (Club Inner Awesome) programs. The club’s focus is to nurture character, courage, and confidence, while helping them to discover their inner-awesome superpowers (healthy self-esteem)! Volunteers are needed weekly either on Tuesday or Thursday afternoons to assist in reading to, reading with, helping with activities, and generally supporting a child’s healthy self-esteem. General info about JNP can be found at www.theJNPproject.org, or by calling Dona at 410-224-3878.

Lend a Hand, Give some Hope
Arundel House of Hope’s programs encompass a variety of services for individuals experiencing homelessness in Anne Arundel County. These include transitional housing, Permanent and Community Housing, Supportive Housing through the Safe Haven Program, the Resource and Day Center, and the Winter Relief rotating shelter program. General volunteer needs include administrative support, transportation to and from appointments, job counseling and life skills coaches, computer maintenance help, and persons to serve on the board of directors. Additional volunteer opportunities vary by location but include facilities maintenance and repair, grounds maintenance, and support of the clinic. Donations of food and clothing items, cleaning, office and kitchen supplies, paper products, toiletry items, landscaping tools, and more are also needed. Interested volunteers can contact Mario Berninzoni at MBerninzoni@ArundelHOH.org or 410-863-4888.  www.arundelhoh.org

Cuddle a Cat
Cats R Us operates two small no kill cat rescue shelters in Annapolis and Arnold. Qualified foster volunteers are needed to provide foster homes. Volunteers, age 8+, are needed to assist with cleaning the shelters, to attend adoption shows at PetSmart in Annapolis, to make cat/kitten home deliveries, or to sit and spend time with wonderful cats. An adult should accompany volunteers younger than age 16. Training will be provided for shelter and adoption workers. Parental consent forms are required. For information, contact 410-263-1719 or info@catsrusrescue.com. http://catsrusrescue.org

Support the Arc
The Arc advocates for and supports County citizens with developmental disabilities. Volunteers are needed to serve on the board of directors, help with fund raising, assist in the office, and to help with special events. Volunteers, 16 years and older, are also needed as gardening assistants at the Arc’s sensory garden in Annapolis, including plant care, patio maintenance, planting trees/shrubs, etc. and to help with leaf and yard maintenance at 30 homes the Arc manages throughout the County. Contact Angie DeMorland at (410) 268-8085 or (410) 269-1883, or e-mail: ADemoreland@thearcccr.orgwww.thearcccr.org

P.S. – When you do find out about a great volunteer opportunity from us, tell our non-profit partner that we sent you.  Better yet, drop a quick note to info@aacvc.org and tell us how it went.
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Time for Giving Time

As the holidays draw near, we become thankful for what we have and mindful of others who have less.  We open our hearts and our wallets to provide good meals, clothing, and toys to those less fortunate and in need.  And the impact is tremendously positive.

But equally important is the gift of time.  There is a huge need for volunteers for the holiday season – so much so that the Anne Arundel County Volunteer Center produces a holiday volunteering guide (www.aacvc.org/Resources).  We want you to download and share the guide, we want you to engage your family in volunteering, and we want you to make a difference so that all can have a happy holiday season.christmas1

Here are some examples of ways you can help out this holiday season (locations are primary locations; volunteering may also include other areas of the county):

Volunteer to pick up food donations.  The Anne Arundel County Food and Resource Bank (Crownsville) needs volunteer drivers to drive the Food Bank’s trucks or your own vehicles to pick up food collected at schools and businesses throughout the county and to deliver them back to the Food Bank.  Done driving…spend a little time there sorting food.  There’s a lot to sort, it’s easy, and take it from me, very therapeutic.  To volunteer, call 410-923-4255 or email Request@aafoodbank.org.

Make it personal.  Volunteer to spread joy and cheer to the less fortunate in our county. The Anne Arundel County Holiday Sharing Program matches donors to more than 5,000 seniors and/or families in need during Thanksgiving & Christmas.  Donors shop for food, clothing, and toys for the holiday and personally deliver to the household.  Many office volunteers are needed to help run the program. To donate or volunteer, call 410-269-4462.

Make a difference in the life of people with developmental disabilities.  Volunteer at Bello Machre (Glen Burnie) and spend time with an individual scrapbooking, cooking, watching movies, or playing video games.  This simple gesture is very meaningful and will enhance your holiday season as well as theirs.  Contact Sarah Tentilucci at 443-702-3064 or volunteer@bellomachre.org.

Have fun collecting and wrapping holiday gifts for Chrysalis House residents.  Chrysalis House (Crownsville) provides addition treatment services for women and women with children in a residential setting.  If interested, contact Loren Weisman at 410-974-6829 or lweisman@chrysalishouses.org.

Make a difference in homelessness.  Hope for All (Glen Burnie) serves families in need in Anne Arundel County, distributing donated household goods, furniture, and clothing.  Volunteer to assist with pickups and deliveries during the holiday season.  To inquire about volunteering, call 410-766-0372 or send an e-mail to hopeforall72.gmail.com.

Help the homebound.  Volunteer with Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland (Arnold).  Help prepare and deliver food and maybe spend a few moments in conversation with someone who enjoys a visit from someone new.  Contact Terry Lehr at 410-431-5257 or e-mail at SEoffice@mowcm.org.

Brighten the life of a lonely person this holiday season by volunteering with your child and/or pet for visits to homeless shelters, nursing homes, hospitals, assisted living facilities, and adult day-care centers.  People & Animals Who Serve Anne Arundel County (P.A.W.S) has over 76 facilities throughout the county that you can visit.  Call 410-222-0738 or e-mail pawsaac@yahoo.com.

Make sure everyone has enough to eat this holiday season.  South County Assistance Network (Lothian) needs volunteers to stock shelves and bag food at their food pantry on Thursdays and Saturdays from 9-12.  Contact Trish Pumphrey at Scan.VolCord@gmail.com or call her at 410-867-2838.

For other holiday volunteering opportunities, read the Capital’s Volunteers Needed column, produced in coordination between the Volunteer Center and the Capital.

There is no greater gift that you will receive this holiday season than a HUG, a SMILE, and a sincere THANK YOU.  From the Volunteer Center, we thank you for volunteering.

Bruce Morgenstern is the President of the Anne Arundel County Volunteer Center.  For more information, contact the Volunteer Center at info@aacvc.org.

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Lisa Spallitta Named New Executive Director of Anne Arundel Volunteer Center

The Anne Arundel County Volunteer Center is pleased to announce the selection of Lisa Spallitta as its new Executive Director.  Lisa is succeeding Fay Mauro, who has been ED since the Volunteer Center’s inception in 2001.  AACVC has been planning for this transition for the last 18 months and is excited about the skills that Lisa brings to the organization as it looks to the future of connecting volunteers to meaningful opportunities in Anne Arundel County.

Fay Mauro continues to work closely with the Volunteer Center as she transitions into retirement.  Lisa is grateful to have Fay’s guidance and support as she takes on her new role.    “For the past 15 years,” said Fay Mauro, “I have been blessed with many wonderful opportunities to learn, work, train, and volunteer throughout Anne Arundel County. To have been part of this amazing AACVC team – those currently serving and those who have now moved on – has been an amazing gift!”lisa-spallitta

Lisa brings to the position her broad experience as an independent contractor in IT and accounting management.  She holds both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Business Information Systems from Loyola College (now University) in Baltimore. Having lived in Anne Arundel County since 2009, she recently completed Leadership Anne Arundel’s Neighborhood Leadership program and is now enrolled in the LAA 2017 Flagship class.

“While we will miss Fay’s strong history of volunteer engagement and nonprofit guidance, we are excited by the possibilities that will unfold with new leadership,” said Bruce Morgenstern, President of the AACVC Board of Directors.

Volunteering has been a part of Lisa’s life since college. She was an active volunteer with HandsOn Baltimore for many years.  A turning point for Lisa was in 2014 when she participated in the Big Ride Across America, a charity bike ride across the US, to support the American Lung Association.  The 48 day journey fostered her desire to become more involved in community service.  Lisa has been active with AACVC for over a year. She is excited to use her IT knowledge and experience to guide the Volunteer Center through its next phase as technology is rapidly transforming the work of nonprofits and volunteer communications.   Her new role as executive director will also allow her to leverage her skills in a more personally fulfilling way.  She shared, “The beauty of working with the Volunteer Center is knowing that I am helping people throughout the county by connecting volunteers to local nonprofits.”

Lisa’s first big event as ED was Project Green: 9/11 Day of Service where 240 volunteers from both the community and the Naval Academy united together to beautify both Jonas Green Park and the WWII Memorial in Annapolis. The day was a big success and a good example of the impact that volunteerism can have on the community.

The Anne Arundel County Volunteer Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, established in 2001 and an affiliate of  the Points of Light/HandsOn Network. The Volunteer Center inspires and coordinates volunteers, engages and supports nonprofits, and builds coalitions with businesses, to strengthen Anne Arundel County and improve lives in the community. On average, each year AACVC engages over 4000 volunteers with over 400 non-profits.

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15 Stories For 15 Years: HOPE FOR ALL– Shares Its Story

hope3This is the third feature in a series of celebratory articles marking the 15th Anniversary of AACVC. The Volunteer Center was established in 2001 to build bridges throughout Anne Arundel County by collaborating and partnering with individuals and organizations that desire to give their time, talent and treasure to improve the quality of life for all our citizens.

Looks can be deceiving, as one approaches the non-descript red brick entrance at 122 Roesler Road in Glen Burnie located off Route 2 North; yet upon entering the impact is tangible and immediate. Humming with activity, people are busily going about sorting, categorizing, packing and moving everything and anything one might need to furnish and equip a home in addition to clothing themselves head to toe.

As your eyes sweep over the scene you quickly realize the enormity of the effort that has gone into taming and organizing this very large space into efficient work and storage areas to make each volunteer’s job a bit easier. Welcome to the ‘new’ home of HOPE FOR ALL (HFA), a 501(c)(3) non-profit , established in 2004 by Leo and Diane Zerhusen, retired County educators and long-time residents of Glen Burnie.

Over the past twelve years, what started, from the Zerhusens‘ desire to demonstrate Christian compassion by helping and sharing with those less fortunate, has grown into a volunteer workforce of 100 people, many referred to HFA by the Volunteer Center. Just in the past year alone, these volunteers have put in nearly 10,000 hours along with only three (3) paid staff. “It’s all been possible with the help of an amazing group of volunteers who regularly give their time so selflessly”, states Leo.

According to 2013 US Census Bureau estimates, poverty in Anne Arundel County is at 6.3% which translates to 33,352 residents including all ages, races and ethnicities.
There are 200,000 family households in the county, of which 15,000 are led by a single female parents.

Many families face a constant economic struggle just to keep a roof over their heads and that is where Hope for All steps in providing assistance to turn those households into homes. Over the years, HFA has established a vast network of public and private agencies and organizations that refer clients to them for assistance. It’s all about partnerships and collaboration to assist in big and small ways to help the most vulnerable County residents.

Prior to March 2016, HFA operated out of four small, separate sites which strained their capacity and capabilities. With the new centralized location the future is looking bright. Yet, with growth comes challenge. It will take approximately $165,000 annually to operate the facility and pay for rent, electric, heat, water, phone, maintain a fleet of delivery vehicles, insurance, office supplies and building maintenance etc. The organization’s Board of Directors is actively working to expand and cultivate its corporate and philanthropic donor base in Anne Arundel County. Prime examples of collaboration and support include Brown’s Toyota of Glen Burnie, Capital Network Solutions, Knott Foundation, Northrup Grumman, Merritt Properties, United Way and many individual donors.

Key to the success of HFA is their volunteer Board of Directors who also actively give their time and talent to the organization’s daily operations.

Persons interested in visiting the Hope for All facility are welcome to schedule an appointment by e-mailing a request to hopeforall72@gmail,com or calling 410-766-0372. Additionally, open to the public “garage sales” are held the 2nd Saturday of each month with proceeds helping to offset operational expenses. This is an excellent way to see this amazing organization in action, so mark your calendar and schedule a visit. You may find Hope For All has something meaningful to offer you as a volunteer, donor or supporter. It’s all for the greater good. http://www.hopeforall.us/

The Sarbanes Center for Public and Community Service at Anne Arundel Community College has just announced that HOPE For All has been selected as the Sarbanes Center Partner of the Year for the academic year of July 2016 – June 2017. Congratulations!

Submitted by Volunteer Anita H. Ramundo

Photos from HFA’s April 30th Open House at the new warehouse

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Celebrating 15 Years of Volunteers: Happy Helpers for the Homeless

Banner2Rodreguez

As part of the AACVC Celebration of 15 Years of service in Anne Arundel County, we are pleased that the second story in our series features Happy Helpers for the Homeless. Thank you Amber and Bobbi Coffman and all your volunteers for making a difference in the lives of many individuals who are homeless or in need.

Happy Helpers has been working with the Anne Arundel County Volunteer Center since the Volunteer Center’s inception in 2001. Many of our volunteers initially find out about Happy Helpers through the Volunteer Center.

Happy Helpers for the Homeless, an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) organization, was founded in February 1993 by Amber Coffman, age 10, with the help of her mom, Bobbi Coffman. Happy Helpers makes sandwiches to serve approximately 250 – 300 homeless and low income clients in Glen Burnie and Baltimore City each week. Sandwiches are made and distributed on Saturdays in front of Harundale Presbyterian Church and Sundays at Our Daily Bread in Baltimore MD. The organization also distributes snacks, used and new clothing, toiletries, household items and canned goods.

Happy Helpers volunteers come from schools, businesses, churches, groups and are referred from the Volunteer Center. People from every race, background and ability are represented. And, young people are encouraged to take on leadership roles within the organization, leading various teams for preparation, delivery, etc.

Fay Mauro, Executive Director of the Volunteer Center, introduced Amber and Bobbi to producers of the Lifetime Show “Earth Angels” in 2005. As a result of that introduction, Happy Helpers received a prepaid one year lease for the headquarters they still utilize, $5,000 in shopping certificates, and pictures of clients to decorate the walls of headquarters when the organization was highlighted on the pilot of the show.

Happy Helpers’ clients are grateful for the aid provided by the organization and for the positive atmosphere that surrounds Happy Helpers distributions and events. The pictures below show a Weekly Distribution, Sandwich Making at the National Make a Difference Day Event and Amber passing out presents at Christmas. Learn more about this all-volunteer organization at www.happyhelpersforthehomeless.com/

Thank you, Margie Englert, a Happy Helpers volunteer, for submitting this story.

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Celebrating 15 Years of Volunteering!

Banner5KPagan

This feature marks AACVC’s 15th year of operations; a time to reflect on and celebrate all the positive results from a more engaged community.  Through collaboration and partnerships with individuals and organizations who give of their time, talent and treasures to improve the quality of life for all our citizens, the Anne Arundel County Volunteer Center is pleased to continue its legacy for connecting volunteers to volunteer opportunities. A new organization or volunteer will be featured each month throughout our celebration.

Into a sturdy zippered backpack go the kind of items any child would need for an overnight journey: a pair of pjs, a change of clothes, grooming supplies, a plush toy, a game or activity book, etc.  Yet, this is not an ordinary backpack nor is the child’s journey. This assembled backpack is called a ‘Backpack of Love’, intended to give a sense of comfort to a scared and anxious child being taken into temporary custody by Child Protective Services (CPS). Far too often we hear or read a news story concerning children living in dangerous situations, leaving them victims of abuse, neglect or sexual assault and these occur anytime, day or night. Children removed by a CPS worker for their own safety with only the clothes they are wearing, nothing more. This is not a situation anyone would care to experience, least of all a child.

According to Maryland’s Children Electronic Social Services Information Exchange, an average of 385 children per month were reported as abused or neglected in Anne Arundel County from October 2014-September 2015. That is the fourth highest in the state.  (Poverty Amidst Plenty, 5th edition- 2015, a published report by the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County, page 15.)

TPyles1Created to help children in the Foster Care system is The Blue Ribbon Project, a 100% volunteer, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Annapolis. The backpacks are just one of the services the fledging year-old organization provides under the leadership of Taylor Pyles, its founding Director, an Annapolis Police Detective and a survivor of the foster care system himself. While the initial concept came from his personal journey, his motivation led him to create a community organization… a tangible response to support children when they are most vulnerable. In the short time since its inception, the Backpacks of Love campaign of The Blue Ribbon Project has grown to incorporate all of Anne Arundel, Queen Anne’s, Charles, and Kent Counties.

The Organization’s mission has a three prong approach to addressing childhood abuse, neglect, and victimization.  First, providing direct assistance to children in the community through outreach; Second, raising and maintaining awareness of child abuse and neglect by speaking to and educating other community organizations that serve children and families; and Third, harnessing existing resources to help adult foster care survivors. Through the outreach and collaboration of the Blue Ribbon Project,  survivors, victims and professionals from the health and human service, education and legal systems, come together using a community-centered approach of help, healing, and guidance to overcome obstacles faced by 18-22 year olds as they ‘age up’ and out of the foster care system. While there have been improvements made in a system that was broken and unresponsive in the past, children in foster care remain vulunerable, and problems continue to surface due to growing social, legal and economic issues.

The momentum continues to grow through community churches and various other organizations that sign up to sponsor a Backpacks of Love campaign, and Taylor Pyles’ next goal is to find a more permanent home for the organization. Check out the organization’s web site www.blueribbonproject.org .

Thank you Anita Ramundo, an AACVC volunteer, for submitting this article.

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We wanted Taylor Pyles to launch this series because he was instrumental in starting our 15 years of “Volunteer Voice” segments broadcast weekly on WNAV Radio.  

Back in 2001, Taylor worked at WNAV as a broadcast engineer and behind-the-scenes expert aiding us in developing a regular Wednesday morning feature on WNAV. Station General Manager, Steve Hopp and Program Director, Bill Lusby were also early supporters of the Volunteer Center. With their encouragement and Taylor’s assistance, the short weekly segment was born, featuring community volunteers and volunteer organizations that positively impact our community. Tune in each Wednesday morning after the 9 am news and catch the latest “Volunteer Voice” on your “Hometown Station” WNAV at 1430AM and in the City of Annapolis at 99.9FM. Thank you Taylor, Steve and Bill for your continuing support of the Volunteer Center!

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