April is National Volunteer Month and Frederick County is fortunate that thousands of people volunteer their time, talent, expertise and energy to improve the lives of others in our community. According to a 2018 report on volunteering in the United States, 1.7 million Marylanders volunteer each year, providing 181.9 million hours of service, with an economic value of more than $4.3 billion. This column is dedicated to the many volunteers in Frederick County, specifically those who help the Community Foundation carry out its mission in ways that are “For Good. Forever. For Frederick County.”
Without the commitment of volunteers, the Community Foundation would not be able to support Frederick County at the level that it does – just last year funding $5.1 million in grants to local nonprofits and $1.8 million in scholarships to local students. Community Foundation volunteers donate their time and expertise on multiple committees, the largest being the Scholarship Committee.
The Scholarship Committee relies on the efforts of about 75 volunteers who give upwards of 20 hours in the spring to review more than 1,000 scholarship applications. The demanding work ensures that each application is reviewed with care and diligence in a process that includes donor participation and compliance with the IRS. The Grants Committee has fewer volunteers but also has a great impact, giving countless hours to review grant applications. These volunteers make difficult decisions knowing the need always exceeds the amount of funding available.
Veronica Lowe joined the Community Foundation as a trustee in 2019. She is one of more than 200 trustees that have helped build and steer the Community Foundation since its founding in 1986.
“I think volunteer opportunities shaped me when I was younger,” Lowe said. “I became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and one of our mottos is ‘supreme in service to all mankind’ and I truly live that statement.”
Ms. Lowe, who is the deputy director of labor relations for the Maryland Department of Transportation, said that she does a lot of volunteering through the sorority in an effort to make “whatever community we live in a better place.”
She explained that she finds her work with the Community Foundation to be really rewarding, especially working on the Grants Committee.
“It’s a lot of work, but I walk away every time feeling really good about what we’re doing for the community, especially during COVID when all the money came in to help organizations,” Ms. Lowe said. “You just feel good that you’re giving your time to help other people.”
Over the past 8 years, Taitia Elliott has spent time volunteering on both the Scholarship Committee and Grants Committee. She is now the Scholarship Committee chair.
“I truly enjoy the personal growth and learning aspect of [volunteering],” Ms. Elliott said. “Each season I get to read scholarship applications from students, many who have struggled or faced enormous challenges, yet persevered; and grant requests which are matched perfectly with donors who felt drawn to a cause.”
Giving back is contagious and there are endless opportunities to volunteer all over Frederick County. The Mayo Clinic cites research suggesting there are health benefits to volunteering including improving physical and mental health, providing a sense of purpose and teaching valuable skills, and nurturing new and existing relationships.
If you already give your time and energy volunteering, thank you – please know that your efforts are noticed and appreciated. If volunteering isn’t part of your life right now, maybe National Volunteer Month is the time to start looking at opportunities to get involved.
“Knowing there are so many people offering kindness makes me happy to find ways to do the same,” Ms. Elliott concluded.