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This page is devoted to the management of volunteer programs at the federal government level.

~September 2009~


In the last five weeks, I’ve watched my soon-to-be 96 year old grandmother decline.  Prior to moving into a nursing home, she was in the hospital for almost four weeks.  One night, I stopped by the gift shop to pick up something for my Nan.  I encountered two of the kindest volunteers who were so eager to assist in helping me make a decision for a small something for my Nan.  We exchanged a few words and I received confirmation that the small gift purchased was something “my grandmother will love.” 

The next day, I e-mailed my colleague at this hospital who is the Director of Volunteers.  I wanted to let her know how kind and helpful the volunteers were.  I also explained why I was there.  I immediately received a reply and the DVS said “how can I help?”  After a few exchanges of e-mails, I took her up on one of her programs – the Hospitalized Elder Life Program – to have a volunteer go in and visit my grandmother.  It is always hard to ask for help, isn’t it? 

What could be the odds of my grandmother – as sharp as a whip – knowing the volunteer?  Back from her days shopping in Goodwill for the deals no less.  The volunteer (whose name I cannot recall) kept my grandmother spirits high and visited her twice prior to her being discharged to a rehab unit.  In addition, the volunteer brought my grandmother a beautiful laprobe – purple – just the color Nan likes.

So what’s the lesson?  Well, there are a few.

  1. We work with an amazing profession.  Whether you are a DVS for a hospital or a park, you may be on the receiving end of another DVS’s hard work of recruiting quality volunteers that make a difference in your life and the life of your loved one.  Networking with all DVS is crucial. 
  2. Recruit quality volunteers and make sure those volunteers are matched to the right assignment.  There was no doubt that the volunteer who visited my grandmother had the right volunteer assignment.  Kudos to my colleague for recruiting the right volunteer for the right assignment.
  3. You are not alone.  It is okay to ask for help from your colleagues…and their volunteers.
  4. For all those donations you complain about, such as laprobes, you do have a different appreciation of what you find at your door that was made with love for those who are hurting.

My grandmother treasures that purple laprobe which reminds her of the blankets and baby bibs she used to crochet before the arthritis took over.  My family is comforted by that laprobe – knowing that she is wrapped in love.   

The author of the Federal Government Volunteer Programs page is melissa.heinlein@va.gov, MA, MS, CAVS. Melissa is the Chief of Voluntary Service at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, (215) 823-5868. Before venturing to the nonprofit sector, Melissa Heinlein spent time working for financial, IT, and pharmaceutical companies. With her business and marketing background, she took those skills and worked for Junior Achievement and structured a formal volunteer program at Hope Springs Equestrian Therapy before going into healthcare at Abington Memorial Hospital as the Assistant Director of Volunteer Resources. Her latest adventure is Chief, Voluntary Service at Philadelphia VA Medical Center. Melissa is past president and current board member of the Delaware Valley of Association for Volunteer Administration and current member-at-large for PSDVS, Eastern Chapter. She serves as an advisor for a grassroots organization “Spark the Wave” to encourage youth volunteerism. She holds a MA in Communications from West Chester University, MS in Administration of Human Services from Chestnut Hill College, and is a certified administrator of volunteer services through ASDVS. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Human Development at Marywood University. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, writing, sports, and exploring the outdoors. She prides herself when she talks about interacting with volunteers 5-99 years old – horses and dogs included.


The National Association of Volunteer Programs in Local Government (NAVPLG) is an association of administrators, coordinators and directors of volunteer programs in local government. Its purpose is to strengthen volunteer programs in local government through leadership, advocacy, networking and information exchange. NAVPLG is an affiliate of the National Association of Counties and is seeking affiliate status with the National League of Cities. Cost is $20 for individuals and $75 for group local government membership. An affiliate membership is $25 and is intended for those who are not local government members but may have an interest in the group. There is a quarterly newsletter, national network, and access to NACo's Volunteerism Project. For more information contact Robin Popik, who is a Volunteer Resource Supervisor. She can be reached by phone at 972-941-7114. Be sure to mention you read about this in Volunteer Today.

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