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

~ August 2010 ~


Another committee request?  Another education fair?  Another recruitment event? 

On a day when my morning did not start off right – well before I got to work – my commute was bad, my cats were not cooperating, and my fiancé informed me of the calls needing to be made before we closed on our house.  When I walked in the door at work and thinking about the 40+ new volunteers we just oriented the day before – and just thinking about EVERYTHING I had to do – I forgot about the in-house patient education fair scheduled for that morning.  Luckily, I’m more organized that I give myself credit for and all the materials were in my office ready to go a week prior. 

But you have these days. Probably more than you’d care to admit.

I dragged myself down three floors – unwilling and unmotivated.  You’ve been there, haven’t you?

I walked in and was HIT with what seemed like question overload.  I was approached by one of our nurses, not to mention infection control staff, women’s health clinic, audiology, and many more.  Of course, our table had the most giveaways and set up beautifully but I admit that I was not in the right frame of mind.  

So, I entertained their questions, their requests, their pleas for more “help.”  While I assisted them and jotted down notes in my planner for follow-up, I was also comforted by the positive feedback about my department.  Huh?

While there was a lull during the fair, casual conversation occurred between myself and staff members.  Some staff commented on how the department has grown and how volunteer quality continues to surpass their expectations.  They also said how far the department has come and how visible it has been compared to years passed.  <insert smile>

Everyday we give to others – volunteers, staff, clientele, stakeholders, community members, and many more.  On a day when I just couldn’t give of myself, others gave back.  On a day when I needed a boost, staff did just that without being asked.  I immediately perked up and was ready to go.  The education fair was okay overall, but great for my department and staff.

We expect so much from ourselves everyday in our jobs, in our careers.  We don’t realize how much we give and how our emotions are taxed minute by minute.  We do things we don’t want to do and in the end, we are thrilled we dragged ourselves to that event, fair, or meeting.  There are pockets of inspiration which continue to surface and amaze me.  We know that we do what we do for a reason.  Even when the reason is not always apparent.

Inspiration comes from all kinds of places…some where we least expect it – no matter how challenging our day starts out.


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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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