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

~February 2010~


By now, you survived another busy holiday season with an influx of volunteers, donations, and events which you probably thought would never end.  You (hopefully) embraced another New Year to come with amazing possibilities, potential, and priceless moments in volunteer administration and of course, your own life.  You worked hard this past holiday season.  You probably got beat up by donors who may only come out once a year.  You were probably exhausted from the excitement and craziness of your office.  You probably didn’t even get to enjoy those great cookies that your volunteer baked.  You might have slacked on your own shopping and card writing because you worked late hours. 

So, take a deep breath and give yourself KUDOS!   You are a gift to your organization, your volunteers, and the field of volunteer administration!!!  No one else may tell you this…so I am!
My staff and I (don’t fret – we are only an office of three) felt that while we are most certainly in the people business and take care of others…the question became…WHO TAKES CARE OF US?  While other departments have their quiet moments during the holiday, the volunteer department is ALWAYS running around, delivering cards and gifts – all while still recruiting, interviewing, orienting, and placing volunteers.  No one ever wonders “how do we do it?”

We asked our public affairs department to publish a blurb we wrote about all the holiday donations and the differences made for our patients.  We also included this in our newsletter to our volunteers.  Admit it – you know they don’t understand all that we do, either.  We thanked all our volunteers during a holiday tea for their hard work, which resulted in many college and high school students sticking around on break to lend us a hand.  What would we do without them? 
While volunteers are gifts to the organization and community, they are gifts, in part, because of you. 
In her book, How to Take Care of You…So You Can Take Care of Others, Vineyard (1989) talks about change, burnout, emotional health, gaining balance, and much more.  I’ll admit that I bought this book last fall during my first ARNOVA conference and it has been sitting on my bookshelf, staring at me.  After this holiday season, it was time for me to pick it up.  Vineyard writes about her experience of managing a hectic schedule, training and keynoting to volunteer managers – essentially preaching to take care of others.  In the midst of her organized, yet fulfilling chaos and with a life changing health challenge, she was forced to slow down and take care of herself.
How many of us do this?  We make resolutions each year to take care of ourselves.  With our busy, unconventional work schedules – days, evenings, weekends – to get the job done, we sacrifice time with family, friends, and quality of life. 

I encourage you to read Sue Vineyard’s book.  I know you don’t have time to even eat lunch, but as we are in month two of a new year, stop…take a minute…take a deep breathe…do something for you.  The work will ALWAYS be there.  The application requests will continue to come in.  The volunteers will still want to talk to you.   We are a unique profession with common dilemmas. 
Take time for you.  Rejuvenate.  Fulfill your spirit and passion for volunteerism. You are a gift.


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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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