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

~ July 2010 ~



Reflections on the National Conference on Volunteering and Service
New York City – June 28-30, 2010

If you never attended a national conference hosting 4,000-5,000 people who are all passionate about volunteerism, I highly recommend going at least once.  As an administrator of volunteers (AV) representing both healthcare and a federal agency, I am compelled to write how in awe I am about the number of AVs and volunteers who traveled across the country to the Big Apple to share their knowledge, skills, and passion. This gathering of individuals wanting to do more for their organization, for their volunteers, and for their country happened to be at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service.

The topics and sessions are too many to list.  But it is the inspiration I carry with me.  (How often can we say that after we get back to work from a conference?).  After still being in e-mail jail, putting out fires, and just settling back in to the office, I maintain this sense of volunteerism that is truly bigger than me.  While I felt that I contributed to the field and to the profession before I went to the conference, I am encouraged to only do more now that I am home.  I heard so many amazing stories of individuals doing extraordinary things for their communities.  So much so, that tears trickled down my face after hearing of hardships turned into success, ideas turning into differences for the lives of others.  I left thinking that our country is accomplishing a lot in terms of volunteerism and service learning, but more truly needs to be done. 

I do not have all the answers of what needs to be done, but I do know that what I do now is making a difference in some small way.  The volunteers recruited, interviewed, trained, and assigned to departments are fulfilling the mission of the hospital in which I work.  I will continue to challenge myself to think outside the box as I continue to process all that I learned during this conference.

Here are some tips to get involved when you attend any conference:

  • Get involved (is there an opportunity to introduce a speaker, volunteer at the conference?)
  • Talk to others (remember, our profession is not a shy bunch)
  • Bring plenty of business cards (you never know who you are going to meet)
  • Be an active participant during workshops (ask questions)
  • Don’t be afraid to question the experts (challenge and trust what you know)
  • Take a stand (it is okay to disagree with the experts; remember you are an expert in your field)

I am sure your summer is packed with youth volunteers occupying much of your time.  Take time to write down your goals on how you can contribute to the profession.  How big of a footprint do you want to leave behind?

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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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