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

~ May 2010 ~


It seems like there is never a good time to be out of the office.  With National Volunteer Week, Spring conferences (workshops, webinars), and preparations for the influx of high school students.  Don’t forget about the real “life” stuff outside of work (baseball games, soccer practices, gardening, graduation parties, and the list goes on) – which questions our ability to stay sane.  Do we call in reinforcement?

My staff was out one morning with planned tasks.  One was conducting training for new employee ambassador volunteers and the other was running errands throughout the hospital.  An environmental service employee stopped in and asked “where is your staff?”  I told him they were out and about…working.  He then proceeded to ask “But don’t you get emergency staff?  You know, to help you out when in you’re in the office alone?”  I chuckled and said “no.” 

This led me to ponder, “Who helps the volunteer department?”  Of course, we take the best volunteers for our department (if you don’t do this, you should).  We provide assistance to departments in so many ways, when we can (which is practically 100% of the time) with whatever resources we have available.  But who helps the volunteer department when we need assistance?  Even though my staff was out, volunteers and staff felt sorry for me that I was answering the phones, entering volunteer application requests, helping volunteers sign-in their hours, and attend to my own tasks for the day.  Little do we realize that we really do it all!  And little did they realize that I was by myself for 18 months doing it all alone before permanent staff came on board.  That’s just the way it is.  One morning by myself is nothing to complain about.

Another “ah-ha” moment happened with an e-mail I received about wearing two hats – Voluntary Service and Public Affairs and if someone could forward a position description.  I did a double take to this e-mail and just laughed.  Only two hats?  Seriously?  I can’t count the number of hats that I wear – sometimes many in a given day.  If I list them, I’d be afraid of leaving one out.  But you have your lists of hats that you wear – some “hats” look better than others, but you wear them regardless. 

I responded to this e-mail about the multiple hats including a long list and asked if anyone has a position description for that. I received comical responses, but not one position description.

But knowing how much we do in (sometimes) the small about of time that we have, we do manage to get it done.  There are days when it seems like working in the volunteer department is a blessing and other days it is a curse.  Regardless, just put on the hat that looks good for that day and wear it with pride. 

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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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