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

~ September 2010 ~



I recently saw the movie, Eat Pray Love.  Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to read the book prior so I won’t provide judgment on the movie as I am not a movie critic.  However, I did take one thing away from the movie that is something I do constantly in my life and in my profession: continuous self-reflection.

We often find ourselves questioning how we ever ended up in this profession and working with an unpaid workforce.  If you ask anyone who is a current or former director of volunteers, she (or he) may share with you that it was a position in which they happened to “fall into.”  Is this not the truth?

We may question if there is another path to take, another opportunity waiting for us since we are creative thinkers, dreamers, problem-solvers, and the many hats we wear (social worker, babysitter, event planner, fundraiser, firefighter, and more) do look pretty good on us.  While there are times when frustration sets in and the universe seems to be against you, do not fret.  You are being tested to become a better DVS and remain committed to the field.

As school starts this month (some even started the end of August), students prepare their goals for what they want to be when they grow up – studying hard to make the grade, get into a great school, and make tons of money.  Don’t be offended to learn one may not be interested in becoming a director of volunteers.  However, it doesn’t hurt to try to encourage them to volunteer!

Continue to self reflect on why you do what you do.  As the fiscal year is coming to an end for federal employees, now is a good time to evaluate what goals you wish to accomplish for fiscal year 2011.  I put you to the challenge to meet 2 professional goals and 2 personal goals.  Is it to teach? To write an article and get published? Serve on another committee? (Well, maybe not this one).  Develop training materials for paid staff? Increase your volunteer workforce by 5 percent?  Challenging yourself will force you to stay current in the field, advocate for the profession, and become an even better DVS.

As a DVS, I don’t know if we need to go to Italy or India to discover my true calling.  While not anticipated or truly embraced at the beginning, we know that working with volunteers is a true calling and one that we cannot deny.

Eat Pray Love?

As a DVS, I don’t know if we need to go to Italy or India to discover my true calling.  While not anticipated or truly embraced at the beginning, we know that working with volunteers is a true calling and one that we cannot deny


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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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