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

~October 2014~

cartoon of government buildings


Well, it’s hard to believe that almost 8 weeks ago I embarked on the kick off for a major week-long event needing 2,500+ volunteers. If you asked me a year ago how confident I felt to take on this challenge, I would have told you that I questioned myself, my skillset, my confidence. It’s only because I didn’t believe I was the right person for the job. (I know, right?) Ask me now how the journey was a remarkable experience and once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

The 34th National Veterans Wheelchair Games, which are co-presented by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Paralyzed Veterans of America, restored faith that there is still good in the world. As I would watch the sea of orange (because of the color of the volunteer t-shirts) walk the halls, cheer at sporting events, assist where needed, I was in awe of the spirit of giving on a level in which I never experienced.

night scene

I needed to know how the volunteers felt about their experiences at the Games because during and after the event my team received endless e-mails about volunteer experiences. I needed to know how the volunteers felt so I issued a survey (via surveymonkey).

The result was truly overwhelming and I still feel like I am climbing out of e-mails. We received 325 survey responses back. It was reported that almost 50 percent of respondents had the Games as their first-time ever volunteer experience. I was astounded and pleased by the fact that we were able to make an impression for someone to engage in volunteer activity after the Games experience.

I continue to analyze the survey results. We just turned in our after action report and passed along our lessons learned to Dallas VA who will host the Games in 2015. I still check our e-mail address that we had just for the Games. The inbox once had 35-50 e-mails per day if not more. Now, it’s just filling with junk e-mail.

We worked on the Games for 13 months. It became more intense as the Games got closer. The phone rang off the hook constantly and the recruitment events and training sessions were endless. I’m not sure how to recover from an event of this magnitude. How do you turn around and go back to your day-to-day operations? How do you recover your programs and move ahead? How do you maintain all of those relationships that you created in such a short period of time and have the continued community support for your organization?

I’m at a loss for words, but so proud of my team, the volunteers, and the city of Philadelphia. It was emotional for me to mail out thousands of thank you postcards. I felt as if it was our final goodbye. And that means for me that the Games are really over, time to move on. But I want to hold on to the excitement, the energy, the embrace of 2,500+ volunteers who came from 28 states --- TO VOLUNTEER for our Veteran athletes.

*The author of the Federal Government Volunteer Programs page is Melissa Heinlein-Storti , MA, MS, CAVS. Melissa Heinlein-Storti is the Chief, 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 member of the Delaware Valley of Association for Volunteer Administration.  She is a member of the Pennsylvania Society of Directors of Volunteers in Healthcare, Inc. and held positions as education chair (state and local), vice-president (state), and member-at-large).  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 AHVRP. She is currently a doctoral candidate in Human Development at Marywood University. She also contributed to the first textbook on volunteer administration.  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.

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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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