What does leadership have to do with volunteerism?

So often we think of volunteering as administrative support or hands-on unskilled work. We ignore at our peril the importance of leadership in volunteer programs.

Leadership as hierarchy. In the old days (and in some existing structures) leadership is a function of a pyramid structure with the authority figure and leader at the top and all others fall underneath in an orderly and structured pattern. And oftentimes the volunteer is at the bottom of that food chain! Not any more!

Leadership as teamwork. One of the most profound changes in our society and in the nonprofit world is the transition to a more collaborative, team-based leadership model. Some of us attribute that to the increase in the influence of women in corporations and organizations, arguing that women naturally employ a ‘flatter’ organizational model without as much emphasis on who’s in charge. Others recognize that it’s in part a generational difference reflecting young people’s entrepreneurial tendencies.

One of the elements of this new model is the transition from blame to accountability. Blame may work in a hierarchy where power runs downhill from the top to the bottom. In a traditional model it is tempting and reasonable for volunteers to avoid taking responsibility in order to avoid blame. Alienation grows, anger escalates, and trust breaks down. And you as the volunteer manager are stuck with the result of a disillusioned volunteer and a weakened program.

Blaming does not work. It is destructive in any relationship but it certainly does not work when each participant in a working team has more autonomy and decision-making power over his/her own work. The transition from blame to accountability is important and beneficial for your volunteers and your organization. It means that volunteers take responsibility for their own work. It builds respect and empathy for others. And it builds trust.

Leadership as empowerment. This transformation leads to relationships built on trust where participants at all levels co-create a reality that affirms and supports the individual and the organization. It means moving away from a model of ‘power over’ to a place where the job is to create power for others. Empowering volunteers builds their ownership of your program and an enduring commitment to your organization.

Have you thought about how these views influence your organization? Or your volunteer program? Today’s volunteers expect to make a difference and to share their strengths. You need to empower them for this to happen.

Anne B. Schink, a From the Field featured blogger, is a volunteer management consultant and the author of the Nonprofit Readiness Toolkit.

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William James & Chris Hedges

I recently re-read William James’ essay “The Moral Equivalent of War” and recalled the 2002 book by Chris Hedges, War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning. James, writing in the early 1900s, was a student of psychology, a medical doctor and a thoughtful socialist. He carefully unpacks the role of war in human history, in part because the first world war was looming. His language is gender-bound and dense yet worth a close read. If peace prevails, the military fears loss of ‘manly virtues” but James makes the case that not only do these characteristics have value but can flourish in a better way if given a different outlet. He considers a conscription that would preserve these virtues without the negative side effects. He wants toughness without callousness, authority with no cruelty and painful, dreary work done cheerfully, knowing it is important and temporary. Then he says, “I spoke of the “moral equivalent” of war. So far, war has been the only force that can discipline a whole community, and until an equivalent discipline is organized, I believe that war must have its way. But I have no serious doubt that the ordinary prides and shames of social man, once developed to a certain intensity, are capable of organizing such a moral equivalent as I have sketched, or some other just as effective for preserving manliness of type. It is but a question of time, of skillful propogandism, and of opinion-making men seizing historic opportunities.”

He references H. G. Wells, another thoughtful observer, who thinks the traditions of service and devotion, of fitness, physical exertion and universal responsibility are all worthy ideals that come out of military life and the waging of war both can and should be part of national character without battles or conflict.

A more contemporary observer, Chris Hedges, has been a war correspondent for much of his professional life, and while not a fighter, has been part of the chaos, mayhem and terror that is the battlefield. He talks about the rush, the high of it, as well as war as culture, myth and crusade.

War makes the world understandable, a black-and-white tableau of them and us. It suspends thought, especially self-critical thought. All bow before the supreme effort. We are one. Most of us willingly accept war as long as we can fold it into a belief system that paints the ensuing suffering as necessary for a higher good; for human beings seek not only happiness but also meaning. And tragically, war is sometimes the most powerful way in human society to achieve meaning.

His writing is personal; he has felt the addiction and the allure of war’s “enticing elixir”. Yet he offers no alternative. Unlike James, who credits humans with the ability to shift, grow and change, Hedges says there is no moral equivalent for us. While both men analyze what a purposeful or meaningful life is, James is an academic and Hedges a battle-field reporter. Both understand the power of the response to armed conflict, but only James offers a solution, an evolutionary shift that allow the making of powerful meaning by constructing new, deeply satisfying tasks.

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It is really not about work/life balance

Blogs about work, life and balance are a theme for me. A quest. I hear it is for others, too. I get asked to do workshops on work/life/balance. I wonder why since I feel like I am constantly struggling to make ‘it’ work.

In my last ‘balance’ blog, Balance: Moving toward? Status quo? Juggling?, I stated that moving toward personal balance constantly evolved. And, that I could ‘feel’ balance in my heart. My heart felt a glow. And then, of course, there are the times that my heart does not get or have the feel good glow, but feels like a lump of, well, lead, making me paralyzed or wanting to bolt out of my skin.

And then I remember approaching the concept of balance in earlier blogs from a self-care platform. In Juggling? Or Balance? steps were outlined for creating a self-care plan. One person called this brilliant and wanted to pass it on. I hope he did. This was followed by Moving Toward Balance: Identifying Where You Are Spending Your Time, which outlined how to use your plan by reflecting, at four levels, on what the data reveals to you about you.

And now I feel I have evolved or shifted yet again. I can sense the glow in my heart, that is not overpowered, challenged or compromised my intellectual side.

I read a blog by Doug Silsbee who is a leader is presence-based leadership development. He talks openly about how we all experience frequent periods of overload and stress. Juggling? Or Balance? did not explicitly link the lack of self-care with personal health issues. However, the research certainly supports increased burnout, more negative health consequences and the lurking question (or statement) ‘what am I doing?’ or ‘get me out of here!’

Silsbee points out that many of us turn to vacation to get back in balance, seeing it as the mythical Holy Grail for work/life balance… for the duration of the vacation. Then, back at work or home, the stressors jump out and ambush us – again! To make it worse, we know this will happen! Silsbee intimates that the restorative self-care we give ourselves has an amazingly short half-life.

There are problems, he says, with work/life balance – or in my case juggling/balance. He says the slash between the two words implies they are different, separate, or can be separated. If I look at my life spirit, work is only one part of my fully engaged life. It is not separated from home, family, volunteering, vacation, and so on. My life is an integrated whole, regardless how much I strive to compartmentalize it.

Then, balance begins to preoccupy my mulling about life. Silsbee says that balance implies stasis, an implication that there is a magic recipe to be figured out. How unrealistic is this? My life, as well as yours and everyone else’s, is filled with complexities that are shifting and changing as I write this blog. Consistency is not a component of a today’s world – at least not mine.

My heart is shifting (beginning to glow) due to a new perspective based on Barry Johnson’s life work in polarities. Silsbee says, let’s look at the life polarities of activity and rest. They are pretty much at opposite ends of my reality. He suggests they can replace work/life balance. He even states that activity and rest contradict each other. And are ever so crucial in a well-lived life. If I focus on one, say activity, then rest can suffer. If I go overboard and focus on rest, then I get all fidgety with lack of activity. The interplay or integration of both poles leads to a dynamic individual who can feel and project positive energy in their community – whether it is the community of family, tourist, work, volunteerism, or whatever.

To compound this realization is the insight that whatever ‘solution’ appears today will subtly or monumentally change next week or year, or even tomorrow or later today. Just as we are a dynamic living system that has varying needs for activity and rest, so do all those other uniquely-positioned human systems or group systems (filled with human, relationships, rules, histories, circumstances, etc.).

What I can do for my unique, dynamic, living system (Me!) is to pay attention when I am pushing up against a pole. Where I have moved into that pole so dramatically, that the other pole (usually rest) seems a distant memory. Silsbee suggests it is not choosing one or the other, nor finding a static balance between the two. Rather, it’s a matter of being present to the dynamic tension between the poles, and learning to work skillfully with it.

As I move into this new perspective, I have questions for myself as a worker, volunteer, family member, trainer, coach, friend, mentor….

    • What is leading me to be excessively in the activity pole?
    • When do I begin to ignore that both activity and rest are important?
      Not equally important, but together-ly!
    • Do I have warning signals or early warning signs of overuse of the Activity pole? Of the Rest pole?
    • Who do I trust to help me recognize the warning signals if I am not paying attention to them?
    • How do I make it safe to say, it really is not about the myth I call Balance, rather it is about the fluidity of moving between the poles of Activity and Rest?

    During this next day, week, and month, I will take one minute to check in with my heart and ask, “Which pole am I in? Am I excessively located in a pole? Adjustment needed?” That moment of pause, builds my capacity and, consequently, the capacity of the community in which I work, volunteer and live.

    For more information on effective facilitation techniques or training opportunities, go the UMaine Cooperative Extension Strengthening Your Facilitation Skills website.

    Jane Haskell is an Extension Professor with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and a Featured Blogger

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    Doing Good is Good for You

    You probably already know that eating kale and leafy greens are good for you. Making sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep, that too. Taking at least 30 minutes a day for exercise to get your heart rate up, yes, add that to the list.

    But did you know that doing good is good for you?

    UnitedHealth Group released a study showing that volunteering really does do a body good. The study Doing Good is Good for You shows that volunteers are healthier than non-volunteers and their employers are in better health as a result of their volunteer work.

    Whole health is just as important as numbers on a scale or monitor. If your mental and emotional state is not healthy then likely your physical health isn’t either.

    The health impact of stress is well documented. It takes a physical, mental, and emotional toll on a person. 78% of those surveyed report that volunteering lowers their level of stress.

    Being able to manage and lower stress levels allows these volunteers to report feeling calm and peaceful most of the time. They also report having a lot of energy – something everyone can benefit from!

    The study notes, “a core component of good health is to have a sense of purpose and meaning in your life.” Certainly volunteering fulfills this element. 96% of those surveyed stated that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose.

    Helping others provides satisfaction and it also helps people socialize and connect with others. Most of those surveyed report new friendships as a result of their volunteer work. Feeling connected to your community creates a sense of wellbeing.

    It is no secret that an employer values a healthy employee. The health care cost of these employees is lower and the productivity is higher. Employees with low stress levels are present and engaged with their work, a top value to an employer.

    Volunteers also bring a strong set of skills to the work place. They have refined job skills like marketing and management but also broader skills like working as a team and time management. All of these skills are in high demand in the workplace.

    Volunteering benefits all involved and there aren’t a lot of activities that are an across the board win-win like it.

    Doing good, it truly does do good.

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    Volunteering as a Pathway to Employment

    While the national and Maine unemployment rates are declining, 7.6% and 6.9% respectively, they are still numbers that are daunting to the unemployed and to the employed feeling job instability.

    This blog post is coming to you from someone that has been laid off from all three of her professional jobs in the past thirteen years. Between sequestration and state budget cuts and crisis, the feeling of insecurity is ubiquitous.

    The Corporation for National & Community Service has good news for us though. Their new report shows that volunteering increases the odds of finding a job.

    Volunteering as a Pathway to Employment looked at data collected from individuals age 16 and older that were interested in finding work. The data was collected over a 10 year period and was evaluated to answer two questions:

    • Is volunteering associated with an increased likelihood of employment for individuals out of work?
    • If so, does the relationship between volunteering and employment vary by demographic characteristics, labor market conditions, and community-level factors?

    The report highlights three key findings that are really exciting:

      1. volunteers are 27% more likely to find employment than non-volunteers,

      2. volunteers without a high school diploma have a 51% better chance at finding a job, and

      3. volunteers living in rural areas are 55% more likely to find a job than non-volunteers.

    Why is this happening? Volunteering increases social interactions and connections. It grows job skills and life experience. All of which are important to becoming gainfully employed.

    14.01% of Maine’s high school students either do not graduate or do not graduate on time. Think about the potential volunteering could have on their futures.

    Through volunteering and service-learning these students greatly increase their employability. They will learn new skills and knowledge, they will experience new things, and they will make connections that may lead them to employment. Volunteering may not be a substitute for textbook learning but another path for those that do not have a high school diploma.

    The 2010 data from the U.S. Census Bureau lists Maine as the most rural state in the nation (we recently replaced Vermont in this top spot). The data shows that 61.3% of Maine’s population is in a rural area. The U.S. Census Bureau defines rural area as not being an urban area and they define urban area as those areas with population 2,500 or more.

    We’ve all heard the saying of, “It’s all in who you know!” This speaks volumes in rural areas. The volunteer setting allows one to uphold their reputation for reliability and work ethic. It gives one the opportunity to create a positive name for them self and have that name networked all over the rural area. On top of that, volunteering increases social connections as well as a social and communicative skill set.

    So add “increase odds of finding employment” to the long list of benefits for volunteering.

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    Succession Planning

    Recently I gave the “if I were hit by the bus” talk. When someone leaves your organization unexpectedly, whether it is a chief executive, a leader, a board member, key staff person or a valuable volunteer, major disruption results. It sometimes feels like diving off the diving board blindfolded, or beating a hasty exit in the ensuing crisis.

    Often we try hard to avoid the topic of succession planning altogether. However, research in the nonprofit sector claims that 65% of Executive Directors and Board Chairs expect to leave their positions within the next five years. 85% of them do not have written leadership sustainability plans. So open your eyes and consider doing some planning.

    Anticipate. Begin by conducting an open, transparent process for considering the possible consequences of losing a key person in your organization. Start with something as simple as reviewing all job descriptions.

    Prepare. Brainstorm actions that mitigate potential risks. Ask each key person to create their own succession plan. Identify primary outside contacts that are critical to your success.

    Document everything. Create a binder of essential resources. Develop a standard protocol for recordkeeping, passwords and file storage.

    Identify a continuity officer. Susan Ellis suggests that you should identify one key person to be the keeper of the records of your organization. That includes documenting the organization’s history, copies of minutes, newsletters and key communications. Track policies and procedures. Understand the organizational structure and culture.

    Engage your business partners. Leverage their expertise. Seek their advice. Gain financial and pro bono support. Many of them are happy to provide business planning services and not just financial support.

    Identify potential. Target emerging leaders and engage them in new ways. Create a leadership pipeline and demonstrate that “This is a place to grow.”

    Develop bench strength and build teams. Cross-train volunteers and staff to understand the various responsibilities and functions of others. Build self-sufficient and self-directed teams.

    Coach and Mentor. Give new and less experienced volunteers opportunities to learn skills and exercise leadership.

    Provide training for all. Orient them to the organization, both to the physical space and your mission and goals. Identify training opportunities within and outside your organization. Be transparent by inviting questions and sharing information.

    Celebrate. No matter how small the steps are that you take on the path of creating a sustainability plan, cheerlead for those efforts. Communicate widely internally and externally. The community will appreciate your long range thinking.

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    “Every Day You’re Making History”

    by Lauren Ellmers

    Those were the words spoken by Bill Basl, director of AmeriCorps at the 16th Annual Maine AmeriCorps member conference. As an attendee and member of the planning committee, I was able to experience the ins and outs, as well as the impact of gathering members from a variety of programs and locations.

    Maine AmeriCorps Members with Bill Basl, Director of AmeriCorps, in April 2013.

    The conference is an annual event that brings together the best that AmeriCorps members have to offer across the state. The conference was organized by AmeriCorps members, workshops were presented by members, and attendance was only open to current members. Under the guidance of the Maine Commission for Community Service, and specifically their VISTA leader, the event took shape. The conference provided a terrific opportunity for members across the state to get together, learn about each other’s work and celebrate national service on a much larger scale than any one program could facilitate.

    As a member of the planning committee, I had insider knowledge of the details of the workshops, and I knew exactly what was planned for the day. That being said, I was still surprised by the energy that comes when more than one hundred members are combined into the same room to celebrate the strength of national service. Serving as part of an eight member Campus Compact team can be challenging, primarily due to our size and varied locations across the state. While the Campus Compact VISTA network is very strong, we are fairly removed from the other members serving in our communities.

    The day kicked off with Bill Basl as the keynote speaker. He has previously served as a VISTA- an experience that is rare to find with someone in his position. During his keynote, there were two messages that stood out to me the most. He began by sharing a story. Located in Washington DC, he is around a slew of AmeriCorps members. Often, he will approach them on the street and begin a conversation.

    “Thanks for serving.”


    “I said thanks for serving! I see you’re an AmeriCorps member.”

    Despite interacting with a variety of members on the street, their reaction is always the same. At first: they’re baffled by his statement. Then, pleasantly surprised, the members enthusiastically share stories of their projects and programs. Reinforcing this, he told the audience to “Wear the ‘A’, respect the ‘A,”- referring to the AmeriCorps logo on pins and other materials we’ve received, but often ends up in the back of our closets.

    Secondly, as described by this title, he told us that we’re making history every day. As VISTAs, it is easy to forget the impact we have on our communities and organizations. Our capacity-building work is constantly forward-looking and removed from those we impact. We often forget that the little steps we take make a huge difference. Whether it’s taking the time to listen to students, forge a new campus-community partnership, or connect with a new faculty member. Those connections did not exist previous to our service, and without our efforts they wouldn’t exist today.

    Besides listening to the keynote address at the Maine AmeriCorps Conference, I was able to sit in on three workshops. It was a great opportunity to hear one of my VISTA members talk about the online financial literacy program he created, and share his tips to workshop participants. I listened to fellow Lewiston State and National members talk about the AmeriCorps collective group that we’ve created- and viewed a presentation that consisted entirely of GIFs. Lastly, I attended a workshop that taught participants how to film and edit videos from a smartphone. While all the topics were interesting, having current members present brought the workshops to another level. What could have been just another typical conference, was transformed when the people presenting are your friends and fellow team members.

    Overall, the conference was a very exciting, energy filled day. It also was an excellent motivational event as I enter the second half of my term as a part of the Maine AmeriCorps community. When I look back over the last year and a half of my AmeriCorps term, it is the AmeriCorps community that’s made the greatest impact on my service and life. When my term ends in August, I know that I will be disappointed to leave this community. But I’m also looking forward to approaching members on the street to say: “Thanks for serving!”

    As VISTA Leader for Maine Campus Compact, Lauren supports a team of eight VISTA’s as they navigate their year of service. She is responsible for organizing regular meetings, providing professional development and networking opportunities so that team members can reach their full leadership potential. This post originally appeared on the Campus Compact AmeriCorps*VISTA Blog.

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    Individuals, Organizations Honored with Exemplary Volunteer Awards

    The Governor’s Awards for Service and Volunteerism Exemplary Awards acknowledge nominees the Selection Committee believes should be appreciated for their contributions to civic and community life.

    June Messier, Wells – June Messier serves on the Board of Directors for Wells-Ogunquit Senior Needs Committee/Senior Center and lends a hand at the Senior Center. June founded “Applause for a Cause” senior theater group that performs to raise funds for the senior center, serves as chair of the Pancake Breakfast Green team, coordinates entertainment and meals for “Days of Warming” during the winter, and organizes the annual “Ice Cream Social” as a thank-you to students who volunteer at the Senior Center.

    June Messer is an amazing example of the kind of person, we all want to grow up to be–and a confirmation that one person, can indeed, make a difference in this world.

    Diane Davison, Portland – Diane Davison is president and co-founder of Friends of the Eastern Promenade (FoEP). Through Diane’s leadership and dedication, FoEP has grown to more than 300 dues paying members, 20 active board members, and 27 engaged committee members. She established the annual Summer Concert Series which averages of 400-500 families per weekly show.

    Diane converted what was an inert plan for the park’s improvement into a dog-eared kitchen table attraction for area citizens who care deeply for the Eastern Promenade. She collaborates with individuals in the community, Historic Preservation Board, City Parks Commission, landscape designers, and architects to orchestrate a graceful solution that adds significance and use to Fort Allen. Diane has been named Chair of the Portland’s Park Commission, so her dedication as a volunteer and to green spaces extends beyond the Promenade.

    Dorothy Blanchette, Falmouth – Dorothy “Dotty” Blanchette serves at the Director of the Falmouth Food Pantry, though her volunteer efforts are far more encompassing. For Dotty, no job is too small or too big. She manages operations of the Food Pantry, engages clients in the process to lean valuable skills, and creates networks of families, individuals, students, and community groups to support clients during the holidays and beyond.

    Dotty also serves a mentor for many students she involves in serve at the Food Pantry. One student shared that Dotty recruited him by leaving a note about a need for volunteers to help move furniture under the windshield wiper of his truck. The student appreciates an opportunity to help that fits his busy schedule and helps connect him to his community.

    Kaley Littlefield, Old Orchard Beach - Kaley Littlefield is an AmeriCorps member serving with Goodwill Industries of Northern New England’s Multilingual Leadership Corps Program at the Portland Housing Authority. In her two terms of service, Kaley has reinvigorated the Kennedy Park Study Center to promote learning, creativity, peace, and excellence. She serves students by being a mentor, editing college essays, helping with college application process, and arranging college visits. Kaley works closely with families to make sure they understand the financial aid process.

    On a nightly basis, Kaley will walk home younger students who have approached her about safety concerns. She has had conversations, at length, with both students and some of their families regarding safety. Currently Kaley is planning a culturally appropriate “relationship safety” talk–with help from the United Somali Women of Maine–for Valentine’s Day.

    Shelby Greene, Columbia Falls - Shelby Greene, as a member of Goodwill AmeriCorps Program, serves at the Washington County Food and Fuel Alliance and the Maine Seacoast Mission. Tasked with increasing numbers of both school greenhouses and family greenhouses, she has created one new school greenhouse and 24 family greenhouses. Shelby increased the productivity of the Food Pantry greenhouse and created a plan to provide greens throughout the winter season.

    In her second year with AmeriCorps, Shelby is using her community organizing experience to help students engage in a more successful school experience. She serves in an afterschool program and has worked with 350 students.

    Molly Haley, Portland – Molly Haley is the Volunteer Coordinator at The Telling Room, a nonprofit writing center dedicated to the idea that children and young adults are natural storytellers. The Telling Room works with close to 2,000 young writers in grades K-12. Molly manages more than 300 volunteers who connect to students in meaningful ways that a single teacher can’t do because of time and numbers. Molly holds monthly volunteer orientations to welcome new volunteers and lead them through a typical Telling Room Style writing workshop so they can understand from the student side what they will be facilitating from the instructor side.

    The Telling Room wouldn’t exist without all of the young writers. On the same note, The Telling Room would not exist if the volunteers didn’t exist. And it is due to Molly’s organizing, recruiting, training, and ongoing support that keeps the volunteers working.

    Benjamin Roberts, Litchfield – Benjamin Roberts has been mentoring students for the past five years at RSU#4. He spends most of his time at Libby-Tozier School, but also volunteers at Oak Hill Middle School. Four years ago, Ben began serving as a mentor for a student who was at risk of dropping out. Ben spent many hours preparing activities, bought different supplies and met with the student weekly. He has taught this student manners and the importance of getting enough rest to do well in school.

    Ben is a “book buddy” to a second grade class and reads individually with all of the students in the class. He also tutors several students in a second grade class math class. Ben has a wonderful rapport with many students who look forward to seeing him and talking with him every day. When a student needs someone to talk to about struggles in school or at home, Ben is there willing to listen.

    When Litchfield and Wales schools merged into one, Ben combined the guided reading sets of books from both schools into one neat, organized guided reading library of more than a 1000 books!

    Seniors Plus, Lewiston – SeniorsPlus provides information and resources to support independent living and healthy aging for older adults and adults with disabilities in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford Counties. SeniorsPlus offers various programs that utilize volunteers including Medicare counseling and Tax and Rent rebate assistance. Last year, these two programs alone served over 1400 seniors and adults with disabilities. In 2012, SeniorsPlus Nutrition Services provided 111, 215 nutritious meals to 609 Meals on Wheels clients and the LunchPlus Café diners served 841 older adults and adults with disabilities throughout the tri-county area. To accomplish this work, Senior Plus relied on 594 volunteers who provided 33,800 hours of service to help 12, 425 seniors and adults with disabilities live healthy, independent lives.

    Since 1987, the Governor’s Awards for Service and Volunteerism have celebrated and recognized the exemplary work of Maine’s most dedicated citizens. At the same time, the awards seek to inspire others to follow in the footsteps of those recognized. Through their donated time and talent, volunteers help communities stretch finite cash resources to deliver the most service possible.

    Founded during Governor McKernan’s administration, the program has continued uninterrupted. It is managed on behalf of the Office of the Governor by the Maine Commission for Community Service. The awards are presented at the Capitol each year in April during National Volunteer Week.

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    Deborah Palman of Aurora Honored with Outstanding Public Sector Volunteer Award

    The Governor’s Awards for Service and Volunteerism Outstanding Public Sector Volunteer category recognizes an individual volunteering under the auspices of a public agency (state, county, regional, municipal, or federal). The recipient will demonstrate effectiveness, commitment and significant contributions to meeting a local or statewide need.

    Deborah (Deb) Palman is the cofounder and current President of the only volunteer K9 SAR (Search And Rescue) unit in Maine, Maine Search and Rescue Dogs, which averages 25 searches a year. Deb deploys on searches as a search dog handler, trains and leads other search dog teams, trains police working dogs, and trains her own search dog.

    Deb is also the President of Maine Association for Search and Rescue, which promotes and develops search and rescue capabilities and resources in the State of Maine with the underlying principle of saving lives. She provides overarching leadership to 16 SAR units with 120 personnel providing technical rescue, ground search, wilderness evacuation of injured people and medical support to searches. During 2012 alone, these units rescued hikers off the cliffs in Acadia, carried injured hikers off the Appalachian Trail and Mount Katahdin, and found a body of a missing person in Waterville.

    An internationally respected dog handler, Deb’s overall impact and effectiveness to K9 SAR and other working dogs in the state is huge. She provides extensive volunteer work for SAR and K9 training in addition to her regular job as a small business owner. All her expenses for travel, equipment, dog and dog care, and time away from her business are borne strictly by her as her donation to the continuing well-being of people in Maine.

    Deb’s personal dedication and superb leadership provides critical inspiration to others that is reflected in an extensive SAR volunteer network throughout the state that can be called upon on short notice to help save lives and prevent further injury, anywhere, at any time.

    Since 1987, the Governor’s Awards for Service and Volunteerism have celebrated and recognized the exemplary work of Maine’s most dedicated citizens. At the same time, the awards seek to inspire others to follow in the footsteps of those recognized. Through their donated time and talent, volunteers help communities stretch finite cash resources to deliver the most service possible.

    Founded during Governor McKernan’s administration, the program has continued uninterrupted. It is managed on behalf of the Office of the Governor by the Maine Commission for Community Service. The 2013 awards were presented to honorees by Maine’s First Lady Ann LePage on April 24, 2013 in the Hall of Flags in Augusta.

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    Katherine Stitham of Cape Elizabeth Honored withe Outstanding National Service Volunteer Award

    The Governor’s Awards for Service and Volunteerism Outstanding National Service Volunteer category recognizes an individual who has demonstrated outstanding commitment and service over and above the requirements of their routine service assignments as a Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, *VISTA or Learn and Serve participant.

    Katherine (Kate) Stitham serves as a Goodwill AmeriCorps Member under the Multilingual Leadership Corps Program at the Portland Housing Authority. She serves as the Study Center Coordinator at the Riverton Study Center where she works with more than 100 youth. Kate is always eager to take on a new challenge, whether it’s participating in AmeriCorps training, organizing a service project, or helping a student at the study center.

    Kate is working hard to bring in community volunteers to give children at Riverton extra support that is a key towards academic success. She is also able to expand the work of the CHEETA Project, a youth leadership and community building summer program for refugee and immigrant teens in Portland which she founded in 2010. Through her AmeriCorps service, Kate is expanding the CHEETA Project at Riverton to a year-round volunteer club and, this summer, expanding it to all three Portland Housing Authority centers. She engages youth in service projects to help build self-respect, confidence, and passion for learning.

    Her prior volunteer activities include serving as a volunteer coordinator and education specialist with the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants in NY and as teaching staff providing workshops on sustainable farming projects and working with rural youth in India.

    What distinguishes Kate is that she looks not only with her eyes, but with a deeper understanding. This gives her the ability to surpass traditional limits; to empower individuals; to engage the community; and to make an impact. Kate always goes above and beyond in all that she does because, in her mind, there are no limits.

    Since 1987, the Governor’s Awards for Service and Volunteerism have celebrated and recognized the exemplary work of Maine’s most dedicated citizens. At the same time, the awards seek to inspire others to follow in the footsteps of those recognized. Through their donated time and talent, volunteers help communities stretch finite cash resources to deliver the most service possible.

    Founded during Governor McKernan’s administration, the program has continued uninterrupted. It is managed on behalf of the Office of the Governor by the Maine Commission for Community Service. The 2013 awards were presented to honorees by Maine’s First Lady Ann LePage on April 24, 2013 in the Hall of Flags in Augusta.

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