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The Boomerang Effect

Give, and good comes back to you

It’s the season of giving, when our grateful hearts yearn to reach out to help one another. Yet the number of Americans volunteering annually is declining, leaving non-profit organizations scrambling to meet the needs of their communities.
    How can you turn your gratitude into action? Join the ranks of the 6,000 Anne Arundel Countians registered as potential volunteers with the Anne Arundel County Volunteer Center.
    The Anne Arundel County Volunteer Center is a connector, says former executive director Fay Mauro. “We are really a matchmaker service,” she says. “You can do short-term projects with any of our organizations, but hopefully you’ll fall in love with their mission and stay with it.”
    Lisa Spallitta fell in love with volunteering long before she moved into her new role as Mauro’s successor.
    Both Mauro and Spallitta left behind jobs in the corporate world to enter the often-challenging yet rewarding world of non-profit management.
    Mauro left a 20-year career practicing business law to helm the volunteer center when it was just starting out in 2001. “I was ready to do something else,” she says. “And volunteer work is much more fun that my previous profession.”
    Spalitta worked in information technology and accounting when she decided she needed a change of pace. “I firmly believe that it’s good to do good,” she says. But it was so hard to pick. Do I work to help the Bay, do I help babies or cancer or whatever?”
    After 15 years as the Center’s leader, Mauro, too, wanted a change. She helped the board look for a new director, starting among their base of loyal volunteers. There they found Spalitta, who was happy to move into the position.
    “This is a job I knew I wanted,” she says. “You learn how many services there are and how many wonderful nonprofits there are out there. This way I’m getting them all.”

Making Love Matches
    Mauro has seen plenty of love connections during her tenure as executive director of the non-profit. Finding the perfect match is like finding the perfect gift. The thought may be more inspired than the reality. This is where the expertise of the Volunteer Center comes in.

Lisa Spallitta, left, and Fay Mauro

    The Center works as a bridge between nearly 400 area non-profits and the volunteers they desperately need to accomplish their goals. Many of these nonprofits are run with small staffs and smaller budgets. It can be hard trying to find the many hands needed to do make the work lighter.
    “We are lucky here that we have great organizations that work with people with disabilities, whether its Bello Machre, Providence Center or Arundel Lodge or Langton Green. And of course, the environment is a really big cause in Chesapeake Bay, and we can match you up with an organization that focuses on that issue,” Spallitta says.
    This time of year, the needs seem to be overwhelming when turkey dinners, Christmas gifts and warmth may be harder to find for some. This is when generous hearts can spread their bounty.
    Where to make your match?
    “We post our volunteer opportunities on our website and on our Facebook page daily, and we also publish a holiday guide that outlines specific needs of dozens of area organizations,” Spallitta says.
    Some of the needs you can find in those pages:
    • Donate winter coats to children, and write a friendly note to stuff in the pocket, as part of the AACVC’s Notes in Coats program.
    • Purchase food, clothing and toys for a family or senior during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons through the Department of Social Services Holiday Sharing program.
    • Use your truck to pick up food donations for the county Food Bank.
    • Shutterbugs can snap photos for an organization’s website or newsletter.
    • Bookworms can read to Hispanic students after school to help them learn English.

The Boomerang Effect
    Helping others provides benefits to the giver: health benefits, social benefits and educational benefits.
    “Volunteering makes you happier, healthier and live longer,” Spallitta says. “There have been numerous studies on the ways doing good makes you feel better. One Harvard study says volunteers live longer lives and spend fewer nights in the hospital. It can help you live longer. Isn’t that amazing?”
    In other words, volunteering is a habit worth starting young. Reaching out to young people is part of Anne Arundel County Volunteer Center’s mission.
    “We spoke recently to high schoolers at a career fair about volunteering not just for their service learning hours to graduate, but also to build their resumes. Colleges are used to seeing people saying, oh I volunteer. But they want to see a commitment, that the student is growing as a person because of the volunteer work.”
    Another benefit Spallitta counts is empathy.
    “Every time you volunteer, you get a glimpse into someone else’s life and you’re better for it,” she says. “You grow a little every time you do it because you’ve now learned something about someone who’s maybe not like you.
    Plus, Spallitta say, “Volunteering is fun. You volunteer in the morning, and your whole day is better. It’s like when you work out in the morning, it’s done, and you feel good because of it. People can get that feeling from volunteering.”

Visit for a searchable database of opportunities as well as the downloadable holiday guide (under Resources). In Calvert County, both and suggest opportunities to lend a hand; or call a local non-profit organization or charitable group and ask them how you can help.