By Laurie Taylor-Mitchell
It was wonderful to see so many of our Network volunteers at the Appreciation Event this year, which was held at the beautiful Irvine Nature Center. The weather was perfect and there was lots of space for young children to run around, and to roast marshmallows for s’mores after the meal. This event really took me down memory lane to the time when the Network began, with just one school and a few volunteers, to the hundreds of volunteers we have had over the last few years. Although the tremendous efforts for the distributions during the pandemic will forever be in our hearts, the work now done almost every day by volunteers through the schools now still dramatically improves the lives of our students and their families.
I visited a Network partner school this week and talked to a staff liaison who works with our Network Lead Volunteer there. In just one day, she had three urgent requests: a family who had lost everything in a house fire and was living in a hotel, a single parent family where the parent had lost her job, and a family with five children experiencing a huge reduction in income. All of them needed food and/or supplies. The BCPS staff liaisons alert our Network Lead Volunteers to these situations; our volunteers get the gift cards for groceries and other supplies and pass on the referrals for other services, such as free furniture delivered when families have established new housing. The staff person said “there is nothing like the Network” in getting families in great need access to food and other basic necessities.
Lead Volunteers in Network schools spend hours putting together cabinets and shelving in Rooms of Support, as well as organizing and stocking the Rooms, recording the donations that are given away. Volunteers still run food distributions in many schools, and volunteers pack hundreds of bags of food and supplies for distribution during school breaks. Then there are volunteers who run drives for items in great demand in schools and get those items to the schools or to “The Hub,” our storage space. Volunteers who work every week at The Hub have assembled cabinets and shelves there and accept donations from community members. Others come by The Hub to take away materials for recycling.
The volunteers on the Advocacy Committee give their time in planning advocacy and testifying at County Council meetings, Board of Education meetings, go to Annapolis during the legislative session to make statements on bills, and write to legislators. Volunteers represent the Network at community events around the County. The volunteers on the Development Committee for our fundraiser put in huge amounts of time making connections with donors and planning this event, to raise the funds that make all of our work possible. Our Board members are also volunteers.
As volunteers, we know how service to others gives our lives meaning and purpose; we become more connected with others, something that is sorely needed post-Covid. Thank you for sharing part of your life with the Student Support Network! You have improved the lives of thousands of students and families in Baltimore County.