by Elissa May

As I think about the different paths I could have taken after graduation, I couldn’t be happier to have ended up as an AmeriCorps VISTA.  This has been an adventure away from what I’m used to that has made me stronger as a person, pushing me into a new city to meet new people and learn how to be a little more independent. As a VISTA, I’ve also been introduced to the world of nonprofits and human services that I would not have necessarily been able to delve into elsewhere. I currently serve as the Recruitment and Enrollment Specialist for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Central Blue Ridge, spreading our message about our need for volunteers in the community and taking our new volunteers through the process of becoming a “Big.” It’s been challenging in several ways, but I know that overcoming these tough and sometimes daunting tasks will be beneficial to me as a professional and as a person.

Working to recruit volunteers does not always allow you to go home at the end of the day feeling fulfilled. The big picture of recruitment is that there still exist almost 100 children on a waiting list for a Big Brother or Big Sister, and the need is always greater than our resources. Some of these children are next up to be matched, but others, due to either their location, or simply the lack of a volunteer that matches their preferences, may have been on that list for a very long time. On the days I’ve processed a few applications, conducted an interview, or led an orientation, I definitely feel accomplished. I know that we are making progress toward a goal, even if it remains incomplete. I also know that each child who is matched with an energetic and committed volunteer is going to have at least one aspect of their life positively changed in the months ahead, and that makes me really excited for each and every one of our Match Meetings!

With each new day I’m learning about ways to help potential volunteers overcome their anxiety about being a mentor, and to promote our need for volunteers to the surrounding communities. Perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned, however, is that although there always seems to be a pressure to recruit more, and a seemingly eternally empty void to fill for volunteers, the progress we have made is worth being proud of. Celebrating the matches and the successes is just as important as being aware of how much farther we can go as an agency. Our work is not done yet – and that’s the exciting part!