Bernadette Wagner: Any month is a good one to volunteer


April is the National Month for 24 different causes, all of which hope to raise awareness about their cause.

I don’t care what anybody says, National Volunteer Month is by far more glamorous than National Soy Foods Month and not quite as nutty as National Pecan Month. In my opinion it is the most important cause celebrated during April, maybe even the whole year.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Since 1974, starting with President Richard Nixon, every sitting United States president has issued a proclamation during the month of April urging Americans to give their time to community outreach organizations. It is also the time of year when volunteers are recognized for their generous contributions of time, talent and treasure.

On April 22, Volunteer Washington County (VWC) will host our community’s Inaugural Volunteer of the Year Luncheon. At this special event, VWC will recognize individuals who were nominated by 23 different nonprofits for their contributions over the past year. Lou Scally, a man whose name should be in the dictionary next to the word volunteer, will emcee the event.


The event is the brainchild of Cheryl Brown, a Volunteer Washington County board member and member of the Association of Professional Fundraisers. “I knew this was something that VWC could do and do well.

Recognizing volunteers is central to our mission and allows us to celebrate all the fantastic people volunteering in our community,” Brown said.

The interest in and support for this event has been tremendous. The American Red Cross has donated the space for the event, Chick Fil A offered to cater the lunch, and Lovell’s Nursery and Ben’s Flowers have agreed to provide centerpieces and corsages for the honorees, respectively.

Latest VWC Project

I often say, “For our community to fulfill its potential, we don’t need a few people to do a lot, we need everybody to do just a little.” Volunteer Washington County was asked in early March to marshal resources for the completion of Western Maryland Hospital Center’s Therapeutic Garden Fitness Trail. 

When Volunteer Washington County joined this party, it found that many guests had already arrived. This project had already received financial support from private donors and local foundations, had been the beneficiary of discounted services and in-kind gifts from a variety of businesses, had received funding from the state of Maryland and logged countless hours of volunteer service.

Volunteer Washington County did what it does best. It found a creative solution to a community need using volunteer efforts. Partnering with Volunteer Washington County for the second year in a row, Lowe’s of Hagerstown agreed to hold this year’s Lowe’s Heroes Project on May 9 at the Western Maryland Hospital Center. I’m sure due to the generosity of many, the fitness trail will be ready for the June 5 ribbon cutting ceremony.

VWC Community Afghan

This past October, Volunteer Washington County launched its Community Afghan project as a way to symbolize what can be accomplished when people of diverse backgrounds join together to address community issues. Hundreds of people from all over Washington County sent in crocheted granny squares to be included in this unique, one-of-a-kind, beautifully hand-made community afghan.

We hope the symbolism of the project is meaningful and inspiring to all. Individual granny squares by themselves are not much, but when joined with hundreds of others, they provide great warmth and comfort. Like the squares, when joined together, individuals in our community can accomplish together what we are unable to do on our own. The squares differ in size, texture, color and shape. Not all were perfect. Some had mistakes but were included just the same. Through this project, Volunteer Washington County hopes to convey that people don’t have to be perfect to contribute and that each and every unique individual plays a crucial role in our community.

Some of my favorite memories of the Volunteer Washington County Community Afghan project include teaching the kids at Memorial Recreation how to chain stitch, laughing with three teenage boys from Smithsburg High while they completed one square between them during the Just Teens/Just Dance Event at the Valley Mall and teaching a Hispanic woman, who took a bus all the way to the VWC office, how to crochet because it was important to her that the Hispanic Community be represented in the Afghan.

The VWC Community Afghan is now completed. And it is beautiful.

To encourage philanthropy, the Community Foundation of Washington County will hold a one-day, online giving campaign,, on May 2, 2013. The VWC Community Afghan will be used as a special incentive to encourage support of Volunteer Washington County. The VWC Community Afghan will go to the largest donor of more than $1,000.

In addition, VWC is offering other incentive prizes available to all donors including: gift cards to local fitness clubs, spas and restaurants and tickets to upcoming performances at The Maryland Theatre.

Bernadette Wagner is co-director of Volunteer Washington County.

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