City of Alexandria, VA
Volunteer Profile: Danielle Thomas-Pollard
"The best part of volunteering with ACAP is meeting active, involved parents, teens, and community leaders who are concerned about children and their future."
Editor, Let’s Talk Newsletter, Alexandria Campaign on Adolescent Pregnancy (ACAP)
Q: How did you first get involved with this organization and begin volunteering?
I am a graduate of the first class of the Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI). Its Executive Director, Fay Slotnick, sent the class an e-mail regarding ACAP and its need for parent leaders to volunteer to write articles for the Let’s Talk newsletter. After meeting with ACAP’s Community Education Specialist, Becky Griesse, I knew immediately this was an organization with which I wanted to be involved. My first assignment was to write an article for the Summer 2008 issue of the newsletter (our goal is to publish quarterly). I volunteered to be Editor for the subsequent issues to lighten Becky’s workload. We just published our Summer 2009 issue and are beginning to work on our Fall issue!
Q: Why did you choose to be a part of this particular organization?
From alexgetreal.com, ACAP’s website, “ACAP is a coalition of interested citizens, agencies, and community groups dedicated to reducing adolescent pregnancy in Alexandria. Founded on the belief that parents, families and teens themselves play a critical role in preventing adolescent pregnancy, ACAP focuses on positive, holistic solutions that help teens follow their dreams. Adolescent pregnancy is a problem that can be reversed through personal empowerment and self-respect. ACAP is all about making that happen.”
ACAP’s mission is so closely aligned to my personal philosophies. My daughter is a pre-teen and I have served in a variety of organizations and positions that serve Alexandria’s youth, including PTA and Girl Scouts. Because of my work with and concern for children, it is important to me that our youth are informed about all aspects of life, including age appropriate discussions about sex, sexuality and teen pregnancy. Through my work with ACAP, I hope to play a significant role in fostering open dialogue and honest, trusting relationships between Alexandria’s parents and our children to reduce the incidence of adolescent pregnancy.
Q: How long have you been volunteering?
While I have been volunteering with ACAP since the Spring of 2008, I have engaged in volunteer activities almost my entire life. My first memory of service is from when I was a fifth grader. A select number of us would volunteer at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in D.C. to spend time with the mentally ill. Since then, I have always felt it was important to donate my time to a variety of organizations and have continued to do so, including recent stints as PTA President, Girl Scout leader, and Co-chair of the Alexandria Single Parent Advocacy Network. I am currently engaged in a number of volunteer activities in addition to my work with ACAP.
Q: How many hours per week or month do you volunteer?
20-25 hours per month
Q: What do your volunteer duties involve?
I get to meet lots of new people from our community! I create timelines for the newsletter, from submission dates to publication dates, and spend much of my time soliciting writing material for inclusion in our upcoming issue. I get to connect with various Alexandrians who care deeply about our children and are dedicated to ACAP’s mission of securing positive, solid futures for our children (or who are themselves Alexandria teens). Through my work with PTA, I became familiar with our new Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Morton Sherman, who, when asked, was kind and eager enough to submit a wonderful cover piece for our current issue.
Besides bugging the heck out of people to allow me to help them make their voices heard, I work closely with Becky to ensure timely publication and distribution of this indispensable resource.
Q: What is the best part of volunteering at this organization?
Helping people! That’s always the best part of volunteering to me. I have been known to say that I’m helped far more by being a volunteer than the people being served. The best part of volunteering with ACAP is meeting active, involved parents, teens, and community leaders who are concerned about children and their future.
Q: What have you learned from your volunteer experience?
I have learned to be a good time and schedule manager, to work well with a variety of people, and to exercise initiative. I have learned that people care, that Alexandria’s citizens are active and involved- especially when it comes to our children. I have learned that all of Alexandria’s children deserve a safe and secure future. Most of all, I have learned that giving just a little time each month can make a big difference.
Q: What would you recommend for others who want to get more involved in the community through volunteer work?
Like the famous Nike slogan, I would encourage people to “just do it”. There are so many organizations that would benefit from just a little bit of a person’s time and the experience will change you in immediate, tangible ways and in ways that are yet to be seen. The seeds planted now through volunteering will continue to bear fruit for years to come. For parents, there is no better way to show our children how we can make a difference not only in their lives, but in the lives of others. Having our children volunteer with us, or engage in a service project of their own choosing, demonstrates, too, that they can make a difference.
I would recommend- for those thinking about performing community work in Alexandria to visit Volunteer Alexandria at www.volunteeralexandria.org for a list of available volunteer opportunities.