Janelle Mack_- Original Credit: Submitted photo
Janelle Mack_- Original Credit: Submitted photo (HANDOUT)

My earliest experience with philanthropy was in elementary school when I received a humanitarian award at a school assembly before I even knew what a humanitarian was. I won the award because I would instinctively go out of my way to be kind to my peers and ensure their questions were heard. I also would volunteer to escort my peers to the nurse, assist my teacher with cleaning the chalkboard, and during a role-play exercise I selflessly allowed a classmate to "drink the last of the remaining water" so he could survive, a quick and easy decision for me.

I am glad I had a teacher who recognized this quality in me that would continue to grow in skill and passion over the years.


Currently, I am working toward my master's degree in administration of human services after receiving a Bachelor of Science in psychology, both from Wilmington University in New Castle, Del. Over the past year, I have been fortunate enough to volunteer at multiple organizations whose mission statements have one universal theme: human service. United Way of Delaware, West End Neighborhood House, Rebuilding Together New Orleans, and currently Irvine Nature Center, have graciously accepted my desire to help them service their communities.

At Irvine Nature Center, in Owings Mills, I am assisting as the education/development intern. The center is an environmental education organization that educates and inspires current and future generations to explore, respect and protect nature. One of the first events I assisted with was "Do Good Things Sunday" at Stone Cove Kitbar, in Owings Mills, during which 10 percent of the day's profit went toward Irvine. Each volunteer on that day greeted patrons and thanked them for their donation to Irvine.

As an intern, I completed and submitted an application for a grant intended to help the progression and maintenance of our new butterfly house.The butterfly house is one of Irvine's newest exhibits and is home to the official insect of Maryland, the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly, as well as various native plants. The exhibit will serve to teach visitors and the Irvine Nature Center preschoolers lessons on migration, life cycles, metamorphosis, and more. I also assist as a classroom aid for one of our most recent programs, the After-School Eco Explorers program. As part of this program, staff members attend local elementary schools in the Owings Mills area bringing fun and engaging lessons to the classroom. In most cases, live animals are presented to students and tie into the lesson, making their learning experience more visual and concrete.

The opportunities to volunteer at Irvine seem endless — there is always an event or project that is occurring. I see the impact we are making on the community and the smiling faces of staff, volunteers and visitors who walk the halls daily.

After taking a class over the summer, I found my passion for education and science, inspiring me recently to begin the process of creating my own nonprofit based on Science, Techonlogy, Engineering and Math — STEM — education. With this newfound passion, I realized I wanted to work with an organization that teaches students about science. Irvine does that and much more. Working or volunteering in a helping field is very rewarding.

However you help out — whether you're working on the front lines directly with a customer or working behind the scene conducting administrative business — each person plays a role in moving a project along that will ultimately make a difference.

The Volunteer Voices section highlights outstanding volunteers in the Baltimore County area. If you're a volunteer and are interested in submitting to the series, please email elaina.clarke@carrollcountytimes.com.