A group of community-conscious young adults met at Whitlow's on Wilson on Sunday, July 16, for the Community Role Models' Second Annual Summer Celebration.
The initiative was started in 2004 by County Board Member Walter Tejada, as a way to familiarize Arlington's young adults with the nonprofit organizations and volunteer options available to them.
"Arlington has a pool of very talented, energetic, young people … who are eager to participate and help," said Tejada of why he saw a need to establish CRM.
He cited Arlington’s highest per capita population of young adults as evidence for why the community should reflect diversity, not just pertaining to race and ethnicity, but diversity of ages, viewpoints and gender as well.
Tejada dismissed those who claim young adults are too busy with their social lives and careers to concern themselves with volunteer work. "I say to [those people], ‘Well, have you asked them?’ "
AS COUNTY Board Member, Tejada found a way to involve the government. "The government needs to be a facilitator … it should facilitate finding your niche, to make us a better community," he said. "We need to encourage young people to engage in civic life in a way that they enjoy it."
Tejada says it is tough to boil all that Community Role Models signifies to "a slogan on a bumper sticker," but defining elements include celebrating Arlington’s diverse community, providing its young adults with leadership roles, and encouraging them to become part of the 'Arlington Way' tradition, which he describes as "civic participation in order to lead to initiatives … to get people’s points of view to be at the table."
CRM has certainly been playing its part in fostering young adults’ voices in the community.
Its mission, as described by county liaison Greg Castano who works in the Arlington Volunteer Office, is two-fold: an education element and the engaging of young adults in the community through volunteer work.
"Our first year was about learning forums — inviting the public to learn about areas that need volunteers … and community development."
The education element relates to CRM’s speaker series where every other month a prominent person in the community speaks to the group.
Though still in its developing stages, the initiative has taken steps to increase its organization, with a six-month plan already scheduled and the creation of several teams covering programs, marketing and outreach.
Christie Amberman, marketing chair, stresses CRM’s far-reaching effects when it comes to getting better acquainted with the area.
"It’s easy to be too focused on your job or education," she said. "CRM is a great opportunity to feel more connected … it makes a difference in making Arlington your home."
Amberman has lived in the area for two years. "CRM has given me a better sense of the services and resources in the Arlington community … it’s a great way to get people started with volunteering."
Molly McGinty, who moved to Arlington a year and a half ago from Delaware, heard about Community Role Models from a friend. As a long-time volunteer, McGinty is glad to have found a resource in her very own neighborhood. "I usually volunteer in D.C … I didn’t know Arlington had its own organization."
IN JUST TWO years, Community Role Models has already made a difference in assisting nonprofits.
In particular, CRM has worked closely with the Arlington Food Assistance Center, especially during last year’s Boy Scouts Food Drive, which will take place on Nov. 11 this year.
As Nancy Cude, AFAC’s volunteer coordinator, points out, "AFAC is volunteer-driven, that’s how we do it … AFAC couldn’t operate without people like you." Katie Westcott, CRM’s program team chair, managed Community Role Models' part in the food drive. "We sorted the food at the center, boxed it all, then got it ready for families at Thanksgiving."
Susan Anderson of Community Residences, a nonprofit helping adults with disabilities live independently, helped Castano arrange the first CRM information session at Whitlow’s and is impressed with how much it has accomplished in so little time.
"CRM really helps you familiarize with nonprofits here in Arlington … I see lots of potential in this organization."
Indeed, CRM is indispensable in encouraging a life-long commitment to volunteering.
"We have a different activity each month," Amberman said. "You can try out something new, and if you like it, find a long-term opportunity, like mentoring a child or working in the Arlington public libraries."
Upcoming CRM events include the Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment’s Pickup & Drinkup and Offender Aid and Restoration’s Project Christmas Angel. For more information, visit CRM’s Web site http://www.volunteersolutions.org/acvo/volunteer/news/crmactivities.
In keeping with the idea of self-motivated progress, Tejada reminded CRM that "Community Role Models' future is bright, its limit is whatever limit you want to set."