Maria Smith lives with a disease that leaves her unable to work and might cause your average person to become isolated from the community. However, volunteering is what uplifts her and gives her the energy to continue on each day. She believes serving also keeps her focused, and Smith gives thanks that she has enough physical strength to do so. It encourages her that there are opportunities to give of herself, her time, and her knowledge. Regardless of how she may feel as a result of her illness, Smith retains her dynamic, loving spirit and is devoted to contributing to the community of Providence that has supported her throughout her life.
At age twenty-three, Smith, a successful college graduate and retail manager, was diagnosed with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease. Lupus has affected her hearing, liver, kidneys, lungs, and hips. She sometimes needs the aid of a cane to walk, tires easily, and has undergone several surgeries, but she does not let these things hold her back.
Over the years since her diagnosis, Smith has held volunteer positions with the Brown University Swearer Center for Public Service, Elmhurst Extended Care Center, Brown Fox Point Early Child Care Center, and the Volunteer Center of Rhode Island.
For five years as an office volunteer at the Volunteer Center of Rhode Island (VCRI), Smith has helped build connections with community agencies and volunteers across the state. Her dedication and sparkling personality have made a huge impact on the small office at the VCRI. Smith faithfully comes in each week and volunteers as a publicity support assistant. She contributes by tracking weekly and monthly newspaper columns which let the community know about volunteer needs with nonprofit agencies throughout the entire state of Rhode Island. Smith’s main function is to connect with the agencies to let them know about their additional publicity and maintains a record of all past columns and volunteers connected by them. A strong believer in the value of community involvement, Smith enjoys doing her part to inform others about the many ways that they too can become a part of something bigger in their community through volunteering.
Lynne Harper, Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the Volunteer Center of Rhode Island believes that Smith has been instrumental in their community outreach efforts. When Harper took over her position in early 2004, Smith’s efforts were much appreciated as she worked with the former Communications Coordinator for the previous 3 years. This was a case of the volunteer training the staff person. Smith is not only one of Harper’s volunteers, she has become her friend. She is a joy to work with and whatever limitations her disability causes, certainly have not gotten in the way of her being their most dependable office volunteer and a welcome member of their team at the Volunteer Center.
In addition to her work with VCRI, Smith is also an active volunteer with her church, Congdon Street Baptist Church in Providence. Determined to do all that she can to serve VCRI and her church, Smith has begun a 300 hour part time AmeriCorps position, which will allow her to take on more projects at both sites.