Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Team Charlotte goes to Raleigh

With the AmeriCorps caring counts team moving from Charlotte to Raleigh, we took the opportunity of AmeriCorps week to promote what AmeriCorps has meant in Charlotte. We as a team took a short road trip to Raleigh and met with the new operating site, The Center for Health Policy at Duke University. We were really excited to offer whatever help that we could while the new city supervisor is taking on the hard task of establishing a team. For the afternoon we answered many questions ranging from what activities are best for 5th days, to the different projects that are being undertaken for the Long Term Project. To add some further insight, we were accompanied by our city supervisor Patty and last year’s team coordinator, Katie. It was a great day of reflection and collaboration of ideas. The next day Team Charlotte along with Katie and Patty enjoyed doing what we as AmeriCorps members do best, hands on service. We began the day splitting up in three groups and delivering meals for the Raleigh branch of Meal on Wheels. Afterwards, we regrouped and headed over to the Raleigh food bank, where we inspected over 9,000 eggs to ensure quality for distribution. At this point our trip came to a close as we drove back home after an eventful two days.
The Better Way Foundation has introduced the First National HIV/AIDS Online Support Group run by positive individuals who care to help those with HIV live longer, better, healthier lives.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

National AmeriCorps Week / Team Indy

May the child in us never go away!  

National AmeriCorps Week in Indianapolis was observed by Team Indy along with the Boys & Girls Club and Grow Indiana, two State sanctioned AmeriCorps programs.  Working with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc. forty-six members convened at Washington Park (the original site of the Indianapolis Zoo) to help facilitate the ultimate plan of planting 2,000 adolescent aged trees in various locations in the Indianapolis vicinity.

Working in tandem with members from the other two Americorps teams, we unloaded and sorted every tree according to its species.....there sure is a lot more to a tree's name than what most of us grew up learning.  Probably the highlight of the day for Team Indy was being assigned to fill the landscape truck's  water supply.....from a fire hydrant!  Here's where the little boy and girl in each of us came out.

Whether it was thoughts of firemen and their hoses or perhaps just playing in the powerful stream of water that an open hydrant produces, this was pretty exciting.  After being instructed on the "how to", we proceeded to "get 'er done".  A funky looking tool, a fifty foot hose and a fire hydrant lay waiting for us to tackle.  Needless to say, as has been the case all year long, each of us simply assumed a place somewhere in the project and proceeded to facilitate the transfer of water from the hydrant to the huge reservoir inside the Keep Indianapolis Beautiful truck.  We had already had an opportunity to work with these folks just a little over a month ago in the neighborhood clean-up project which was part of the Extreme Makeover Home Edition master plan.

Once all the water was transferred to individual buckets, all of the AmeriCorps members began the tedious job of watering hundreds of growing trees that we had just sorted by species.  About half-way into the watering project Mother Nature decided she wanted in on this Beautification project and began to bless us with beautiful but cold rain.  (Editor's Note:  The truth is Mother Nature's contribution was in response to Jamie's incredible rain dance she performed when a mouse scampered out of the high grasses while we were transferring the water from the hydrant and headed straight for her feet.)

Once the work we were asked to do was complete everyone journeyed to a local city park where, under a shelter we shivered, ate lunch provided by the State Office of Faith Based & Community Initiatives, and had an AmeriCorps Recognition service that the Team Coordinators facilitated. Not only did we have another super Fifth Day kind of moment with one another, we were able to meet others who simply want to give back to our community in a tangible way that will make a positive difference! 

Friday, May 22, 2009

AmeriCorps Week Team Tulsa!!!!!!

For AmeriCorps week, Team Tulsa went to Tulsa Community College and spoke to a Developmental Psychology class about AmeriCorps. We discussed our team, host sites, and duties. We addressed the education award, what we have done for 5th days, and our long term project. We also told them about other AmeriCorps programs in Oklahoma that we knew about. We passed our general AC information that included fact sheets, bookmarks, and stickers. The class was very responsive. A few people asked general question, but most of them were curious about HIV/AIDS statistics in Tulsa and where they could get tested.
During the week when Cory went to schools with the Red Cross, she passed out information about AmeriCorps to her classes. They were mostly high schoolers and a few younger kids.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

AmeriCorps Week in New Mexico

On Tuesday, May 11th Team New Mexico conducted a recruiting effort on the campus of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. The day was bright and sunny with highs around 95, but the wind never stopped and we had found trees under which to set up our table so we were not uncomfortable. Once Stephen and Bo, the two white, really white, non-burn-proof Anglos, doused themelves with 45 SPF sun screen, we were ready for business.

Unfortunately, UNM students were not ready for us, despite the great AmeriCorps "Getting Things Done" poster and the eye-catching signs Becky made announcing we had JOBS and listing some salient statistics from the website. The students seemed much more interested in getting to their exams (duh!)

Undeterred, Bo set out to accost students where they sat at lunch, studying in groups, running across the quad. She distributed about 50 information sheets made up from the website and answered questions from “Can I do dental hygiene as part of AmeriCorps?” (“Probably not “) to “Do they really pay for graduate school?” (“Partially.”) She also spoke with several folks whose sister, brother, aunt, daughter, grandson, boyfriend, etc. was currently, had been, plans to, etc. I get involved in AmeriCorps.

Stephen and Pauly in the meantime, posted another 50 info sheets on all the kiosks they could find in their 45 minute tour of the campus while Becky and Ben staffed the table, just in case someone stopped by – and about ten folks did. As we were leaving we were stopped by a student on a bike who asked us “Are you guys AmeriCorps?” (It amazed Bo that he had recognized us until Ben pointed out that our AmeriCorps tee shirts had probably clued him in!) He said he had signed up for one of the forest programs and was having his phone interview the next day. What he really wanted to know was if it was fun and if we thought he could survive it for 10 months. We told him, Hey, we were surviving it for 11 months and loving it and we were sure he would too. He seemed cool with that, thanked us and rode off!

We all then went to an Italian restaurant for lunch to talk once again about what a great team we are, how much we have accomplished (well maybe not so much that day!) and how much we love being together. Ben and Bo left early to get Ben to his exams in Santa Fe (!) by 5PM!

Overall, another great effort by Team New Mexico to spread the word on what terrific work AmeriCorps can do.
By Bo Keppel
Team New Mexico

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Team New Mexico Youth Service Day (part 2)

Our Youth Service Day started out with the team meeting at Bo’s house at eleven in the morning on Friday, April 24. We helped out at an Earth Day fair that was being hosted in Taos with the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. The five of us squeezed into her Forrester like contortionists and took off on the hour and a half drive up north. When we arrived, one of the first things we noticed was the wind; Taos was surprisingly windy that day.
When we got to Taos Charter School, we saw that almost everything was being held outside. There were maybe twenty people within view, most of them volunteers, so we weren’t necessarily impressed by the amount of people in the beginning. We walked around a bit looking at all of the projects being presented by the students and volunteers. The things that they had been doing to save the planet were very interesting and the children were more than willing to demonstrate their designs and ideas to us. There were five main stations of projects that were to be done: mulching, composting, tree planting, weed recognition, and reusable bags.
The first boy we talked to had a lot to say about palm oil and the effects harvesting it has on the environment. After his presentation, it was time to learn how to lay mulch. We shoveled wood chips onto newspaper for about half an hour; with all the helping hands of other volunteers and kids, this task was easily completed. We wanted to help with building a compost bin but there were more than enough hands there as well. We decided to take a look at the newly-built greenhouse; its opening was one of the biggest events happening that day. There were just a few seedlings around but it looked like they were on a great start. After that, we walked over to where some people were digging holes for new trees so we saw that as an opportunity to get our hands dirty, literally.
While we were planting a fruit tree, out of nowhere a small tornado flew over the parking lot and around the wooden fence that secluded the garden from the world. It was incredibly breath-taking, scary, and exciting all at the same time, we had a good laugh about it afterwards. We then walked into a classroom full of children learning about local weeds and how they reproduce, grow, and if they’re dangerous. A sixth-grade boy taught us how to compost using nothing more than egg cartons, fruit peels, and earthworms. He said that his class had started their own composting bin, making it out of plastic containers and different materials, and that they got the entire school involved and that now every classroom has a compost bin of their own. The final station was the “make your own” reusable shopping bag out of recycled materials. We were so tired by this time from the overwhelming, yet enjoyable duties that we opted to call it a day.

All in all, we had a great day. It’s always great to see a younger generation doing their part of saving the world, and just to see a different way of living. It’s exciting.

-Pauly and Team NM

Monday, May 11, 2009

Many lives, One road, Walk Together

The lovely ladies of team Charlotte participated in the 13th annual AIDS Walk Charlotte on Saturday, May 2, 2009. AIDS Walk Charlotte is the largest HIV/AIDS awareness and fundraising event in the Carolina's. All the money raised stays here in our community and goes to RAIN, my host agency, who serves clients in 13 different counties in North and South Carolina. We were able to meet Greg Louganis, the Olympic diver, and hear his story of living HIV-positive. People from all walks of live came out to show their support, from infants to senior citizens, high schools and colleges, community leaders and churches alike. With just over 3,000 participants we collected over $215,000! RAIN plays a very important role in the lives of our friends with HIV here in the Charlotte area, Team Charlotte is excited to have been a part of such an amazing day!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Team Indianapolis Survives Global Youth Service Day...Barely.

Kids. Who doesn’t love them, right? Well, hopefully team Indy still loves them after our experience at Clark-Pleasant Intermediate School. For our Global Youth Service Day experience, we teamed up with the Peer Helpers of Whiteland Community High School. The Peer Helpers had organized a pirate themed evening full of activities to help the Clark-Pleasant Elementary School fourth grade students transition to the Clark-Pleasant Intermediate School fifth grade. It was so great to be able to work with high school students that had already fostered a love for service.

When we arrived at Clark-Pleasant Intermediate School, I think each member of Team Indianapolis was thinking, “Save me.” The first thing we saw was a cafeteria full of little fourth graders running around and doing art projects along side a large group of turquoise shirt-clad high school Peer Helpers. Wow. There was a lot going on. We were led to an auxiliary room where we met Alex, a Peer Helper with the phrase “future leader” written all over his face. Not literally, but let’s just say Alex knew what was going on at all times.

While the rest of the Peer Helpers were working with the kids in the cafeteria, Team Indy made a game plan…regarding the games. Yup. That’s right. We were put in charge of the game room. In other words, mass chaos. We had Red Light-Green Light, Down by the Banks, Salt and Pepper, and Parrot Parrot Pirate (formerly known as Duck Duck Goose). It’s definitely been a while since any of us have played these games. After a brief refresher from our man Alex, we were ready to go…or so we thought.

The kids starting coming in droves, and they immediately ran toward the twenty plus balloons in the center of the room. (SIDENOTE: Never EVER give balloons to fourth graders. Trust Team Indy. It’s not a pretty sight.) With the help of the Peer Helpers, we calmed the kids down, recovered some of the balloons, and split the kids into groups.

LET THE GAMES BEGIN!!!! The next thirty minutes were such a blur I don’t think I can adequately recount them. I did, however, learn that I didn’t fully remember the rules of Duck Duck Goose. How soon we forget…right? In all seriousness, I think the fourth graders really enjoyed this portion of their evening. It was easy for them to let loose, meet some new friends, and have fun. It was also a great opportunity for the Peer Helpers to get exposure to AmeriCorps and see how they can use their passion for service in the future.

After the games, we helped the Peer Helpers gather the kids and shooed them back into the cafeteria. It took us a while to catch our breaths and register what just happened, but in the end I think everyone, Team Indy, the Clark-Pleasant Elementary fourth graders, and the Whiteland Community High School Peer Helpers, truly enjoyed the experience.

Emily Kitchin
Team Indianapolis
National AIDS Fund AmeriCorps/Caring Counts 2008-2009