Wednesday, February 24, 2010

MLK Day, Detroit-Style

On MLK Day, Team Detroit partnered with CityYear Detroit and The United Way to give high-school students in the Detroit area a little bit more “style” when it came to their school’s appearance. A few members of Team Detroit helped remove old paint from doors and walls, while the rest put their painting skills to the test by applying thick coats of ocean-blue paint to the interior walls of Cody High School.

This is an excerpt of a letter penned by Randy J. Dillard, the Director of Volunteer Services for the United Way of Southeastern Michigan, to Team Detroit:

“I wanted to personally send you a thank you for being a part of the 16th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Your time and effort left an enormous impact on communities across Southeast Michigan. This was our area's largest Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service to date, and we couldn't have done it without your hard work!

Each day, United Way is developing lasting solutions to the critical issues we face. Issues like ensuring our children have the education they need to succeed, ensuring people can build an income to support themselves and their families, and helping people with basic needs, like food. These are the three things we all need for a good life and United Way is working hard to mobilize the people and resources needed to create change.

Your service is a large part of our work. Because of you, high school students at Cody and Osborn High School – two of United Way’s turnaround schools – are walking through the doors more motivated and ready to learn. Nonprofits across the community are better able to serve their clients and youth in our community will soon have mentors who care about their futures.

It will take our combined efforts to create a thriving community. That’s what it means to Live United, and we’re glad you’ve joined the movement to create a better life for Southeast Michigan residents.”

A good, rewarding time was had by all!!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!!!!

Team Tulsa participated in Tulsa's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade. We distributed information for HOPE Testing Clinic and Tulsa CARES, agencies that provide testing and case management. The parade route went through downtown Tulsa including the historic Greenwood district. This was especially significant because of the history with the Tulsa Race Riot. The Tulsa Race Riot, also known as the 1921 race riot, was a massacre during a large-scale civil disorder confined mainly to the racially segregated Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma, on May 31, 1921. During the riot, hundreds of people were injured and 10,000 were left homeless because of fires that caused massive property damage.
While walking through the streets where such a devastating event occurred, it meant a lot to be a part of the biggest MLK parade in Tulsa to date. Seeing hundreds of people from different backgrounds marching in peace was a powerful experience. Although we still have a long way to go, events like these are inspirational and show us how far we have come.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Raleigh Rescue Mission

Prepared and ready TO SERVE AmeriCorps Style!

On January 29, 2010 Team NC went to the Raleigh Rescue Mission to help prepare and serve lunch to those in need staying at the shelter. The mission has overnight services that offers comfortable, safe refuge for single women and mothers with children. All of the guests are given clean clothing, warm showers, personal care items, nutritious meals, and cozy beds to sleep in. Those who are not in the emergency program, are in another branch of the Mission's services, including rehabilitation (getting a GED, substance abuse, transitions inbetween jobs ext), and have daily chores to help keep things at the Mission running smoothly.

Staci learning how to deep fry!

Getting some corn from the pantry! YUM!

Kim & Staci working hard to make some delicious salmon cakes!

While we were there we discussed how single dads are not given preferance at any shelters, and it is hard even on national levels for men with children to find housing. This is a form of reverse discrimination. What about the fathers? Why can't they be offerred housing/care when they have children, and meet the same criteria for entering a shelter as a women? How can this situation be resolved?

The food that we helped prepare was fresh and delicious. Local grocery stores such as Trader Joes, Fresh Market, and Whole Foods donate 50-60 lbs of food bi-weekly. The meal that we helped to prepare was food donated from RED LOBSTER! We helped serve crab, lobster, shrip and filet mignon. Let's just say the people staying at the mission are eating well! There was a salad and fresh fruit bar, ice tea, deserts, and bread a plenty. The kitchen was one of the cleanest and highly efficiently set up that we have had the pleasure to serve in this year. The staff in the kitchen was part hired, and partly those living at the mission. We all had a great time! It was a deliciously rewarding day of service.

After the Rescue Mission we went to Krupa's agency, the Alliance of AID Services and made safer sex kits for their upcoming events!

Cheers! -Alex

Thursday, February 11, 2010

January and MLK

First off, I apologize for the lateness of this post.  I realize January is almost two weeks ago now, but here is what we did and I promise to not post February in the middle of May.

Our Fifth day for MLK day actually consisted of two days of service.  The first was called Chicago Cares Celebration of Service.  The day started with check-in and an opening ceremony at 7:45am in Union Station's Great Hall. The opening ceremony consisted mostly of some songs sung by a choir and several short speeches, from Governor Quinn, Mayor Daley, and Ed Gordon (Emmy award-wining journalist and former BET news anchor). At 9:30, all of the volunteers were dismissed to board their respective school buses and head to their project locations. Our site was Suder Montessori Magnet Elementary School (a school next to former housing projects that were at the center of Alex Kotlowitz's book "There Are No Children Here"). Our assignment for the day was to paint pictures on large canvases to decorate the hallways of the second floor of the building. All of the projects at Suder were art-related and included repainting the cafeteria and making wall mosaics in other hallways.

Our second day of service we went to an elementary school on the southside of the city and worked to better the school conditions.  We mainly repainted the hallways that needed a new coat of paint badly.  While there, we volunteered with a hugely diverse group of people.  There were middle schoolers there, other AmeriCorps groups, college kids, and even some families.

MLK day is a day of service that makes one think about your year with a wider lens.  I think that one thing about being a part of an AmeriCorps program, particularly a relatively small one like NAF's, is that it can be easy to feel a certain amount of isolation in your service. From week to week at your host agency, you get used to the feeling of being the sole AmeriCorps member in a given environment. This isn't to say that you don't have a good relationship with your coworkers or feel a sense of community with your clients during your regular work week... I know I do, but I'm also aware of the fact that I have a very different role there from that of paid staff members. What's nice about Fifth Days in general is the feeling of being part of a team of individuals with the same or similar goals and experiences as you; what's even better about national service days like MLK Day is that you're able to feel connected to people in your host city and other communities across the country, people who are all like AmeriCorps members for a day. Also, at the Chicago Cares event, a large amount of the people who were volunteering were adolescents from Chicago public schools, some of whom asked us about ourselves (where we went to college, etc.) and our AmeriCorps service, so hopefully we encourage the growing interest in programs like our own and other AmeriCorps programs.
It sounds really cheesy, but there was something about being in the Great Hall of Union Station with 3,000 other people from across the state, people of all different backgrounds but with the same motivations.  It was comforting and inspirational. It made me proud that volunteering to help the people of Chicago and honoring the lives of people like Martin Luther King, Jr. is something that our team does every day, not just when a holiday calls for it.

Our next fifth day was spent at Mallory's agency, The Night Ministry.  We met in the afternoon before to make the meal that we would be serving on one of The Night Ministry's southside stops.  Together, we made about 6 gallons of chicken chili and about 10 sheets of amazing corn bread (Kevin's own recipe, ask him about's from his grandma).  We served about 65 people that night.  Personally, it was one of my favorite days.  Everybody at the stop was super nice and there was just a community buzz around.  For the situation, it was amazing to see so many smiles.  And the food was amazing.

PS- Mallory accidentally cut herself while cooking.  This just proves my theory that people should never cook.  Just go out for dinner.  Duh.