Browsing Category: AmeriCorps

A Day On

MLK Day was an eventful and fun packed day of service for Team Indianapolis.  The group faced slight hiccups in planning for the day but was able to quickly overcome last minute cancelations.   The day began bright and early at Indy Reads Books with a bit of TLC and elbow grease to spruce up the bookstores donated basement collection.  Shortly after, Team Indy was able to explore the city events offered in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.  A day of service sweetly paired with a day of exploration and free events!  Who could ask for anything more?!

IMG_5216 IMG_5217

Indy Reads Books is the only locally owned and operated new and used bookstore within the downtown area of Indianapolis.  The bookstore, more uniquely, is an affiliate of the local not-for-profit organization, Indy Reads.  Indy Reads seeks to provide literacy tutoring through family workshops, outreach programs, one-on-one sessions and ESL courses.  With an estimated 100,000 Marion county residents with reading and comprehension skills reporting at the lowest level of literacy, the funds raised through the bookstores donation resale go a long way.  The life-blood of the organization centers upon the skills and service of their volunteers.  We were very excited to support and serve for Indy Reads Books as we see the organization doing the same for many of our clients.

Working alongside a few other volunteeIMG_5218r organizations, Team Indy hit the basement stacks for a bit of refurbishing!   Cleaning and sprucing! Moving and sorting!  Shelving and ordering!  We did it all! And let me tell you, as someone who worked in a library for four years, it is incredibly frustrating to shelve and organize alphabetically.  Call numbers are so much more practical!  Thank you Library of Congress!!

Shortly after, Team Indy hit the town for a bit of exploration, education and fun!  Indianapolis provided a plethora of opportunities for city residents with free admission to multiple museums and exhibits when a canned good was provided.  We had the opportunity to explore the Rhythm Discovery Center, an interactive exhibit showcasing an array of percussive instruments, as well as the Indiana State Museum.  I finally know the difference between a mammoth and a mastodon!  It’s in the teeth!

 

 

Gardening, HIV Testing, & Drag Shows: Team NOLA’s MLK Day of Service

A day ON not a day off- this was our motto going into our Martin Luthor King Day of Service. Since the beginning of time (well, since our service year started…so August), Team NOLA has hoped to collaborate with another local AmeriCorps team. Finally, we had our chance. City Year New Orleans planned a magnificent MLK Day of Service and asked the community to come together and volunteer for a day at Arthur Ashe Charter School . Honestly, going into it I expected it to be a small crowd. I mean, people fake sicknesses for a day off so why would they give up their free time to come do manual labor all morning? Boy, was I wrong. There must have been about 200 people who came to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Everyone was full of energy (I was once I got coffee) and so excited to get out there and make this school beautiful. It was pretty invigorating. All I could think about was how much this moment embodied what MLK Jr. preached his whole life- “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

Rebecca and Jeremy waiting to receive our volunteer assignments!

Rebecca and Jeremy waiting to receive our volunteer assignments!

After chugging three cups of coffee, we made our way to meet our assignment leader. Our team was placed with the school’s garden teacher. We were told to clean up the “Rainbow Garden” by weeding, planting, and fertilizing. When we first walked over to the garden, I realized there was nothing rainbow about it. It looked like a scary forbidden forest you would see in a Disney movie. We started by cutting dead plants and weeding- and let me tell you, we had our work “cut” out for us. (Sorry, bad joke)

First we had to get rid of all the dead/dying plants (which was most of the garden...)

First we had to get rid of all the dead/dying plants (which was most of the garden…)

A couple hours later we were ready to plant! The garden teacher placed all the plants for us and we went on a gardening rampage. I wish I had taken a picture of the plant debris we accumulated. Just imagine wheelbarrowing away piles of dead plant- nothing more satisfying.

Jeremy and Rebecca adding some "rainbow" to the Rainbow Garden!

Jeremy and Rebecca adding some “rainbow” to the Rainbow Garden!

 

Louie and Jeremy making the garden beautiful!

Louie and Jeremy making the garden beautiful!

We ended by fertilizing and watering our baby plants. (I didn’t know such an emotional connection to plants existed until this day) I was really proud, though. This garden is at the front of the school so it’s the FIRST thing kids see in the morning. What better way to start a day than seeing some pretty flowers. It was so wonderful to see a garden transformed in only a matter of hours.

 

Jeremy fertilizing the new and improved garden.

Jeremy fertilizing the new and improved garden.

 

Jeremy and I trying to look glam while watering/fertilizing plants.

Jeremy and I trying to look glam while watering/fertilizing plants.

We had a great time working with City Year. The school grounds looked amazing when everyone left- I wish I had a before and after picture!

Team NOLA!

Team NOLA!

Our Day of Service didn’t end there. After rejuvenating ourselves with naps, we headed out to Fusions, a popular bar in NOLA. Louie, Jeremy, and I walked around the bar with condoms & info cards while Rebecca was our “rapid HIV tester” for the night. We offered free testing from 9 p.m. til a little past midnight. It was quite the success! Plus, there was a fabulous drag show (when will I learn to dance like that in heels?) so we had a grand time! :-)

All in all, we had a day full of team-building (manual labor creates bonds), gardening, outreach, and testing. Even though the core value of AmeriCorps is “service”, MLK Day of Service gave us the opportunity to reflect on the needs of our community, work with other service groups, and remember a great man whose actions are still inspiring masses.

 Until next time,

Team NOLA!

If you are interested in learning more about where we volunteered –> http://www.ashecharterschool.org/ashe.html

MLK Day of Service: Detroit

MLK Day of Service 2014 proved to be such an exciting time in Detroit that AIDS United AmeriCorps Team Detroit was fortunate enough to take part in two community initiatives within the city. The first community event allowed us to partner with the AmeriCorps Urban Safety Project in conjunction with Wayne State University. The AmeriCorps Urban Safety Project mobilized the community to help board up a series of abandoned homes along various routes to three different schools in Detroit to help foster safer communities for students and citizens alike. Team Detroit was able to serve on Day #2 of this three day service project, assisting with the project’s efforts near Osborn High School. The day started bright and early, and proved to be a cold and snowy day at that, but this did not stop the impressive group of dedicated volunteers that came out to insure this project’s success.

IMG_3924

As there are a number of abandoned homes within the city, these homes can unfortunately be a target for illegal dumping. Team Detroit helped to clear away some of the trash and debris from these homes, and dispose of such items properly. In addition, we worked to clear away overgrown bushes and tree limbs to provide a clear route to the windows and doors of these homes, so that they could be boarded up easily. As blight is often a main area of concern for the city, it was nice to see so many groups and citizens come together to play a part in fixing the problem. As a team, we were aware of the blight within the city, but seeing the illegal dumping that takes place at these homes once they are abandoned was very eye-opening. The support of people from the neighborhood, as well as the city authorities, was heart warming, as we were offered hot chocolate and coffee from those passing by. It was wonderful to see the project successfully completed at the end of the day.

IMG_3923

In addition, Team Detroit took part in the 11th Annual MLK Day community event in commemoration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The event also sought to bring special recognition to the Freedom Summer of 1964, as well as to honor the memory of famed civil rights activist, Fannie Lou Hamer. Several leaders and community members throughout Detroit joined together at the Central United Methodist Church to honor the life of Dr. King and reflect on the many valuable lessons his legacy taught us as a society.

MLK 1

A number of leaders throughout the Detroit community who had taken part in the Civil Rights Movement shared stories of their interaction with Dr. King, as well as Rosa Parks, whose life’s work continues to have an impact on the Detroit community today. We learned that Dr. King gave his famed “I Have a Dream” speech for the first time in Detroit before giving the speech months later in Washington D.C. during the March on Washington. Community choirs and poetry groups gave performances to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and a quote from Nelson Mandela was also read aloud, which had a profound impact on Team Detroit:

“Let the strivings of us all prove Martin Luther King Jr. to have been correct, when he said that humanity can no longer be tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war. Let the efforts of us all prove that he was not a mere dreamer when he spoke of the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace being more precious than diamonds or silver or gold. Let a new age dawn.”

During this event, Team Detroit came together with hundreds of fellow community members to march in honor of Dr. King’s life, as well as in commemoration of Freedom Summer 1964, and the lives of those lost during this volatile time in our nation’s history. This time allowed Team Detroit to connect with other community members in meaningful ways, as we reflected upon and discussed Dr. King’s legacy, and how many of the civil rights issues he advocated for in his lifetime are still very much relevant today, as issues of race, gender and equality continue to impact our society.

MLK 2

Team Detroit’s favorite part of this experience was the opportunity to interact with the Detroit community in an authentic way, as well as the opportunity to see the impact of Dr. King’s life on the community at large.

Team Chicago Unites Highland Park Community in Service

AIDS United AmeriCorps Team Chicago ventured out of the city this MLK Day to participate in a massive day of service in Highland Park, a Chicago suburb. Presented by North Shore School District 112 and the Highland Park Human Relations Commission, the MLK Day of Service was the collective effort of nonprofit organizations across northern Chicagoland. Homeless services, animal shelters, financial literacy and education organizations—all types of service agencies gathered together to engage the Highland Park community in service.

Dozens of service organizations assembled at the Highland Park Recreation Center and set up tables providing assorted service opportunities. Local community members and area schools were invited to attend the day of service and participle in a series of mini-service activities with the various agencies. Team Chicago led the tables for the community’s food bank and North shore homeless shelters, working with Highland Park students and their parents to collect, sort, and ship donated food items and toiletry supplies for community residents in need.

Team Chicago sorted and bagged food for the local food bank

Team Chicago sorted and bagged food for the local food bank

It was our first service opportunity to work with entire families–with students and their parents–so the team really appreciated the opportunity to get multiple generations of volunteers involved. We also got maxed-out on manual labor with event set up and takedown; we’re definitely becoming physical labor professionals this year, but please give us a couple week break before you ask us to move anything again!

In addition to the day of service, the day boasted several speakers and activities to commemorate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The day opened with a performance of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and later included student music performances and speeches of community leaders, including Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White.

A breathtaking performance by the Jesse White Tumblers

A breathtaking performance by the Jesse White Tumblers

The clear highlight of the day was a breathtaking performance by the Jesse White Tumblers, who flipped, sprang, leaped, and wowed everyone with their astounding athleticism. But our team’s resident gymnast, Eric, assures us he’ll have us all in prime tumbling shape for next year’s MLK Day!

Team Chicago after a long day of service!

Team Chicago after a long day of service!

Bicycling through MLK Day of Service in Cleveland

bike coop 2

Team Cleveland volunteered with the Ohio City Bicycle Co-op on Martin Luther King Day. The Ohio City Bicycle Co-op (OCBC) is a volunteer-driven, cooperative, non-profit, bicycle education center. Began in 2001, OCBC provides bicycle education such as traffic skills, road safety, and bike maintenance, as well as producing cycling events. It also works with many Cleveland schools, providing bicycles for different riding programs.

The OCBC also collects donations of old bicycles in any state of repair in order to keep the usable and recyclable parts from going to the landfill. The bikes are repaired and sold in the cooperative bike shop, however many are earned by volunteers. In this Earn a Bike program, OCBC volunteers log their hours and earn points that they can use in the bike shop. They can trade in fewer points for a bike that still needs a lot of repair and take the offered classes on bike repair to fix it themselves or trade in a larger number of points for an entirely repaired bicycle from the shop.

Team Cleveland was able to assist the bike co-op with erecting some bicycle racks for storage, cleaning and lubricating bicycles, and sorting through bike spokes. We were the only volunteer group dedicating our whole day to the project, so we got to take on some leadership roles and taught other volunteer groups what projects needed to be done and how to go about doing them. I enjoyed the mechanical labor of moving bikes back and forth and the large amount practical knowledge we gained about bicycles just in the one day that we were with OCBC.

At the beginning of the day, when we were instructed about the day’s project list and saw the amount of bicycles that needed to be moved in order to erect the racks, it was a little daunting. However, with the number of volunteers that OCBC had recruited we were able to accomplish tasks quickly.

It was clear that the bike co-op badly needed the organization that the bike racks provided, as well as the other cleaning and sorting tasks we were able to accomplish. It felt good to know that the work we were able to do in one day saved the OCBC multiple days of busy work. Our projects were not direct service to the folks using the bike co-op’s services, but we were able to support the OCBC staff, so they have more time to implement their meaningful work.

bike coop 1 bike coop 4 bike coop 5

bike coop 3


Team NOLA and Walgreens come together to Fight AIDS!

IMG_0587

Louie and his coworkers at the Walgreens testing in Algiers.

World AIDS Day has always been one of my favorite days of the year. You may be thinking- “What the heck?”- but it’s true. World AIDS Day is like the Superbowl for HIV prevention workers. It’s a day to observe how far we’ve come but reflect on how much more there is do. It’s a day to pay our respects to the millions who have lost their battle to the disease, while thanking and supporting the friends and families of those who have passed. It is also the day I bombard and bother my Facebook friends about getting tested without them replying, “Is HIV all you ever post about?” (Yes, but hey, someone’s got to do it!)

Team NOLA had quite an eventful World AIDS Day (and week). We collaborated with two different Walgreens  in order to offer free HIV testing to their customers. Louie’s agency, Priority Health, offered free testing in Algiers. Louie and his coworkers tested a total of 20 people in just a couple of hours!

NO/AIDS Task Force, the agency where Jeremy, Rebecca, and I are placed, offered free testing at the Walgreens in Uptown New Orleans. Our AmeriCorps team tested a total of 25 people in four hours. It was a huge success! The Walgreens manager gave us two private rooms. While Rebecca and I were testing and counseling, Jeremy and Louie took care of recruiting and keeping track of people waiting for their results. As cheesy as it sounds- we worked really well as a team and got some great feedback. Testing and counseling is what I love most about my placement, so I was thrilled to be a part of the Walgreens testing event. We even got a local Bounce radio station to come to the Walgreens and advertise our services. Almost all of the clients said they had heard there was free testing on the radio- so hey, whatever works!

photo (3)

Our portable HIV testing kit!

Our agency offers free testing throughout the week, but we found that offering free testing in a convenient location brings in WAY more people. Buy shampoo, formula, chocolate…and get tested for HIV! The manager was so impressed with our team that she asked to make it a more regular event. Our AmeriCorps team will be in charge of helping to set up this wonderful opportunity, and we couldn’t be more excited.

photo (2)

Jeremy, Alicia (volunteer), and me at the Walgreens testing event

 Of course there can’t be all work and no play. On Saturday, December 7th NO/AIDS Task Force held its Annual “Art Against AIDS” fundraiser. The fundraiser is an art auction and party at the New Orleans Museum of Art. AmeriCorps Team NOLA got all fancy and hit the gala- making sure to find the dance floor eventually. We had a wonderful time -and I only fell once in my heels!

photo         photo (1)

Left- Louie and me with our “Art Against AIDS” souvenirs Right- Louie, Me, Morgan, and Jeremy getting fancy

So all in all, World AIDS Day was a huge success over in New Orleans. Even the Superdome participated :)

superdome

 

Until next time,

Helene