Browsing Category: AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps Week in Tulsa!

Team TulsaTeam Tulsa’s service day during AmeriCorps week was at Community of Hope United Church of Christ. We helped out in the community garden, where 12 of the 40 garden plots are dedicated to growing food for families affected by HIV/AIDS. We also cleaned up the memorial rock garden that honors people who have died from AIDS.

Community of Hope was started in the 1990s as a church that welcomed people with HIV/AIDS. At that time, many other churches in the area openly discouraged these people from attending. Since then the church has seen changes in its location, denomination, and members, but it still caters to people affected by HIV/AIDS.

One of  the ways the church does outreach is through “Tables to Go,” a program that provides a week’s worth of food every month to 12 families (36 people) affected by HIV/AIDS. The community garden located on the church property has dedicated 12 of the 40 plots to growing healthy food for this program.

The memorial rock garden on the church property is a beautifully landscaped memorial to people who have died from AIDS.  Family members and friends can write names and messages on rocks as a way to remember and honor them. The 1997-1998 AIDS United (then National AIDS Fund) AmeriCorps team created this memorial as its long term project, so it was great to be able to continue the work that the team started!

What we did:

There was a lot of work to be done – spring sprang very early in Tulsa! Brant spent much of the day pruning an apple tree that was growing out of control. The meticulous task was a perfect job for him and the community garden leaders were so pleased with the result!

Karen, Carolyn, Paige and Naomi spent time cleaning up the memorial rock garden. The pine trees in the garden are lovely, but there were a LOT of pine needles that needed to be removed! We carted away 15 wheelbarrow loads of leaves, weeds and needles!  We uncovered memorial rocks that had been buried, and prepared the garden for some people who are going to be doing planting soon.

Paige and Karen got the dirty job of cleaning out the community garden water tank. It was pretty gross, but it’s important to have a clean water supply to grow food! They also got to harvest cilantro for the next day’s delivery of food to the families the garden serves!

Overall we had a tiring day of work in the sun, and it was a lot of fun to get to work with a group that has such a rich history of serving people in Tulsa with HIV/AIDS.

AmeriCorps Week | Team Carolina

Team Carolina has been busy. For AmeriCorps Week, we traveled North Carolina to find individuals who embody the message: “Life does not stop after a positive diagnosis.” Our long term project started with an idea, and has now blossomed into the production of a public service announcement campaign. Millions of individuals get newly diagnosed every day. Without the proper support system, these individuals may feel lost and alone. Additionally, because HIV-related stigma may keep people from disclosing their status, they may lack the public education necessary in order to take the next step after a positive diagnosis. We aim to produce awareness and information that help relieve this problem.

When we conduct interviews, we ask our interviewees to answer our questions as if they are talking to an individual who has just been newly diagnosed.  As a result, we hear suggestive, honest, nostalgic, and regretful commentary. One of our goals for this project is for newly-diagnosed individuals who may see it to begin to feel like they have a community they can turn to.  As human beings, a sense of community is something we naturally long for. When a stranger who has been positive for twenty-some years is telling you that life will be okay, the message becomes not only powerful, but intimate.

Team Carolina has conducted over ten interviews and the footage is truly inspiring. We have traveled from Charlotte to Greensboro to Fayetteville, while also recording anecdotes within the Triangle Area of North Carolina as well. Once interviews are completed, the editing process will begin. Our goal: one short public service announcement, one long(er) informational piece, and several commercial-length videos. It would be a dream if AIDS service organizations across the country could use the footage as an avenue to reach newly diagnosed people in their area. To launch the finished project, we plan on having a screening party with other local AmeriCorps teams, several AIDS Service Organizations, and the local community and media.

All of this could not have been possible without the assistance from AIDS United, and the University of North Carolina Center for AIDS Research. They have enabled us to maximize our resources in order to cover the various facets of this production.

AmeriCorps Week: Team DC

Greeted by balmy spring weather, Team DC members started off AmeriCorps Week putting their green thumbs to use at The Washington Youth Garden (TWYG), part of the National Arboretum.  Established in 1960, TWYG provides educational programs for youth of the DC metro area.  Focused on teaching youth about nutrition, about where food comes from, and about urban gardening, TWYG offers year-round classes to families and school-based programs.  In preparation for the growing season, Team DC spent a portion of the day weeding and mulching the surrounding butterfly garden.

The remainder of the day was spent at Transgender Health Empowerment’s (THE) Wanda Alston House.  This home provides transitional housing for LGBTQ homeless youth of DC.  Being the only housing directly serving this population in DC, it became the clear choice for Team DC’s long term project (LTP) efforts. After meeting a couple of residents and taking a tour of the house, the team was able to sit down with a current resident and discuss the vision for the house, and her experiences, so we could establish a better idea of where the focus of DC’s LTP was headed.

AmeriCorps Week with Team NOLA

While many organizations in New Orleans have devoted themselves to rebuilding houses destroyed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana State University AgCenter has been working to rebuild Louisiana’s natural resources– especially its wetlands. During AmeriCorps week, Team NOLA took some time to aid in that project by volunteering at the wetlands plant center in City Park, a 1500 acre space located in New Orleans. We were joined by another AmeriCorps member who had brought a team down from Indiana to volunteer.

Before we started working, Caitlin Reilly– the AmeriCorps alumna who supervises the center– took some time to explain to us the purpose of the work the wetlands plant center is doing. The wetlands plant center grows various plants which are then replanted in City Park’s wetlands. Preserving the state’s wetlands is important because they help to prevent erosion and also act as a filtration system for pollutants.

After Caitlin’s informative talk, we got to work, cleaning out barrels and weeding plants. It was hard work. Most of the weeds did not want to give way, and some of the plants were infested with red ants. The day was also quite warm.

After a late lunch and some work on our long-term project, we headed to the New Orleans Museum of Art. There we saw an exhibit of art called “Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial”. Thornton Dial is an artist who grew up in poverty in rural Alabama and who makes use of discarded objects in his art. His art takes on topics like racism and war. It was a difficult but powerful exhibit to see.

Team Indy works for local veterans on MLK Day

AmeriCorps Team Indianapolis spent Martin Luther King Jr. Day serving local veterans and their families in Indianapolis.  The Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation (HVAF) is dedicated to eliminating homelessness for veterans and families through prevention, education, supportive services and advocacy.  Two of the supportive services offered by this non-profit organization are a food pantry and clothing donation center.

The AmeriCorps team worked to help sort donations and organize the contents of these service centers.  It was incredible to think of the volume of goods moving into this community resource.  But it was even more astounding when we realized the amount of goods moving out.  The HVAF is an invaluable resource to the Indianapolis community.  It is just one example of how service for a single group of individuals can have a widespread impact on an entire community.  By reaching out to not only veterans, but also their families, the HVAF has an impact that reaches far beyond the material resources it provides.

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly… This is the interrelated structure of reality.”  Team Indy continues to explore and contribute to this interconnectedness by remaining involved and engaged in our AmeriCorps service.

AmeriCorps Week – Team Detroit Looks To Its Roots (Part 3)

The final part of our AmeriCorps Week piece covers three former members of Team Detroit: Carrie A Rheingans, Sheyonna Watson and David Perrett.

Name of Alum: Carrie A Rheingans

Year Served: 2008-2009


HIV/AIDS Resource Center (HARC)

How/why you got involved in the AIDS United program:

“I was an AmeriCorps member when I was a first-year graduate student at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. When looking for jobs to have while in school, I knew I wanted to do something that would complement my education. I was also required to have an internship as part of my graduate program, but the three-month timeframe seemed too short to make a real difference in my host agency. I then heard that the AIDS United National Direct AmeriCorps program was approximately the same timeline as the academic year, so I decided to apply. I was also familiar with the program through previous members that had been placed at HARC, where I had worked for nearly two years before becoming an AmeriCorps member.”

Host Agency Duties/Responsibilities:

“At HARC, I was a Prevention Specialist. I did HIV outreach, education, and testing, and I was our only Spanish-speaking HIV test counselor at the time. I also represented HARC on a number of community coalitions, including the county-wide World AIDS Week committee and the Spanish Healthcare Outreach Collaborative. During this time, I also helped the Campaign to End AIDS develop their 2009 Youth Action Institute, which trains young people on advocacy techniques that help end AIDS. I also helped the agency lay the groundwork for its social media use.”

Favorite Part of the Service Year:

“I had a lot of fun working with my team, and getting to compare experiences during our fifth days. It was nice to hear what challenges and successes my teammates had at their agencies, and getting new ideas for how to do things at my agency. Our long-term project was pretty fun too: we worked with a residential setting for people affected by HIV to build a garden in their backyard. The residents helped design the garden, as well as plant it and then took over full management of the garden after it was complete.”

One 5th Day or Service Project That You Will Always Remember:

“We had a really fun time when we had our ‘Super Fifth Day’, where we helped organize Team Indy and Team Chicago to come to the western side of Michigan and have an all-day service project at a local AIDS organization there. We helped clean up a park as the project, but the most memorable part of the day was getting to hear how our colleagues’ experiences were going after about nine months of service. We had made friends with many of the team members on those two teams in particular, so it was great getting to see them again and to compare experiences.”

Is your employment related to your year of service?:

“The year right after my service year, I remained at HARC as a graduate intern for 16 hours per week. In that placement, I really focused on developing the organization’s social media strategy, as well as helping to apply for funding to do so. I also continued to represent HARC on community coalitions. A major project that happened at the agency right after my AmeriCorps year was over was to organize Michigan’s only public comment session to give input for the President’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy in November 2009. The Campaign to End AIDS wanted to be sure to hear from Michiganders about what should be included in a national strategy, and I organized an event in Ferndale that saw over 100 attendees give input, over 30 of whom spoke live on camera.”

Were you able to use your education reward?:

“I used my education award immediately after receiving it by applying it to my graduate education tuition.”

Have you participated in any AmeriCorps or volunteer related activities since your year of service?:

“I have continued my membership in various community coalitions that I was involved in while an AmeriCorps member, and I have since been one of the key founding members of Casa Latina, our community’s only Latin@-focused community center. I do not get paid for the work I do for Casa Latina, so it is all volunteer – approximately 10 hours per week. Additionally, I have interacted with a few of the AmeriCorps teams after my member year for various events.”

One Thing You Would Tell Someone Who Is Considering Joining AIDS United AmeriCorps:

“This AmeriCorps program is nearly full-time, so doing much else outside the program will take a lot of scheduling and must be flexible, because AmeriCorps really needs to be your first priority. It was very difficult for me, as a person who was in a graduate program, to prioritize AmeriCorps over my education. In the end, I was lucky to be able to balance my schoolwork and my member duties, but it was not easy. Also, I think that as an AmeriCorps member, you have a lot of opportunity to learn about many aspects of the field of HIV and AIDS, and that you should really take advantage of what’s available. AmeriCorps service can help you determine what direction you may want to go in for your career – just as it can help you determine what direction you do NOT want to go in.”

Describe the impact that your year of service had on you as an individual:

“I really learned how to work with diverse teams while I was in AmeriCorps. I’m not just talking about racially or ethnically diverse teams, but also teams where members had differing levels of familiarity with technology, academic backgrounds, life experiences, and knowledge of issues relating to HIV and AIDS. It was fascinating to hear about my teammates’ backgrounds, and I really learned a lot about how to work with folks who don’t necessarily think the same way I do. I also gained a much better understanding of Detroit, and I’m much more proud of it as Michigan’s first city. Lastly, as I mentioned earlier, I also really honed my time management skills.”

Interviewed by: Mike Wallace (Current Team Detroit Member)

Name of Alum: Sheyonna Watson

Year(s) Served: 2007-2008


HIV/AIDS Resource Center

How/why you got involved in the AIDS United program:

“I served in AmeriCorps in undergrad at University of Michigan through the Michigan Community Service Corps. I enjoyed that experience and was interested in doing more AmeriCorps service through City Year and came across AIDS United AmeriCorps program (at the time National AIDS Fund) and applied. I did some HIV AIDS work at UofM for AIDS In Black and Brown (a program that focuses on the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the African American and Latino community) and jumped at the opportunity to continue learning more about HIV and serving at risk communities.”

Host Agency Duties/Responsibilities:

“I served as Team Coordinator so my time was split at Michigan AIDS Coalition and the HIV/AIDS resource center. At MAC I organized team meetings, 5th days, and programs for AmeriCorps days of Service. I also collaborated with other AmeriCorps programs in the state of Michigan. At HARC, I was a prevention specialist and did HIV test counseling, HIV presentations at the local schools and universities, served on the outreach van, and worked with the Washtenaw Interfaith HIV/AIDS Network providing education to various faith communities about HIV/AIDS.”

Favorite Part of the Service Year:

“It’s hard to choose just one! Since I have to choose a favorite, I would say Super 5th Day was an amazing highlight to the year of service. We were able to serve with the Indy and Chicago team in South Bend Indiana. It was great to reunite with the teams we met at Pre-Service and serve in a different community.”

One 5th Day or Service Project That You Will Always Remember:

“I will always remember our Long Term Project. We did a project with MPowerment Detroit called “Operation Speak Out: Interpreting HIV/AIDS Through Art”. I loved doing the interviews with the young black MSM participants and seeing how they interpreted their understanding of HIV/AIDS in creative ways.”

Is your employment related to your year or service?:

“Yes! After serving in AmeriCorps, I remained in the HIV/AIDS field as a volunteer at HARC and at WIHAN. I also completed my Master of Divinity program, received an advanced certificate of business management from Washtenaw Community College, and taught pre-school. In 2010 I was hired at HARC as a case manager for their Direct Care department.”

Were you able to use your education reward?:

“Yes! I definitely used my education reward. I used it toward tuition for graduate school at Ashland Theological Seminary and at Washtenaw Community College.  Currently, I’m using the last bit of the education award for loan payments.”

Have you participated in any AmeriCorps or volunteer related activities since your year of service? :

“I still volunteer as an HIV test counselor for special events, and do education workshops with faith communities.”

One Thing You Would Tell Someone Who Is Considering Joining AIDS United AmeriCorps:

“Do it! AmeriCorps is a great opportunity for personal and professional development. You will create great connections and expand your network. Anyone joining AmeriCorps should capitalize on opportunities to collaborate with other AmeriCorps groups, HIV/AIDS agencies, and other AIDS United Teams.”

Describe the impact that your year of service had on you as an individual:

“My year of service was an amazing experience. It opened up doors for me professionally and gave me all the tools I needed to be in the HIV/AIDS field. AmeriCorps provided a good foundation of HIV training and expanded my understanding of the HIV/AIDS Community. I learned so much about the LGBTQ community, engaging at risk populations in outreach, and how to interact with a diverse population.”

Interviewed by: Mike Wallace (Current Team Detroit Member)

Name of Alum: David Perrett

Year Served: 2007-2008


Mpowerment Detroit

How/Why you got involved in the AIDS United program:

“David got involved in the AIDS United Program to increase his knowledge and experience in the HIV/AIDS fields. During his service year the program was called “Caring Counts”. With his experience of working with a nationally known local outreach group called Young Brother United (YBU), his passion for helping his community became priority and pushed him to care far beyond his foresight.”

Host Agency Duties/Responsibilities:

Administration/Reception duties

Manage/Create long- term and short- term program enhancements

Attend local and National HIV/STD Conferences

Create and Execute long-term Team/Community Service Projects

Perform Club/Community Outreach, Facilitate Group Sessions

Recruit Volunteer/Participants for Activities/Events.

Visual Marketing (Flyer, Internet, Slogan’s, Posters, etc..)

Event Planning

Favorite Part of the Service Year:

David’s favorite moment of his service year is Pre and Post service, not for obvious reasons. David enjoyed the Pre/Post more importantly for the opportunity to meet new people with the same goal/passion and actually bond with them. In addition he was afforded the opportunity to see another part of this country that he might not have had the chance to otherwise.

One 5th Day or Service Project That You Will Always Remember:

His most memorable 5th day would be the day his team got together and renovated /organized a local agency (Latino Family Services). It was so fun for him because they played dress-up in the some of the donated clothing and in the end it was so appreciated by the LFS Staff.

Is your employment related to your year or service?:

Presently he is a Program Coordinator at the agency (Mpowerment).

Were you able to use the education reward?:

The education award assisted him greatly. At one point he said he was homeless after relocating to Chicago for school and modeling. The education award not only helped him with enrollment but it also balance expenses for housing.

Have you participated in any AmeriCorps or volunteer related activities since your year of service? :

David has not volunteered specifically with any AmeriCorps teams, but he does volunteer with multiple initiatives, boards, youth agencies and campaigns.

One Thing You Would Tell Someone Who Is Considering Joining AIDS United AmeriCorps:

He would say remember to keep an open mind and be prepared to take on risks yourself.  We all have special skills/talents and AmeriCorps can benefit from them and vice versa, so leave the self doubt at the door.

Describe the impact that your year of service had on you as an individual:

It really challenged him as a strong willed, strong minded and independent individual. In ways where he was used to working successfully alone; he had to learn how to ask for help. In the end he learned that asking for help did not mean that you were HELPLESS!

Interviewed by: Kennard Poole (Current Team Detroit Member)

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