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Accomplishment Spotlight: AmeriCorps VISTA Rachel Kersaint and Give an Hour Bring Financial Expertise to Military Community in Virginia November 1, 2012

Posted by servicecorpsnews in Accomplishment Spotlight.
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Give an Hour and the Community Blueprint partnered with Blue Star Families, Navy Fleet and Family Support, and Old Dominion University to host a Military Family Financial Summit in Hampton Roads, Va. The event, held in ODU’s Webb Center this September, was open to all servicemembers, veterans and their families.

The idea for the summit was derived from Blue Star Families’ annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey.  The organization noticed a recurring lack of financial and legal knowledge among participants, and decided to rectify the situation by bringing it before the monthly Hampton Roads Community Blueprint Meeting.

Rachel Kersaint, an AmeriCorps VISTA assigned to Give an Hour and the Community Blueprint through the ALA Call to Service Corps, provided the driving force behind the Military Family Financial Summit.  Kersaint handled the logistics by working with ODU to secure a venue, reaching out to speakers and promoting the event within the Hampton Roads community.

Financial experts from local organizations gathered to host workshops, which attendees could select based on their interests. The most popular workshop was “Portable Entrepreneurship for Military Spouses,” which provided information about careers accommodating to the unique demands of military life, chief among which is frequent relocation.

Keynote speaker Neale Godfrey provided a special seminar for the children in attendance. In the seminar, they learned about responsible spending from the author and financial expert.

Attendees, particularly spouses, were enthusiastic about the Summit. Servictemembers receive some financial advice through the military’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP). Their program is brief, and servicemembers often do not pass on the knowledge they acquire to their families.

“I think it had a great impact, and it helped get information about the Community Blueprint out,” Kersaint said.

Hampton Roads Community Blueprint members intend to hold another Military Family Financial Summit next year, and are looking forward to bringing financial literacy to an even wider group.


Accomplishment Spotlight: AmeriCorps VISTA James Casey and The Mission Continues Honor 9/11 Through Service November 1, 2012

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For James Casey, an AmeriCorps VISTA member assigned to The Mission Continues through the ALA Call to Service Corps, September 11 was more than just a tragedy — it was a call to action.

A veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Army Reserve, Casey is clear about his commitment to honor the fallen.

“Personally, for me, it’s not just a service project,” he said. “I had already been in the Army when 9/11 happened for a year and a half. At that point, I had a realization: we were going to war. To be a part of a campaign that’s helping other people and honoring the fallen by serving the living, it fills one of those great gaps that I have inside.”

The Mission Continues, a national organization dedicated to challenging veterans to serve and inspire, was a natural landing spot for Casey. With his tireless support, and with the collaboration of Volunteers of America, Got Your 6 and My Good Deed, the organization was able to recruit 751 volunteers for 9/11 service projects in Chicago, Dallas, the District of Columbia, New York City, Los Angeles and Minneapolis.

Each project honored 9/11 in a different way. In Dallas, over 75 volunteers gathered at a residential facility, where they built a new playground, repainted interiors, stained patios and railings and gathered donations.

In Los Angeles, Casey worked directly with Volunteers of America to beautify North Hollywood Apartments, a transitional housing complex that supports veterans. He recruited 118 volunteers for the project. They painted exteriors, landscaped and conducted general maintenance tasks throughout the day. Casey also secured in-kind donations totaling nearly $40,000 for the project, providing resources like paint and wood stain.

Casey is actively working towards The Mission Continues’ upcoming Veterans Day projects.

Accomplishment Spotlight: AmeriCorps VISTA Casey Guillory Launches Volunteer Fairfax Stars, Stripes & Service Program by Supporting Female Veterans November 1, 2012

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Volunteer Fairfax teamed up this September with the Veterans Student Initiative, a group of military-affiliated students from local colleges, to support our nation’s homeless female veterans by holding a housing renewal event.

Casey Guillory, an AmeriCorps VISTA member assigned to Volunteer Fairfax through the ALA Call to Service Corps, was instrumental to the planning and execution of the event. She visited potential sites to determine their suitability for the six female veterans intended to reside in the home, and played a key role in volunteer outreach.

The event was held to honor September 11 and also to launch the organization’s new Stars, Stripes & Service Program, a Community Blueprint project. Twenty volunteers worked to beautify the home by removing weeds from flowerbeds, repainting walls and doorframes and restoring fences and retaining walls to functionality. After nearly four hours, their work was complete.

The renewed home will be managed by Final Salute Inc., a nonprofit group composed of female veterans. The organization provides space for female veterans and their children to rest, recuperate and get back on their feet. The home will welcome its first occupants in November.

“It’s a great cause,” Guillory said. “Final Salute is a great organization. We were truly happy and blessed to be able to work with them.”

Member Profile: Meet Kelly Landry, AmeriCorps VISTA Member at American Red Cross South Florida Region November 1, 2012

Posted by servicecorpsnews in Member Spotlight.
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Kelly Landry is an AmeriCorps VISTA member assigned to the Community Blueprint Network at American Red Cross South Florida Region through the American Legion Auxiliary Call to Service Corps. In her assignment as a Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) associate, Kelly coordinates resources and services that better respond to the strengths and needs of the military community in South Florida. Prior to joining the Call to Service Corps, Kelly held positions in social services and a sales position with TAP Pharmaceuticals. Kelly has served the community by helping at the Literacy Coalition with drug and alcohol treatment services and by working with individuals with memory disorders and their families. She has also worked to provide services to homeless families through Family Promises. In addition, Kelly has been involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and The American Heart Association. Furthermore, she has served at a neighborhood resource center, helping individuals and families apply for food stamps and giving food assistance. Kelly holds a Master of Social Work from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.


What motivated you to serve as an AmeriCorps member?

I was raised in an environment centered on community service. My parents ingrained in me from a young age to always put others before myself. Furthermore, I served as an AmeriCorps member in my home state of Louisiana while earning my undergraduate degree. This was significant in my life and led the way to my current position as an AmeriCorps VISTA.

What motivated you to choose your sponsor organization?

My father is a combat veteran. I have always known the cost of my freedom and the responsibilities that go along with it — supporting our veterans, servicemembers and their families. I consider it an honor and my desire to serve the military community full time was a natural step upon the completion of my Master of Social Work.

I have known about the work of the American Red Cross since I was a child; my father often speaks of the emergency message and financial assistance the American Red Cross gave him when he was in the Army and needed to get home. I was motivated to become a part of the American Red Cross because of the impressive 130-year history of its Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program, which continues today every day of the year all around the world.

About what accomplishment from your year of service are you most proud?

I am most proud to be a part of our new Transition and Reintegration Program (TRP). The program has grown naturally from the Community Blueprint. This comprehensive program promises to help our veterans and their families make a successful transition back to civilian life.

What are your future plans after your AmeriCorps service year?

I plan to continue service with the American Red Cross through Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) and the Transition Reintegration Program (TRP).

Upcoming Days of Service November 1, 2012

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Veterans’ Day is just around the corner!

Veterans’ Day is more than just another holiday to the ALA Call to Service Corps. For many of our members, it is an opportunity to honor friends and family members. Join us in service this year by participating in a Veterans’ Day service opportunity in your community! To find one, check the volunteer listings below: