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ALA Call to Service Corps Members Honor Veterans Day December 14, 2012

Posted by servicecorpsnews in Accomplishment Spotlight.
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Veterans Day is an important commemoration day for the American Legion Auxiliary, including its ALA Call to Service Corps. Corps members serve the United States’ servicemembers, veterans and their families each day of their AmeriCorps terms. Veterans Day provides the unique opportunity for Corps members to serve veterans in a wider community.

Two ALA Call to Service Corps members who went above and beyond the call of duty in their Veterans Day activities wrote summaries of the activities in which they participated.

One of the members, Jessica Fowler, an AmeriCorps VISTA member assigned to HandsOn Jacksonville, assisted with the planning and execution of The Week of Valor, a weeklong series of events designed to honor and celebrate the contributions of servicemembers, veterans and their families to the community and nation.

Fowler worked closely with the University of Phoenix to host four Cards for Troops events, inviting community members to write letters and cards for deployed service members, thanking them for their service and sacrifice. The cards will be shipped to servicemembers currently deployed around the globe.

Additionally, Fowler served as a moderator for a panel discussion at the University of Phoenix’s Start Strong event, a workshop for transitioning service members that covered topics like civilian employment, personal finances, medical claims and common family concerns. Panelists shared lessons from their personal lives and encouraged attendees not to make the same mistakes.

The other member who went above and beyond was Ronnie Miley, an AmeriCorps VISTA member assigned to Volunteer Macon. Miley was very involved in his organization’s Veterans Day activities. On November 8, he participated in We Are the Vets, an event held at Fort Benning in Georgia. Attendees discussed PTSD, their personal experiences in the military, suicide prevention programs and the services offered through wounded warrior programs.

On Veterans Day, Volunteer Macon partnered with the Riverview Hotel and GE Capital to host a ceremony honoring local members of the military community. Food was provided, and guest speakers thanked the attendees for their sacrifices.  Afterwards, the group convened to watch the hometown Atlanta Falcons play the rival New Orleans Saints. Over 200 veterans attended the event, as well as State Representative James Beverly and Macon Mayor Robert Reichert.

“It was fun,” Miley said. “I really enjoy working with veterans, and I look forward to extending an even greater partnership with them.”

Miley was responsible for recruitment of speakers and service providers, as well as the initial outreach to the Riverview Hotel and GE Capital, who provided the space, food and volunteers.  As a veteran himself, Miley was also responsible for training volunteers supplied by GE Capital in the nuances of military culture. Both Riverview Hotel and GE Capital were highly impressed by the event, and have pledged their continued support of Volunteer Macon and the veteran community.Veterans Day 2012

AmeriCorps VISTA Terrence Cabiao Makes a Difference in Seattle through the Community Resource Exchange December 14, 2012

Posted by servicecorpsnews in Accomplishment Spotlight.
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On October 18, United Way of King County brought together more than more than 400 volunteers and 100 service providers for their annual Community Resource Exchange, an event designed to engage local citizens and organizations in support of the county’s homeless population, including homeless veterans.

Terrence Cabiao, an AmeriCorps VISTA member serving with United Way of King County through the ALA Call to Service Corps, was pivotal to the success of the event. The Community Resource Exchange provided valuable resources to over 1,200 men, women and children struggling with homelessness in the Seattle area. Approximately 240 of them were veterans.  Cabiao worked diligently with organizations throughout the community to procure essential personal care items. He planned a packing event during which the goods were placed into backpacks for easy distribution to attendees. Local organizations and individuals contributed more than 2,000 hygiene items and over 1,000 pairs of socks.

Shoes are always among the most requested items at the Community Resource Exchange, and this year was no exception. An unexpected illness to the event’s usual shoe provider – local nonprofit Redeeming Soles – resulted in a last-minute shortage, however, and many attendees concerned they would not be able to meet the high demand expected. Cabiao reached out to local corporations such as Costco and Timberland, each of whom contributed generously. All told, over 1,500 pairs of shoes were collected.

CRE - Shoes

In addition to shoes and personal care products, personnel were on hand to provide services such as emergency dentistry, eye exams, glasses fittings, haircuts, manicures, pedicures and flu shots.  Local lawyers and VA representatives were also in attendance dispensing legal advice in areas ranging from pet care to assistance with parking tickets. Cabiao played a key role here as well, securing the volunteer services of six local dentists and dental assistants at the last minute, and ensuring that over 30 attendees received much-needed emergency care.

“It was a really good event,” Cabiao said. “I expected it to be chaotic, but it was really smooth.  We had a good system, and our volunteers were very gung-ho.”

AmeriCorps VISTA Chrissy Hicks Supports Forward March Conference in North Carolina December 14, 2012

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The third annual Forward March Conference was held on October 18 and 19 in Fayetteville, N.C. Designed to empower the “helping professionals” that support military children and families, the Forward March Conference highlighted pressing topics like post-deployment difficulties, child and family issues and mental health treatments to alleviate these stresses.

Chrissy Hicks, an AmeriCorps VISTA member assigned to Give an Hour through the ALA Call to Service Corps, was closely involved in the conference. As a member of the Living in the New Normal (LINN) Committee – a group of Community Blueprint members, Blue Star Family representatives and local military spouses – Hicks played a key role in the planning, execution and overall success of the event. She also helped recruit speakers and tackle logistical challenges that arose during preparations for the conference.

“It was amazing,” said Hicks, who is a military spouse. “I really didn’t know how much [the Forward March Conference] would pertain to me.”

More than 250 people attended the event; the majority of whom were helping professionals – psychologists, social workers, substance abuse professionals, case managers, therapists, teachers, human service and behavioral health professionals and clergy.

Fifty-nine speakers were also in attendance, including Major General John Graham, who discussed overcoming behavioral health stigma; Dr. Harold Kudler, an Associate Clinical Professor at Duke University, who discussed the ways PTSD can impact the community; Give an Hour President and one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People of the Year, Barbara van Dahlen, who spoke about the Community Blueprint; and many more. Breakout sessions were also held to facilitate discussion and networking among the attendees.

Nearly forty of the 250 attendees pledged their support to the Community Blueprint as a result of the Conference, and all left more knowledgeable, more engaged and more capable of supporting military families.

Sign Up and Serve! December 14, 2012

Posted by servicecorpsnews in Volunteering News to Use.
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Points of Light recently launched Sign Up and Serve, a new and innovative way to find volunteer listings, create service opportunity listings and manage volunteer networks. Sign Up and Serve is intuitive to use, and provides a single spot for an organization’s service opportunity management needs.

In the words of Points of Light: “Americans from communities across the country, including veterans and military families, are stepping up to provide support to our service members, veterans, their families and families of the fallen.

Points of Light is teaming up with many military-serving organizations to provide citizens with meaningful ways to serve WITH and FOR the men, women and their families who have served this great nation. Points of Light believes that service is the bridge between the American military-civilian divide and that through service WITH and FOR our military community, we will become a better, stronger and more united nation.”

You can register for Sign Up and Serve here, or visit www.signupandserve.org for more information.

Meet Fabiani Duarte, AmeriCorps VISTA Alum with Still Serving Veterans December 14, 2012

Posted by servicecorpsnews in Alumni Spotlight.
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Fabiani Duarte recently completed his term of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA member assigned to Still Serving Veterans (SSV) in Huntsville, Ala. through the American Legion Auxiliary Call to Service Corps. In his assignment as a public relations/special events coordinator, Duarte worked to build the outreach, fundraising and performance management infrastructures to support SSV’s Mentoring and Workforce Development Program (MWDP). Prior to joining the ALA Call to Service Corps, Fabiani held positions in real estate law, youth service and leadership development, student advocacy and organizing at Johnston, Moore & Thompson Attorneys at Law, Optimist International and Vanderbilt University. Duarte holds a bachelor of arts in global communications and politics from Vanderbilt University.

Fabiani Duarte1.     What motivated you to serve as an AmeriCorps member?

Upon graduating from college, I returned to my hometown of Huntsville, Ala., and joined a local law firm where I aimed to gain legal experience for a year and then re-launch my education by going to law school. Although I was successful in being accepted to law school, leaving for school became a larger challenge than I had initially anticipated: 1) due to my experience a the law firm, I had become uncertain if law school was actually the right “next-step” on my professional journey, and 2) I had become increasingly involved in a local service organization whose growth and expansion into several local schools would require significant leadership in the year ahead.

Seeking guidance during a few weeks of indecision, I connected with a former high school mentor who now worked at Still Serving Veterans – a locally-based, national non-profit focused on helping our heroes find jobs, obtain counseling and receive the VA benefits they have earned – that I was unfamiliar with at the time. After explaining my situation, she explained that the AmeriCorps VISTA program could potentially help me clarify some uncertainties while also advancing the projects I was passionate about and that I had begun to develop in my hometown. Having known several of my college classmates who had joined the Peace Corps, Teach for America and AmeriCorps, I was familiar with the program and needed little convincing about its legitimacy. After a few days of consideration and prayer, I energetically agreed to apply to one of the VISTA positions that had come available at Still Serving Veterans. And thus, my journey with AmeriCorps VISTA and ALA Call to Service Corps began.

 2.     What motivated you to choose your sponsor organization?

In addition to being recruited by a former high school mentor who now served in the leadership of Still Serving Veterans, I had begun to seriously consider a future in the military. Although I had been interested in obtaining a law degree since before going to college, I had always harbored a desire to serve our nation in uniform as well. During my year of work at a hometown law firm, I began to discuss the possibility of achieving both goals and became more and more educated about serving as a military lawyer in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps. In hopes of acquainting myself in a deeper and more meaningful way with the military culture while also more closely investigating the possibility of becoming a JAG officer, I felt that serving at Still Serving Veterans would assist me on clarifying various questions about my new and very specific professional goal.

3.     Do you feel that you achieved your personal goals as an AmeriCorps member?

Certainly. During my year as an AmeriCorps VISTA member I was not only able to contribute to the capacity building and expansion of Still Serving Veterans, but I was also able to determine whether or not I would be able to thrive in a military context as a JAG officer. Beyond discovering that serving as a military lawyer has solidified itself as personal professional goal, I was also able to revive my talents as a collaborator, networker, community leader and volunteer galvanizer that I had developed during my college years at Vanderbilt. During my first year away from my familiar campus environment, structured lifestyle and leadership roles in various organizations I became disoriented and lacked confidence in the skills I had honed during those formative years. AmeriCorps VISTA helped re-cultivate and renew this skillset and allowed me to transfer my former formula of success to a new organization and hometown community.

 4.     Are you particularly proud of any accomplishments from your service year?  If so, can you explain why?

Perhaps my proudest achievement as I look back on this past year of service has been the development of service-learning initiative that I began cultivating ten years ago and began to spearhead again after I returned home from college. Thanks to the support of Still Serving Veterans, I was able to fuse the goals of this service-learning initiative with the employment, volunteerism and mentorship goals of our organization.

In November of 2011, I, along with various veteran advocacy leaders met with the newly installed superintendent of Huntsville City Schools and his Director of Transition – both Army veterans – to discuss a workforce development partnership between the city schools system and Still Serving Veterans. Our goal was to develop a hiring program for unemployed veterans to fill target areas available within Huntsville City Schools (e.g. human resources, finance, transportation, logistics, technology, athletics, allocations, inventory control, IT, security, TV station operations and teaching positions).

Simultaneously, after returning to Huntsville after graduating from college, I had affiliated myself with the local chapter of Optimist International. The Optimist Club was a civic organization like the Kiwanis, Civitan, Lions, or Rotary Clubs present in city across the country that I had been heavily involved with during my middle and high school days. Focused on serving youth of the community, this service organization sought to create Junior Optimist Clubs in schools across the city similar one that I had been able to found and develop when I was in high school. Due to an effort to reinvest the club’s large endowment into local community projects like these junior service clubs, the club asked me to help spearhead the city-wide effort by offering a fully-funded program to schools that expressed a desire to increase their students’ service-learning opportunities.

With the goals of developing both a substantial veteran workforce development program in public schools and expanding service-learning through fully-funded Junior Optimist Clubs, I developed a proposal with the support of the leadership at Still Serving Veterans and new members of our Community Blueprint Network team. The plan outlined a three-way partnership between Huntsville City Schools, Still Serving Veterans and the Optimist Club of Huntsville that would fulfill two principal areas of the Community Blueprint Initiative: Employment and Volunteerism. The plan consisted of funneling resumes of unemployed veteran-clients from Still Serving Veterans to Huntsville City Schools. These veterans, once hired to fill full-time or part-time positions, would serve as mentors to fully-funded youth service clubs established in schools designated by the superintendent. These youth service clubs, or Junior Optimist Clubs, would serve three purposes: 1) combat bullying and boredom in public schools by providing structured service-learning clubs for students in elementary, middle, and high schools where few volunteer opportunities existed, 2) connect local school children to positive veteran mentors, and 3) promote veteran volunteerism by allowing newly hired veterans lead service-learning programs in school settings that additionally would assist with the  veteran transition to civilian life by providing veterans with a sense of meaning, purpose and belonging.

After conducting a series of meetings and leading presentations to various public school principals and city school administrators, the stakeholders all agreed to develop two pilot sites at a public elementary and middle school based on a proposal I had developed.

Finally, in the summer of 2012, the stakeholders re-assembled to review the success of the two pilot sites and discussed specific action-items and commitments from each of the three parties to expand the program. After drafting a formal document outlining specific deliverables, a signing ceremony and luncheon was held on October 11, 2012, to formally launch the partnership between Still Serving Veterans, Huntsville City Schools, and the Optimist Club of Huntsville.

Based on this signed agreement, that last month of my service was been dedicated to meeting with principals from the 16 schools approved to benefit from the program and have worked with SSV’s Workforce Development manager to streamline client resumes to Huntsville City Schools Human Resources and Operations offices.

I am proud to say that I have successfully transitioned this program to my VISTA successor and will continue to be involved in overseeing the success of the partnership during the months ahead before I leave for law school in the fall of 2013.

 5.     What are your future plans after your AmeriCorps service year?

I am currently studying to for my Law School Admission Test (LSAT) exam and plan to apply to law schools over the next several weeks. My goal of becoming a JAG officer is clearer than ever and I am grateful for the opportunity that I had over the past year to examine, evaluate and refocus my interest in obtaining a law degree. It is now with great pride and earnest confidence that I aim to pursue a career as a JAG officer and seek to continue my commitment to service that AmeriCorps VISTA helped me rediscover during the past year.