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Accomplishment Spotlight: Call to Service Corps Members Support Wounded Warriors and their Families March 28, 2013

Posted by servicecorpsnews in Accomplishment Spotlight.
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DC OH Village - GroupOperation Homefront is a national veteran service organization based in San Antonio, Texas.  Through widespread public support and a collaborative team of staff and volunteers, Operation Homefront aspires to be the provider of choice for emergency financial and other assistance to wounded warriors, veterans and military families.

One major way Operation Homefront supports the military is through its transitional housing program, collectively referred to as “OH Villages.”  These Villages are congregate residences for wounded warriors and their families.  The servicemembers and their families live in the facilities rent-free while they rehabilitate from war injuries and prepare for return to civilian life.  The Villages are located near the principal military treatment facilities for wounded warriors.

Services offered at OH Villages include case management, support groups, benefits briefings, and resume writing classes. Counselors also check in every thirty days to ensure that the tenants understand their financial situations, to discuss the transition process, to review attendance at the aforesaid activities, and to determine whether residents still present adequate need for the Village.

In 2012, Operation Homefront recruited three AmeriCorps National members to expand the capacity of each of its OH Village sites:  Brandy Lawrence, assigned to the OH Village in San Antonio, Texas; Taneeshna Harrington, assigned to the OH Village in Oceanside, California; and Sarah Kline, assigned to the OH Village in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Brandy Lawrence has played a pivotal role in many of the functions native to the OH Villages.  She is also responsible for event planning, and recently planned and executed two large service projects for the 2012 holidays.  Lawrence solicited donations from local groups and organizations, receiving items such as food baskets, gift cards, laundry baskets, storage containers and much more, each of which she repackaged as a holiday gift.  She also organized the office Christmas party, which brought Village families together to decorate trees and enjoy the season together.

Lawrence, who in addition to her other duties assists with the day-to-day operation of the Village also manages the organization’s social media presence, was effusive about her service experience.  “It’s been a great opportunity,” she says.  “The leadership here is absolutely amazing, and so are the residents.”

Sarah Kline has been similarly influential during her time with Operation Homefront.  She spearheaded the launch of a new program in her Village, titled “Homework Help,” which, as its name implies, involves tutoring resident children and ensuring they receive the academic support needed to excel.  “Kids come after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” says Kline.  “[They receive help with their homework] and get time to socialize with their peers.”  In the words of one teacher, the program has “helped tremendously.”

Kline, like Lawrence, has found her service to be rewarding.  “I absolutely love Operation Homefront.  …I feel like I do something different every day.  I work with servicemembers and their families and help with whatever they need.”

Accomplishment Spotlight: Crawford and ‘Got Your 6’ Raise Awareness Through Hollywood March 28, 2013

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Early last year, actor Tom Hanks appeared on stage at the Academy Awards to accept an award.  His appearance was much the same as any other in his long and storied career, save one small exception: a small, six-shaped pin on his lapel.  That same pin soon appeared on other celebrities, ranging from late night hosts Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien to comedian Kathy Griffin to Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler.  Though noticeable, none were sure what the pin was meant to signify.

It was eventually revealed to belong to Got Your 6, a collaborative project designed to raise awareness of the issues facing our returning servicemembers and veterans.  Since its launch, Got Your 6 has been among the fastest growing organizations operating in the veteran and military space, and it has attracted an unprecedented amount of Hollywood and media attention, ranging from NBC’s Stars Earn Stripes to personal endorsements from noted actors like Hanks, Sarah Jessica Parker, Bradley Cooper, Michael Douglas and more.  Its public service announcements have aired at sporting events across the country, from a San Diego Padres game to the Indy 500.

Dedicated to bridging the cultural divide between America’s military and civilian populations, Got Your 6 began as a 2011 meeting between major Hollywood studios, networks, talent agencies and entertainment guilds.  The meeting – convened by ServiceNation, an organization dedicated creating an ethic of civic responsibility across America – led to a year-long discussion that eventually culminated in the launch of Got Your 6 in May 2012.

Got Your 6, which also seeks to set veterans on the path to civilian success, focuses on six principal topics, or “pillars”: Jobs, Education, Housing, Health, Family, and Leadership.  Each pillar is represented by an “activation partner,” who organizes and manages activities relating to the specific topic.  Jobs, for example, is represented by the Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program, while Health is represented by Give an Hour, and Leadership by The Mission Continues – the latter two of whom are also members of the Call to Service Corps Consortium.

Crawford TV SpotIan Crawford, an AmeriCorps VISTA working with ServiceNation through the ALA Call to Service Corps, has been instrumental to Got Your 6’s rapid expansion and growth.  His duties involve tending to the needs of the program – responding to general inquiries, handling partnerships, organizing service projects, and writing copy for the Got Your 6 newsletter.  Crawford has also raised money for the organization and represented Got Your 6 in the news and in other media.

One event Crawford engineered took place last September in commemoration of 9/11.  With the assistance of partners such as the Regal Entertainment Group and Fox45 Baltimore, Crawford was able to dramatically raise awareness of Got Your 6 through a publicity event at the opening of a movie theater in Gambrills, Maryland.  Tables were set up at the theater entrance and staffed by Got Your 6 volunteers, who informed interested moviegoers about the initiative.  Fox45 reporters were also on-hand to interview Crawford and Got Your 6 staff for the network’s Morning News program.  At the conclusion of the event, the Regal Entertainment Group donated the day’s ticket proceeds to Got Your 6 and its affiliate organizations – a total of more than $8,000.

“I’m proud of the fact that there really are no ordinary days,” Crawford says, describing his activities.  “That’s part of the beauty of it.”

Crawford, a former radio broadcaster with an NPR affiliate in Austin, Texas, was motivated to join the ALA Call to Service Corps by an interview he conducted with journalist Joe Klein, whose article “The New Greatest Generation” was published as a Time cover story in 2011.

“It really rocked me back on my heels,” says Crawford.  “[Veterans] aren’t broken.  They want to do well; they want to continue to give back their country.  I saw the ServiceNation position, and applied.  …It’s been a rich, full experience.”

Ian Crawford recently completed his term of service and has accepted employment with ServiceNation and Got Your 6.

Accomplishment Spotlight: Call to Service Corps Members Use Technology to Support Military Spouses March 28, 2013

Posted by servicecorpsnews in Accomplishment Spotlight.
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According to a poll conducted last year by Nielsen, more than 50 percent of Americans now use smartphones.  That number shoots upwards to more than 66 percent for those between the ages of 25 and 34.  Though data specific to the veteran and military community is unavailable, it seems clear that smartphone adoption has become increasingly prevalent among nearly all American demographic groups in recent years.  Despite this, few nonprofit and veteran service organizations have moved to take advantage of this growth in any meaningful way, and the unification of new technology with targeted, supportive resources has largely been ignored.

National Military Family Association EmblemMyMilitaryLife, a smartphone app launched late last year by the National Military Family Association, marks a significant and innovative step in that direction.  The app, which unites an extensive array of resources with a highly intuitive interface, seeks to help military spouses navigate the many challenges they face on a daily basis.

Users simply download the app, complete a brief questionnaire, and receive information on important topics ranging from going back to school to managing with a deployed family member to transitioning out of the military.  Content is divided into eleven discrete areas, called “life paths,” which allows the app to tailor content and direct users to the type of information most relevant to their particular needs.

Michelle Winning and Simmone Quesnell, two AmeriCorps National members assigned to the organization through the ALA Call to Service Corps, were integral in the development of MyMilitaryLife.  National Military Family Association staff cite their contributions for moving the app development and launch much more quickly than the organization had expected.

Winning, a military spouse herself, was deeply involved in the development of the separate lifepaths.  “The app is supposed to take the adventures of military life and give not just resources, but everything else needed to succeed as well,” she says.  “It’s very exciting, and it’s created a lot of opportunities for collaboration [with other organizations].”

Quesnell has also worked closely with the National Military Family Association’s communications department to ensure MyMilitaryLife is understandable and easy-to-use.  In addition, she researched and gathered an extensive array of resources for the app relating to topics such as military spouse scholarships in order to shape the life paths and increase overall app effectiveness.

Winning and Quesnell recently completed their service terms.  Quesnell has been invited to join the association as a full-time employee.  Winning plans to continue to volunteer for the organization.

MyMilitaryLife is available through Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

Volunteering News to Use: Points of Light’s 2013 Conference on Volunteering and Service March 28, 2013

Posted by servicecorpsnews in Volunteering News to Use.
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Points of Light’s Conference on Volunteering and Service is the world’s largest convening on volunteer service and will be held in Washington, D.C., from Wednesday, June 19, through Saturday, June 22, 2013.

At a time when so much divides us, service is common ground. It is a uniting force that can pull us together in common cause, in pursuit of the ideals upon which this nation was founded and toward which citizens continue to strive. Washington, D.C., is a wonderful place to explore what it means to be united in service.

The Conference on Volunteering and Service is on point with the evolving civic landscape. There is no better time to bring together the brightest and most cutting-edge entrepreneurs for social change.

For scheduling and registration information, visit www.volunteeringandservice.org.

Alum Profile: Nathan Brown March 28, 2013

Posted by servicecorpsnews in Alumni Spotlight.
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nathan-wNathan Brown recently completed his term of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA member assigned to American Legion Auxiliary National Headquarters through the American Legion Auxiliary Call to Service Corps. In his assignment as a communication VISTA, Nathan developed and implemented communications tools and resources to mobilize Legion Family members and other community members in service targeted to poverty alleviation by and for military servicemembers, veterans and their families. Prior to joining the Call to Service Corps, Nathan held positions in the newspaper and magazine field with NUVO, the Indiana Daily Student, Inside Magazine and Fiore Magazine. Nathan has prior AmeriCorps State/National experience from his term of service at Easter Seals’ Camp Wawbeek, where he served during the summer of 2011. Nathan holds a Bachelor’s in journalism from Indiana University-Bloomington. His father served in the Marine Corps Reserves. His grandfather received a Purple Heart for his service in the Korean War.

1.     What motivated you to serve as an AmeriCorps/AmeriCorps VISTA member?

My motivations were many: when I graduated from Indiana University, my then-girlfriend, now-wife and I moved to Durango, Colorado together. She had an AmeriCorps VISTA position with the Southwest Conservation Corps. I was with her from beginning to end during her service and saw the myriad ups and down, the successes and the not-so-successful. At the end of her service, I could tell she was transformed by her experience, not only on a personal level, but professional as well. I wanted that experience myself and sought a position that would enable me to take my career to the next level.

2.     What motivated you to choose your sponsor organization?

I have a lot of family in the military: one cousin in the Air Force, an uncle in the Air Force, my father was in the Marine Corps and my grandfather is a Marine Corps veteran who earned a purple heart in the Korean conflict.

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

There are too many accomplishments to just list one. From a big-picture perspective, I’m extremely proud to have helped build the capacity of such a long-standing and well-respected organization. It’s always an amazing feeling and so reassuring to hear others at the American Legion Auxiliary say to me that without my help project X, Y, Z wouldn’t have been completed for a long time, if ever.

4.     What message would you like to share with individuals considering national service opportunities generally, and/or assignments with the ALA Call to Service Corps specifically?

This AmeriCorps position is actually my second. I did a half-term of service as an AmeriCorps member when I worked at an Easter Seals camp for people with disabilities. I can honestly say that because of my AmeriCorps experiences, I have had some amazing life-changing experiences, become a stronger individual and become more confident in my skills. That being said, national service is not something you do for the money. It’s something you do to improve yourself and the lives of others. What you get out of it is entirely up to you.

5.     What are your future plans, if known?

For right now, I plan to do freelance writing and photography.