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Meet Taylor Yehling: AmeriCorps VISTA Member with The Mission Continues June 10, 2013

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Taylor Yehling is an AmeriCorps VISTA member assigned to The Mission Continues through the American Legion Auxiliary Call to Service Corps. In her assignment as a communications coordinator, Taylor develops and distributes all branded marketing materials, signage and merchandise, and assists with social media, marketing and public relations. Taylor holds a bachelor’s in communication and psychology from the University of Missouri.

Taylor Yehling and Eric Greitens

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

Throughout my college summers, I spent a lot of time doing mission work in Nicaragua. I worked side by side with individuals who began to piece their lives together re-find purpose after losing everything they once knew to a natural disaster. I was inspired by the positivity and perseverance of the Nicaraguan communities and I began searching for opportunities to fuel this inspiration back home.

When it came time to decide my future course during my senior year of college, I knew I was called to a greater role in service to my community. After a service project with The Mission Continues, the staff introduced me to the AmeriCorps VISTA program and invited me to serve full-time as a part of their team. I did some research and decided to take that challenge.

2.     What motivated you to choose your sponsor organization?

I started volunteering at the Harry S. Truman Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Columbia, Mo. during my senior year of college. After interacting and familiarizing myself with the veteran community, I was moved by their great acts of courage, constant perseverance and inspiring stories. It was not long after that I learned about The Mission Continues, a national community organization that helps post-9/11 veterans transition from the military to service and leadership roles at home. I volunteered at one of the organization’s service projects and instantly connected with their mindset of dedicating time, energy, heart and passion to people re-finding their purpose and living to their full potential.

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

As a member of the Communications Team at The Mission Continues, I have had a tremendous professional development experience. In the last eight months, I obtained a Google AdWords Grant for $10,000/month and designed communications collateral used for raising awareness and stewarding donors. Additionally, I have assisted in The Mission Continues participation in social campaigns, including the Clinton Global Initiative and The Giving Library.

I could not be more proud to be a part of such an innovative and unique organization.

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?

If you are someone considering a national service opportunity or an assignment with the ALA Call to Service Corps, I can guarantee you won’t regret your decision to pursue this calling. Over the last eight months, I have learned lessons of courage, dedication and perseverance that will enrich my life well into the future. Click here to read a blog post I wrote entitled “What You Gain When You Give,” which describes in more detail the insight my VISTA year has given me.

5.     What are your future plans, if known?

My VISTA experience has been incredible. I hope to stay on as a full-time staff member with The Mission Continues at the conclusion of my service term in August.

Veterans Serving Through AmeriCorps Impact Servicemembers in Need April 29, 2013

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Two veterans enrolled in national service through the ALA Call to Service Corps have made a difference in the lives of dozens of servicemembers and veterans across the country at their service assignments with USA Cares.

Justin Chattoo and Jason Kennedy are AmeriCorps members assigned to USA Cares, an organization dedicated to the restoration of financial stability and self-sufficiency among those in the military community needing “a hand up, not a hand-out.” The organization operates principally by providing obligation-free grants to those under financial duress. These grants cover a variety of needs, ranging from travel expenses for those attending distant job interviews, emergency financial resources for mandatory car and housing payments, living expenses for those recovering in VA care and much more. USA Cares also provides extensive job location assistance.USA-Cares-LogoWEB

Chattoo, a Marine Corps veteran, and Kennedy, a Kentucky Army National Guardsman who has been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and post-Katrina New Orleans, play pivotal roles in USA Cares’ Jobs and Emergency Assistance programs.

As the Jobs Resource Coordinator for the Job Assistance Program, Chattoo helps match veterans, servicemembers, National Guardsmen and reservists with potential jobs. He is also responsible for the assessment and evaluation of financial grant applications from newly employed veterans who need a small floater to reach their first paycheck.

Chattoo has enjoyed his term of service so far, and is proud to make an impact on the lives of his fellow veterans.

“I believe in the mission and organization,” he said. “Veterans need a hand-up, not a hand-out.  A lot of these places give them a loan and that’s it – they’re done with them. USA Cares makes sure they can stand on their feet.”

Kennedy recently completed his AmeriCorps service term as the Family Resource Coordinator for USA Cares’ Emergency Assistance Program. Like Chattoo, he is responsible for assessment and evaluation of grant applications from those in need of cost-of-living related emergency assistance. Individuals in danger of missing car or electricity payments, for example, are common clients, as are those with military pay issues, evictions and other unforeseen issues.  Many of his clients also struggle with behavioral health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.

Kennedy has assisted veterans from Alaska to Puerto Rico through his service, and has found the experience rewarding.

“It’s been kind of an eye opener,” he said. “I knew there was a lot of hardship out there, [but] I had no idea about the actual number that struggle with hardship. It’s mind-blowing.”

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

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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).

Meet Andrew Talbot – AmeriCorps VISTA Leader at American Legion Auxiliary National Headquarters October 11, 2012

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Andrew Talbot is an AmeriCorps VISTA team leader assigned to American Legion Auxiliary National Headquarters through the American Legion Auxiliary Call to Service Corps. In his current assignment, Andrew is responsible for developing an operations guide for American Legion Auxiliary state chapters. He also served for twelve months as the project’s “right hand man” on major project growth areas, including development of the ALA Call to Service Corps eNews, a learning and development series for AmeriCorps members, and management of monthly member progress reporting. Prior to joining the ALA Call to Service Corps, Andrew held an AmeriCorps VISTA position with the River Region Court Appointed State Advocates (CASA) in Louisville, Ky. Andrew has also worked with several law firms in the Indianapolis area and has volunteered with the Neighborhood Christian Legal Center. Andrew holds a Juris Doctorate from the Western New England College School of Law.

 

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

I had several reasons for wanting to join AmeriCorps. I have always had a passion for helping others, and I think I have a strong skill set to contribute to the community. Especially now, with so many people suffering as a result of the poor economy, I think it is vital that people step up to provide for those in need. I wanted to work in a capacity where I felt I was improving the lives of others and encouraging people to volunteer.

2. What motivated you to choose your sponsor organization?

The location. I also thought my skills lined up well with the requirements of the position.

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

I worked on several different projects, such as a Call to Service Corps Handbook and the American Legion Auxiliary Department Operational Guide, that will continue to be used by the my sponsor site long after I have left service.

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

I am going to work for the Customs and Immigration Service within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Meet Connie Jenkins-Buwa — AmeriCorps VISTA Member with Community Blueprint Network at American Red Cross National Headquarters September 11, 2012

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Connie Jenkins-Buwa is an AmeriCorps VISTA Member assigned to the Community Blueprint Network at the American Red Cross National Headquarters through the American Legion Auxiliary Call to Service Corps. In her assignment as a Community Blueprint coordinator, Jenkins-Buwa develops the topical content, support tools, project infrastructure and community decision-making structures and processes to execute the Blueprint. Prior to joining the Call to Service Corps, Jenkins-Buwa was a longtime advocate for children in public education and worked with Plainfield Public Schools, Plainfield, NJ. Connie and her family answered a call to action after 9/11, to work with the Community Food Bank of New Jersey and provide food for affected families. In 1995, she logged in hours with Habitat for Humanity building homes. Connie holds a Master degree in international relations from Seton Hall University.

 

What motivated you to serve as an AmeriCorps member?

The desire to give back to my community became intrinsic because our mother was so giving; our home was always filled with people who may have needed shelter, food or clothing. So, what began as helping a neighbor grew into community involvement like collecting for Toys for Tots at Christmas for families without means, or going down to the local food bank to help fix meals for families affected by 9/11. Then, when the call came for all Americans to support veterans, service members and their families, many of whom were returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, I looked for an opportunity to serve.

What motivated you to choose your sponsor organization?

My motivation was to volunteer in support of veterans, servicemembers and their families. I am grateful to the American Legion Auxiliary Call To Service Corps for placing me with the American Red Cross to develop and implement topical content for the Community Blueprint Network (CBN).

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

I am most proud of my ability to adapt to new surroundings and circumstances at the blink of an eye, heightened problem-solving skills evident in my ability to locate housing in a single bound, and the acquired KSA (knowledge, skill, ability) to complete complex projects in record-breaking time. All kidding aside, it has been such a rewarding experience and I am proud of my contribution to the Community Blueprint Network.

What are your future plans after your AmeriCorps service year?

I plan to remain in the Washington, D.C. area.