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Through widespread public support and a collaborative team of staff and volunteers, Operation Homefront, a national veteran service organization, aspires to be the provider of choice for emergency financial and other assistance to wounded warriors, veterans and military families.
Shelby Mathis, an AmeriCorps National member assigned to Operation Homefront through the ALA Call to Service Corps, has taken on an atypical (but allowable) AmeriCorps service assignment for the organization: graphic designer. In her position, Mathis is responsible for much of the design and branding material of the organization’s many distinct programs and initiatives.
“Being able to do so much as an entry-level designer has been great,” said Mathis, whose innovation and talent have made her a valuable asset to Operation Homefront. “Nowhere else would give me the same level of responsibility.”
Mathis, who graduated from the University of Central Missouri with a bachelor’s of fine arts in graphic design, spent her time freelancing in San Antonio, Texas before joining Operation Homefront.
“I was already volunteering with other veteran service organizations, especially the American Red Cross and the USO,” she said. “I knew Operation Homefront was based here, and I thought the organization would be a perfect fit.”
Over the course of her service year, Mathis has worked on rebranding seven major programs, including Operation Homefront’s successful Back to School Brigade, an annual project that distributes donated school supplies to military children in need.
Her favorite project has been Hearts of Valor, a program that provides female caregivers with opportunities to build relationships, access resources and enjoy brief moments of rest and respite from their caregiving responsibilities. Hearts of Valor was previously known as Wounded Warrior Wives. Mathis was responsible for the creation of a program brochure, multiple flyers and a suite of web graphics.
“It started totally from scratch, which is always fun for me because I have a lot of freedom,” Mathis said. “And the director of that program was really great.”
After her term of service ends, Mathis and her husband, an active-duty servicemember, will undergo a permanent change of station to Portugal. She hopes to continue as a graphic designer in her new home.
Please note that we discussed the work of several other ALA Call to Service Corps members assigned to Operation Homefront in a previous post. If you’d like to learn about more about them, you can view the post here.
AmeriCorps VISTA Members Build Organization Capacity to Place Military Spouses and Veterans into Jobs June 10, 2013Posted by servicecorpsnews in Alumni Spotlight.
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The Military Spouse Corporate Career Network (MSCCN) and Corporate America Supports You (CASY) are nonprofit organizations that provide employment readiness training programs, job placement solutions and no-cost services to military-affiliated spouses, retired military spouses, caregivers for war-wounded heroes and veterans.
Two AmeriCorps VISTA members recently completed their service terms to MSCCN and CASY through the ALA Call to Service Corps. Mark Cernak, a military veteran and a VISTA alum, and Bianca Nafpliotis, a military spouse, both played integrals role expanding the organizations’ employment services footprint and brought military and veteran credentials to their service assignments
Over the course of her service term, Nafpliotis successfully restructured the organization’s volunteer program by rewriting its standard operating procedures, creating an organization map detailing both available volunteers and MSCCN staff members, writing new volunteer positions and descriptions, searching for and interviewing volunteer candidates and promoting the volunteer position within the military community.
Nafpliotis also successfully launched a new division of the organization’s volunteer program, called the Career Corps Professional Network. The network provides industry professionals with the opportunity to volunteer their time and expertise in support of MSCCN and CASY programs.
“Bianca’s strengths in organization and management have taken this program to new leaps and bounds,” said Erin Voirol, Nafpliotis’ supervisor. “[She] did a fantastic job.”
Mark Cernak was similarly influential in his role as MSCCN and CASY’s Training and Military Applicant Specialist. In that assignment, he assisted in the planning, development and implementation of a volunteer training system. As a facet of these duties, Cernak also actively conducted outreach to the military community, provided support to those utilizing the training system, and amplified his organization’s social media presence, which is used to locate potential volunteers and program beneficiaries.
Nafpliotis, whose term of service ended in April, has since joined the MSCCN as a full-time staff member. Cernak, whose term of service ended in May, now volunteers for the organizations.
Volunteering News to Use: Promising Practices in National Service and Military Family Programs June 10, 2013Posted by servicecorpsnews in Volunteering News to Use.
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In 2011, the Corporation for National and Community Service funded a field assessment of almost 100 AmeriCorps State and National, AmeriCorps VISTA and Senior Corps grantees operating Veteran and Military Family (VMF) programs, including ALA Call to Service Corps project sites. The study collected critical baseline data on current VMF activities and identified programs and practices with the potential for success.
Corporation staff, colleagues and other subject matter experts have developed a series of webinars that highlight the findings of this study and explore what they mean to you as a national service program or project.
Though most of the webinars in this series have already taken place, the slides and resources from each are available on the Nation Service Knowledge Network, here: www.tinyurl.com/obu9job.
You can also register for the final webinar in to series, to be held Wednesday, June 12 at 1 p.m. EST by visiting www.tinyurl.com/c8gp8ll.
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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.
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.
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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.
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.”