MLK Day

Monday, January 19th was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  We celebrated this year by organizing a book drive for the East Bluff, and by attending the 23rd annual MLK Day Celebration Luncheon at the Civic Center.

We worked with a few local volunteers to collect over 600 books for the East Bluff community.

Some of the books we collected.

Some of the books we collected.

Our members gathered at Children’s Home to sort, label, and package the books for delivery.  This week, we are delivering them to East Bluff organizations like the Little Free Libraries (one at EBNHS, one at the East Bluff Community Center), as well as Children’s Home locations for our Residential and Kiefer School clients.

A box of books for the Residential clients.

A box of books for the Residential clients.

Brought to you by AmeriCorps!

Brought to you by AmeriCorps!

That afternoon, we attended the 23rd annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Luncheon with guest speaker Harry Belafonte.

AmeriCorps Members at the MLK Celebration Luncheon

AmeriCorps Members and community members celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of service.

Enjoying the delicious food.

Enjoying the delicious food.

Happy MLK Day!

Happy MLK Day!

He talked about his legacy working with Dr. King and others, and we were all inspired by his lifetime of service.

Advertisements

Meet the Member Coach

Hello everyone!

Becca here to update you all on everything that has been keeping us so incredibly busy.  Our program has expanded quite a bit to take on more members and we have had a few staff changes as well.  Natalie, the old Member Coach has been moved up to Program Coordinator! This left the Member Coach position open.  Natalie and Jeff, the Program Director, wanted this position to be filled by an AmeriCorps alumnus who would be able to give insight to the program from a view-point that neither of them had.

So after two years as a member, serving 1,350 hours in total, I moved into role of Member Coach.  I took on this role at the very end of July and have been working alongside Natalie to form Fostering Transitions into our ideal AmeriCorps program.  This includes new sites, a lot of new members, and different project ideas.  As the member coach, I will work closely with the members to make sure that their term runs smoothly and they are using their hours to the fullest potential.  We want to make sure that they are not only serving at their host sites but also at other locations in the community and improving our program in other ways.  We are working on a few different projects and campaigns that we are all very excited about.

I am working with a small group of members on a Pop the Top campaign where we are collecting soda tabs to be donated to Ronald McDonald House.  We are going to be starting within the agency and at our sites and then moving out into the community.  We also are preparing for an AIDs awareness campaign that will be throughout the agency and sites as well.  Coming up for Martin Luther King Day we will be having a book drive that will benefit clients of the Children’s Home but also those in the East Bluff.

I am incredibly thankful to have been offered this role and to be able to remain a part of the AmeriCorps program.  I thoroughly enjoyed my two terms of service and think that our program is incredibly beneficial to the members involved but also to the people that we serve.  Many of our sites would not be able to exist without the help of AmeriCorps.  It is my goal to stay with the program until I finish my Social Work degree that I am working on.

In the coming days, I will be working with some of the new members to do some introductions!

Gobble Gobble!

AmeriCorps is getting ready for Thanksgiving! This year we are taking cards and handprint turkeys to the hospitals while also having a food drive at the Children’s Home to donate to shelters! How do you like to help and give back for Thanksgiving?

image

Who is Your Superhero?

Who is your superhero?

Who is your superhero?

rebecca back

Becca, a member turned staff, will be the first one to say that her mom is amazing!  Being a single mom is tough but Kelli has taken it all in stride.  At one point Kelli worked four jobs on top of keeping up with two very active kids.  She didn’t miss a single baseball game of Becca’s younger brother or a single performance when Becca did color guard in high school.  Kelli also takes the title “mom” very seriously and takes in each and every person that walks through her door as if they were her own.  There has been more than one occasion where Becca had come home after work to see her friends sitting on the couch with her mom.  Kelli loves her children’s friends unconditionally and makes sure she sees them as often as she can.  It’s easy to see why Kelli is Becca’s superhero!

As a writer, Becca also admires author J.K Rowling.  Harry Potter has been life changing for her and she feels she can relate to some of J.K Rowling’s struggles, which helps Becca accept some things about her life.  Not to mention, she would love to be as successful with her writing as J.K is!

Let us know who your superhero is!  Be sure to tag us on Instagram and tag it #superselfies!

 

Meet the Members: Jessica

Jessica aka “The Creator”

If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.

-John F. Kennedy

Jessica's Super Selfie

Hello, my name is Jessica. I’d like to introduce myself. Although I have blogged on occasion, I don’t believe that we have met. I am a 4th and final-term member on the last leg of my last term ever! Looking at the past four years of my life, I can’t believe it! I have been involved in community service for years. In high school, I was a member of the Key Club, a community based volunteering club. I was also crowned Miss Compassionate Crown, a local pageant system that recognizes individuals for their compassion towards those in their community. I decided that once again, I wanted to be involved in community service and was accepted to be an AmeriCorps member at the Children’s Home in 2009. I have a strong artistic background and I am able to utilize this in my service. Some highlights from past terms include entering clients’ artwork to the HOI and Illinois State Fair (where these contests earned ribbons). It was especially exciting to go with the clients to experience the fair, the food, and to see their work in a gallery. It gave these children the chance to experience the simple, yet wholesome, Americana event that is a local fair.
Voices for Children has selected Children’s Home to have a contest in which they wanted clients to create and design a non-denominational Christmas card that would be printed, sold, and created into an E card. A student I mentored and gave art lessons to was the one chosen to have her card published. I know that was a huge accomplishment for her. To recognize all of the contestants, Voices threw a huge pizza party with three enormous cakes- the clients loved them! I was very happy to work with them for two years to encourage them to go after their dreams and help instill a little confidence in their abilities.
During another term I had the opportunity to work with the individuals at EP!C, a local agency that serves people with developmental delays and/or physical limitations. My timing was perfect as the agency was working on building up their art program ( a project now known as EPICasso). Though I’ve studied to be a teacher, text books can never fully prepare you for what it is like to work with individual people. I learned about special brushes and tools that would allow people with different abilities to be able to create art. I watched a blind man paint something truly amazing. A client who is 94 years young always steals the show with her energy and artistic gifts. One of my favorite events to date was the art gallery showing client artwork. I got to see all the lessons and hard work that I contributed to, framed and displayed in a real gallery where clients and their families could attend. The show was beautifully named, “Kaleidoscope,” as the pieces of artwork were created by so many diverse individuals. I continue to help co-teach these art lessons as well as attend field trips to Camp Big Sky with clients (read the previous post for more about that).
In my past four years, my eyes and heart have been opened to so many people. I have been affiliated with EP!C, the Center For Prevention of Abuse, Peoria Friends of People with AIDS, the Special Olympics, the Sun Foundation, Youth Farm, East Bluff Build It Up, the Dirty Laundry Project, the Washington Tornado Relief Center, and Keepsacks for Kids. Outside of AmeriCorps, I volunteered in Kauai, Hawaii in Koke’e State Park and Waimea canyon where I worked in the rain forest to remove invasive plants and help repair hiking trails.
During my spare time, I enjoy reading, writing, photography, drawing and painting, and traveling. I have been working on a book about quirky things in Illinois and so I enjoy visiting different cities and getting the scoop for my side project. I am a full time mother to a wonderful seven year old boy. Although I am still figuring out my career path, I enjoy helping others reach their full human potential and include art in some fashion. I am currently studying to be an art teacher at Eureka College.

Coming Full Circle: the road to recovery.

On February 9th, at 2:30 pm, I woke up in my car. I had blacked out on impact from an automobile accident while driving my son home from sledding. That day I woke up to a completely different world—a world that was not accessible. Three vertebrae in my neck had been damaged, a disc in my back was bulged, my femur was broken, and my acetabulum (what holds the ball of my hip in place) was broken all the way through. My son suffered wounds to his face from the broken windshield. All I could do was be still—I couldn’t even put weight on the left side of my body. Everything had changed.

I was confined to a wheelchair. My son and I moved back into my mother’s. It was hard to not be able to take care of my son, to bathe or cook for him, but it was being unable to keep up with him that was heartbreaking. I missed his Valentine’s Day party at school, which would have been fun for both of us (I’m studying to be a teacher, and practicing teaching craft lessons with the kids is good for my career goals). That was one of the many things I missed out on while recovering. I also lost a semester of school because hardly any buildings on my campus are handicap accessible.

As the weather got nicer, my son wanted to be outside more. We tried to take walks around the block. I wouldn’t think that rolling around the block would be difficult, but I was wrong. Tree roots, uneven sidewalks, and missing ramps made it nearly impossible to get around. It was very painful to try to navigate around a once-familiar neighborhood. Aside from the terrible pain I felt in my arms from trying to move the wheels, I felt the struggle of trying to keep up with my son.

It made me think about my experiences from Summer when I went with clients of PARC (now known as EP!C) and how wonderful it was to have a place that allowed individuals with disabilities to access nature. For 11 years, Camp Big Sky, a nonprofit organization, has been providing opportunities like fishing tournaments and camping.

On a Thursday morning, Phoebe Johnson brought the bus around and the two of us worked together to board three individuals from EP!C. Every other Thursday clients from EP!C get a chance to go visit Camp Big Sky. After seat belts were fastened and a walker was secure, we took off to Fairview, IL, to enjoy an afternoon of boating and hay rack riding. Sometimes, dependent upon the client, weather, and timeframe, clients would drop a cane pole into the water in the hopes of catching one of the bluegill that linger around the dock.

The route to camp cuts through memories of my childhood. We pass through Farmington, IL, on the main drag in which takes you downtown. I saw the Wareco gas station that I would visit for a cool drink or sugary snack, now all tattered and closed to the public. Right across the street was the doctor’s office I went to throughout my childhood. After we passed downtown, the terrain gets very hilly and you’d think we had found a portal to Vermont. However, we just found a place that the glaciers haven’t completely flattened when the terrain in Illinois was being formed. Clients looked at me, unsure of the shaking and the dips we experienced and I smiled with reassurance and clapped, pretending we were on a wooden coaster at Six Flags. In turn, they smiled and cheered back.

The view is very pleasant seeing ancient blue International Harvester corn bins, big red barns, Swedish quilt-like crests on buildings, and bodies of water. Phoebe made the final turn onto the white gravel road meeting the gate with a bleached bone white cow skull and sign declaring that this was Camp Big Sky. Our bus cleared a drastic hill to the top to where all the volunteers were waiting.

The fun began there. After unloading and slabbing on sunblock, we enjoyed a beautiful day at camp. A red-wing blackbird sang in a barren tree with a glimpse of the moon behind it. Aboard the pontoon, clients were thrilled to see a herd of cows run down to the strip mine lake and playfully moo and swim. We were joined by volunteers who attended a ten week training program, some of them clients from EP!C. One of the volunteer playfully suggested that the craft be dubbed the Burger Barge.

Seated on the hydraulic hay rack ride, I felt like I was transferred back into a time where Illinois hadn’t been settled. Long grass and clovers waved in the wind. An aerial view of the lake could be seen from our seats. Dragonflies of multiple colors could be spotted. The skies really were big and Kool Aid blue. Although bumpy and jolting, we all could have been seated in a covered wagon discovering the ground of the Camp for the first time. I think we all felt as free as the hawk that was flying high above these plains that day.

Although I am no longer in a wheel chair, I appreciate this place and am happy for its existence. I am happy that the client that is in a wheel chair could stroll with me in the tall prairie grass by means of a hayrack ride. I think of how difficult it was for me to go around my mother’s neighborhood and how I was alienated from my own school, and yet there is a place designated for all people to experience nature at no cost to them. I think of all the different people that the camp encompasses and the smiles and memories that come from pulling up a cane pole with a fish on it, or coasting down the lake by the breeze. I intend to take my son out there to enjoy its healing qualities that come from being out there. He is on the autistic spectrum and the owner has invited me to bring him out.

Camp Big Sky is open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays (with additional days if needed). American Veterans are also welcome to experience the healing quality that recreation and nature can bring. More about the camp can be found at http://www.campbigsky.org.

 

The Lee's Landing dock at Bruce Lake.

The Lee’s Landing dock at Bruce Lake.

Keepsacks for Kids

In roughly four months, the biggest event for Fostering Transitions: AmeriCorps takes place and everyone is already gearing up!  Fleece has been bought, scissors are being sharpened, and hundred of donation letters and event flyers are being made.  What exactly is Keepsacks for Kids?  It is an annual project that collects fleece and hygiene supplies to then make blankets and hygiene kits for all the local shelters.  Unfortunately, there is a huge need and we make hundreds upon hundreds of blankets and over a thousand hygiene kits.  This is where the community comes in.  We need donations.  And a lot of them.  We need fleece, hygiene supplies, scissors, bags, socks, and even gift cards can be very very helpful!  We have gotten pretty creative with how we go about getting our help and this year we’re thinking about having groups sponsor a blanket.  You can get together a group of your friends, your family, your coworkers, neighbors, and school mates, each chip a few dollars and make a no-sew blanket that can then go to someone in need. 

Right now, it’s hard to think about anyone needing a blanket.  The weather has been sweltering hot lately and all you want to do is sit in front of a fan.  I get it.  But just a couple of months ago, we were all bundled up in layers, still dealing with a polar vortex.  There are people without layers who need a little extra.  If this is something that you would like to be a part of, feel free to contact us on here.  We will be sure to keep everyone updated on what we having going on and will be hopefully starting an Instagram soon so that everyone can enjoy the process with us. 

Stay cool!