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!

AmeriCorps Makes Front Page

Member Coach Becca and members Laura and T pose while on the peace walk Tuesday night.

Member Coach Becca and members Laura and T pose while on the peace walk Tuesday night.

AmeriCorps members T and Laura along with member coach, Becca, joined a peace walk through the East Bluff Neighborhood where the Children’s Home is located.  This peace walk went along with the third annual Night Out Against Crime where people from the neighborhood come together to make a difference to bring peace back to the area. 

There was a great turn out!  There were people who live and work in the East Bluff, the police and fire fighters that work in the area, and a couple dozen volunteers from Target who helped serve the delicious corn and hot dogs while also helping out with face painting.  The night was full of fun! 

Check out the front page article of the Peoria Journal Star!

http://www.pjstar.com/article/20140805/NEWS/140809533/0/SEARCH

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!

 

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!

Summer Fun!

School is out, graduations are over, and there are big things happening in the Peoria area!  Summer is a good time for community actions and block parties and that’s exactly what is going to be happening!  Come August 5 at 5:00 in the evening, the entire East Bluff is coming together to do a peace walk and then celebrate the summer and a crime free area.  Join AmeriCorps with our friends from the East Bluff Community for the Night Out Against Crime!  There’s always delicious food and fun games along with lots of great people.  AmeriCorps is very excited to be helping for another year and can’t wait to have fun. 

But that’s not all that we have going on.  Ignite Peoria is also coming up in August at the Civic Center.  It’s an interactive art exhibit with visual arts, music, dance, theatre, and different unique arts.  We are very excited to go and see that and we invite you to come as well since general admission and parking is free for the event!  You can join us on August 9th for an entire day of fun!

(http://www.ignitepeoria.com/, http://artspartners.net/ignite-peoria/)

We have many new members starting a summer term and taking on a summer full of camp!  They will enjoy long days with many kids of all ages at a variety of different camps.  The members who are stationed at the Children’s Home will continue to find things to do all summer long while helping with the East Bluff Build It Up (formerly Taking Back Our Neighborhood), and will be visiting a few pre-schools for our literary projects.  Our project from last year where we teamed up with Youth Build has gotten back together and they are currently working on fixing up houses on Frye.  If you know of anyone in the East Bluff that may need some house work please contact Glen Oak Community Church about their In As Much program.

Of course, AmeriCorps would not be AmeriCorps if we did not start preparing for Keepsacks!  Keepsacks is our annual project where we gather fleece and hygiene items in order to make blankets and hygiene kits to deliver to the shelters in the area.  Did you know the average age of a homeless person in Illinois is 9 years old?  This fact breaks our hearts and so we do our very best to help take care of them while their family gets back on their feet.  Luckily, we have a surplus of hygiene supplies left over from our time in Washington to help make our kits but we will as always need donations for blankets. 

Enjoy the sun and stay cool!

Catching Up

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This was Store One for the first few weeks!

Things have been crazy here in Peoria… Well, Washington.  We have all of our members hard at work doing many different things.  We’re coming up on FIVE MONTHS since the tornado ripped through Washington, East Peoria, and Pekin, Illinois.  With the weather warming up, rebuilding and renovations have started and THIS is getting everyone’s spirits up.  But with how busy things have been, the blog has been a little bare.  Sorry about that!  So here, is a bit of a recap of events for Fostering Transitions, AmeriCorps.

November 17 was the day of the tornadoes.  Things were pure chaos for the weeks that followed.  People were desperate to find a place to stay, they were contacting insurance, and gathering their possessions that were still there.  We were setting up shelters, gathering donations, and getting them where they needed to go.  Within the first few days, AmeriCorps had taken over all donations and had a distribution set up in Sunnyland Plaza.  We had three stores there plus a few other warehouses to store everything that came in.  The Midwest is known (by disaster aid organizations) for our generosity and it definitely showed!  The three stores included the general store, an overflow area, and a strictly clothing store.

Today, nearly five months later, we still have two of the stores at Sunnyland Plaza and a warehouse or two.  The stores have changed so much in this time though!  We have gone from everything on pallets on the floor, to shelves, and an actual organized store!  Not only this but we now get fresh produce brought to us every Friday and we are able to provide that for those in need as well.  We really have come such a long way.  We have gotten so many clothes we don’t know what to do with all of them.  We’ve clothed those who needed it here locally and have sent clothes all over the world now to those in need.  Hopefully soon we will be out of the clothing business as it’s not needed as much anymore.  We still have our clothing store open and it is available for anyone. The general store has transitioned to a long term facility meaning that you have to have some sort of documentation to show that there was property damage.  For example, customers must have a FEMA acceptance letter, and insurance document, or a Red Cross card.  We serve about thirty families in a day and are still open four days a week.  Everything is completely volunteer run.  We have a few of our AmeriCorps members stationed out in Washington instead of other sites.  I for example am stationed at The Children’s Home normally but since the tornado, I go to the office to turn in time sheets and for meetings, and the rest of the time am in Washington. But other than our AmeriCorps members, everything else is done by pure volunteers from all over.  We have had girl scout and boy scout troops, Church groups, College groups, people from Washington, people from all over Central Illinois, and also from many other states.  We have had donations flood in from very giving high schools, churches, and other people.  We recently had 110 prom dresses delivered to us so that girls don’t have to worry about the HUNDREDS of dollars that prom costs.  Through this, we have met some really amazing people.  Although this all came from a tragedy, so much good has come from this!

We have celebrated many different things this year as AmeriCorps, such as MLK Day, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, HATCH, Child Abuse Awareness Month, Autism Awareness, Mayor Day, and many many others.  We have been recognized for our service by the city of Washington and in just a few days, we will be recognized for our service by the city of Peoria as well.  These are very big things for our program and we are all very proud of what we have done.  

Not only have we been in Washington and celebrating wonderful things, but we still have many members who are hard at work at after school programs around the city.  We have members who have finished half of their terms and are now in the home stretch of finishing up hours.  We have members at the Dream Center, Salvation Army, and Friendship House.  Because of our members involvement in these programs, we have children who’s lives are being changed by a positive influence that they may not have otherwise.  AmeriCorps is really an amazing program!

Not only is our program and all the members amazing but we have a few AMAZING leaders.  I would like to take a moment to talk about our Team Member Coach, Natalie.  Natalie is a full time employee at the Children’s Home meaning that she has A LOT of stuff to do on site.  But since the 18 of November, with the exception of maybe a week, and Sundays, Natalie has been in Washington EVERY SINGLE DAY.  On some days she is both at the office and then at the donation center.  She works from early in the morning to late into the evening every single day.  She has made so many connections with those in the community and has befriended those who come in.  She knows people by name and can always be the person to calm someone down.  She heads the volunteers and makes sure that everything is being done correctly.  She handles the stress and unfortunately the drama, very well.  Natalie has really made an impact in Washington and touched hundreds of lives.  Natalie has made me incredibly proud to be able to say that she’s my superviser.  She has always been an excellent role model to all of us but now, working in this setting with her, I can say that she definitely has made an impact on my life and has set the standard for the type of person I want to be.  

So, although we haven’t had much time to blog about what’s going on, we have been hard at work, getting lots of things done!   Hopefully, I will be able to keep you more updated as time goes on!

Have a wonderful Monday!

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Limestone cheerleaders brought a TON of donations. Thank you :]

 

Celebrating Black History Month

Why is February Black History Month?  

In 1926  Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History decided that the second week of February would be “Negro History Week”.  This was decided because of Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass’s birthdays.  In 1969, the Black United Students at Kent State University decided that it should be the entire month, prompting those students to propose it to the board and one year later, they celebrated Black History all month long. In 1976, Gerald Ford made it nationally recognized and urged everyone to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

So, now that it is February (although a few days late), we will be honoring some of the African Americans of our past that have done amazing things for America!  

The ABC’s of Black History Month

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A: Audre Lorde-Poet

Lorde was born in New York City to parents Fredrick and Linda who were from Barbados and Carriacou.  Audre was born Audrey but later dropped the Y due to the interest in the artistic semetry of e-endings.  Lorde wrote her first poem by the eighth grade.  While studying library science, she supported herself by working many different jobs including, factory worker, ghost writer, social worker, X-ray technician, medical clerk, and arts and crafts supervisor.  After moving out of Harlem, she began to explore her lesbian sexuality.
In 1954, she spent a year at the National University of Mexico which is deemed as a pivitol year for her.  She described it as a time of affirmation and renewal where she confirmed her identity on personal and artistic levels as a lesbian and a poet.  She returned to New York where she then went back to school, worked as a librarian, and was very active in the gay culture of Greenwich Villiage. Not only was she very active in the gay culture but she was an active feminist who in her work attacked underlying racism within feminism, describing it as unrecognized dependence on the patriarchy. She argued that, by denying difference in the category of women, white feminists merely passed on old systems of oppression and that, in so doing, they were preventing any real, lasting change. Her argument aligned white feminists with white male slave-masters, describing both as “agents of oppression” 

Evenutally, she earned her Master’s Degree in library science from Columbia University  She had two children, Elizabeth and Jonathon, but divorced their father in 1970.  She had other romantic partners for the remainder of her life, which came to an end on November 17, 1992.  She was in St. Croix and had died of liver cancer, although she had fought breast cancer for 14 years.  She was only 58.
In her own words, she was a” black, lesbian, mother, warrior, and poet.  In an African naming ceremony before her death, Lorde became Gambda Adisa, which means “Warrior: She Who Makes Her Meaning Known.”
Her Work

 B: Bayard Rustin
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Bayard Rustin was a leader in the social movement for civil rights, socialism, pacifism, non-violence, and gay rights.  He was born and raised in Pennsylvania but in 1936 he moved to Harlem where he made a living as a nightclub and stage singer.  He was a leading activist on the early 1947-1955 civil rights movement and helped initiate a 1947 Freedom Ride.  He helped organize the SOuthern Christian Leadership Conference to strengthen Dr. King’s leadership.  He promoted nonviolence and the practices of nonviolent resistance.  He learned this while he worked with Gandhi’s movement in India.  He was also the chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  He also influenced young activists such as Tom Kahn and Stokely Carmichael in the organizations such as Congress on Racial Equality and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. 
Due to Rustin being a gay may and homosexuality being outlawed in some parts of the United States, he was arrested.  This was criticized by may of his fellow pacifists and civil rights leaders.  Many of his political opponents attacked him by calling him a  “pervert” or “immoral influence”.  In addition, his pre-1941 Communist Party affiliation when he was a young man was controversial. Due to these attacks his didn’t speak publicly too much.  He usually acted as an influential adviser to civil-rights leaders. In the 1970s, he became a public advocate on behalf of gay and lesbian causes.
On November 20, 2013, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 

Martin Luther King Jr Day

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Every year the AmeriCorps members and their fearless leaders attend the MLK Day Luncheon with hundreds of others.  There is always a phenomenal speaker who inspires and encourages those in attendance.  Afterwards there is a freedom march that many participate in, although, AmeriCorps does not partake.  Instead, we do a service project, usually at the Midwest Food Bank, which is where we went this year.  Three years ago, there were some issues with who was going to come and speak, last minute they brought in Michael Eric Dyson.  Dyson is a Professor of Sociology at Georgetown and is referred to as “a Princeton PhD and a child of the streets who takes pains never to separate the two” by Michael A Fletcher.  The year following him was none other than Condoleezza Rice who spoke of what her father and grandfather had taught her about how if you put your mind to something you could do it.  Just like Dr. King.  This year, they brought back Michael Eric Dyson.  

He ignored controversy and spoke about what Dr. King would think of everything that is going on with the United States.  He spoke of unemployment, the treatment of the poor, the LGBT community, the young, and women.  He spoke of politics and everything that the conservatives and liberals disagree on and how what matters is taking care of people.  He spoke on the war on drugs, Trayvon Martin, and racial profiling.  He touched on how we are quick to judge people for numerous reasons.  He spoke of how those who sag their pants may be hiding a body that is ravaged by the community that they live in.  He spoke on the music of this generation and how the language offends people but that the situations and the lives these artists sing/rap about don’t bother them.  He quoted Biggie Smalls, Jay-Z, Trey Songz, Marvin Gay, Barry White and countless others, using lyrics to connect the audience.  It involved everyone and helped them understand the points he was making.  He spoke of how women make less than what men do when doing the same jobs, about how we “love our mamas and hate our baby mama’s”, and how we should respect and love everyone no matter their race, gender, religion, sexual preference, or anything else that someone uses to define themselves.

He even went as far as to call people out.  The mayor, the city council, and the pastors, who at one point were not perfect and how they therefore can not judge people.  He told Peoria that we are the belt buckle of the Bible belt and that Jesus would be afraid to come here because he does not meet our standards of what Christianity is.  It was a much needed reality check for many of those in attendance.  He was very clear that no one is perfect and that we have a very long way to go but he did so in an inspirational way that mixed comedy and music with what he was speaking about.

After the luncheon, ten people went to the Midwest Food Bank.  After a brief video and tour, explaining everything that went on there, we sorted canned goods, labeling and re-boxing them.  We formed an assembly line and got to work, doing 2,036 cans of spaghetti sauce in under an hour.  All in all, it was a very successful and productive day while also bringing all of our AmeriCorps members together on such an important day.  Remember, MLK Day is not a day off, it’s a day on.  

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What We’ve Done and What We’re Doing

The past couple weeks have been very busy with lots of events and preparation for such.  We went to Springfield for the National and Community Service Recognition Day where all of the Illinois AmeriCorps, Vistas, RSVPs, and Fostering Grandparents programs met and heard from a few speakers, were given the chance to give blood, and went through breakout sessions.  After that we all met back together and marched down the streets of Springfield to the Capitol Building where we all recited the AmeriCorps Oath.  It’s always an exciting event and a good experience for all of the members involved.

That weekend a couple of members helped at the Special Olympics Bowling, another awesome event that can be life changing.  Volunteers help the participants bowl, give hugs and high fives, and help hand out awards.  It’s an all day event that is not only very special to the teams and coaches participating, but then also for the volunteers.

Then came the Keepsacks Chaos.  The office was full of members helping prepare bags for the hygiene kits and also activity bags for children.  We were able to send out at least a hundred activity bags with a book, a coloring book, crayons, a toy, and either a beanie baby or a hot wheels car.  This was the first year that we were able to put those together and it was a lot of fun working together trying to make these the best we could.  We had a need of 1,200 blankets and nearly one thousand hygiene kits this year and we are still working on numbers of how many we achieved.  A few days before we did last minute shopping and also got lunch arrangements figured out.  The week before Keepsacks was crazy busy, but that’s what we love!

Keepsacks itself was the 19 and a success.  We had many volunteers including girl scouts, high school groups, and college groups.  Everyone was kept busy assembling hygiene kits, sorting blankets, and even making more blankets!  We had close to twenty shelters that we helped this year which is awesome!  Like I mentioned before, we don’t have numbers yet but as soon as we do, we’ll let you know!

Now, the upcoming events! 

The East Bluff is doing a Deterrence Walk on Wisconsin with police officers, church officials, and those in the neighborhood.  At nine o’clock we will take to the streets to show that not only crime happens on the streets after dark!  In the past weeks, crime has hit a high and we’re showing the city that we are not going to just lay down and take it.  We have people who are proud of where they are from and want to keep it safe.  Feel free to join us!  We are meeting at the UU church and riding over the East Bluff or you can meet us at the Glen Oak School Parking Lot.

The following weekend on November 2 starting at 9 AM The East Bluff Planting New Growth project is taking place.  Many of us volunteers will be planting daffodil bulbs so that in the spring they bloom.  This will signify new growth and new beginnings in this neighborhood.  We had generous donations and our Vista Zack has done all of the coordinating.  There will also be a clean up to get some of the garbage up off of the street.  We want those in the East Bluff to be proud of their neighborhood and not be ashamed.

As you can see, AmeriCorps Fostering Transitions has been very busy!  We plan on staying that way as we start up our Preschool Literacy Project for the year and also begin working on an AIDs/HIV awareness day.  If you have any questions or would love to help us with any of our upcoming events, feel free to let us know!

Back to School, Back to School…

Many of our AmeriCorps members are currently students in college.  We have a few just beginning, a few half way done, and a few who are nearing the end.  Never the less, they’ve all gone back to the classroom, carrying books, listening to lectures, and doing homework.  Not only are they doing that, but they are beginning a new term here at AmeriCorps.  Soon enough the office will be back in full swing of things!  There will be members in and out of the office, up and down the stairs, and constantly on the phone setting up things for our team to do.  Lucky for all of you, that means it’s time for you to get involved with us.

We have many projects that are already looming closer and we’ll need plenty of help.  This Saturday there is a Special Olympics Bowling outing that always needs volunteers and there will be another one on October 12!  Also approaching very quickly is the United Way Day of Caring.  There are many things that you can do and you can look on line to see what your community is doing and how you can get involved.  Our AmeriCorps team will be at the Civic Center boxing up canned goods.  Which we will also be collecting until the 5th of September which is soon!  So if you are in the Peoria area, feel free to bring by canned goods to any of the Children’s Home locations!  In a couple of months, one of our biggest projects happens.  On October 19 we will all gather together in honor of the annual Keepsacks for Kids project and sort and make hundreds of blankets and hygiene kits to be sent out to all of the local shelters to help those in need.    The average age of a homeless person in Illinois is 9 years old!  Isn’t that heart breaking?  So when you’re all snuggled up in your warm bed in your home with a full stomach, think about those children who need your help and ask what you can do for them.  We would love donations of any kind, including fleece for blankets or any type of hygiene kits such as full size shampoo and body wash, tooth brushes, tooth paste, combs, brushes, tissues, etc etc.

The school season is the busiest time of the year but don’t forget that you can still help!

Our fearless leader Julie's son and a past member's nephew helping at Keepsacks for Kids!

Our fearless leader Julie’s son and a past member’s nephew helping at Keepsacks for Kids!