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 :]

 

Let’s Take the A-Train to the White House

What’s happening in the White House?
Claudia Gordon is what’s happening in the White House.  The Jamaican Native came to the US when she was eleven years old, two years after she had suddenly lost her hearing.  But this did not stop Ms. Gordon.  She went to the American University Washington College of Law in 2000, the same year her mother, and biggest role model, lost a six year battle with ovarian cancer.  She was the first deaf student to graduate from the school and went on to be the first deaf, African American, woman to become an attorney.  
Now, she is still doing great things and being very successful.  She took a position in July in the White House Office of Public Engagement as the Public Engagement Adviser to the Disability Community and will be the liaison between the White House and the Disability Community.
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It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swing
Born in DC, Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington spent most of his life in New York City.  He is considered a pioneer and one of the greats of jazz music although he himself referred to his music as “American Music” instead of using a single and restrictive genre of Jazz.  He was conducted a jazz orchestra which was the home to many of the greats of the genre.  
When Duke started out he made his way by making posters for events and asking if they had music.  If they didn’t he offered to play for them.  He then started a band “The Duke’s Serenaders” which eventually led him out of DC to Harlem where he became a part of the Harlem Renaissance.  In September of 1923 he took on a four year engagement at the Hollywood Club which brought him and his band into the game.  In 1965 his nomination for the Pulitzer Prize was turned down but in 1999 he received a special Pulitzer Prize for “commemorating the centennial year of his birth, in recognition of his musical genius, which evoked aesthetically the principles of democracy through the medium of jazz and thus made an indelible contribution to art and culture.”
Ellington died from lung cancer and pneumonia on May 24, 1974, a month after his 75th birthday. His last words were, “Music is how I live, why I live and how I will be remembered.”  His only son and child, Mercer continued to conduct his band until he passed in 1996.
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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.